The ADHD Advantage?
- Paul Meier, M.D. Author of Blue Genes
- 2006 25 Aug
Many families look forward to the new school year – it’s an exciting time of increased activity filled with new friends and new opportunities to learn and grow. But for some families, the new school year gives rise to some difficult challenges. For the child with Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity disorder, basic skills like sitting still and studying quietly in a classroom can at times feel impossible.
With so many challenges it’s easy to wonder why God allowed your child to be different – to struggle in ways the other kids don’t. You may wonder if God really works "for the good of those who love him."
It’s true there are many downfalls to ADHD – otherwise it wouldn’t be classified as a disorder in the first place. Disorders like ADHD, if untreated, can lead to poor school performance, unnecessary school discipline, and low self-esteem. A higher percentage of ADD kids than non-ADD kids end up in our prisons.
Quite often these kids didn’t start out "bad" -- they were good but restless kids, who got labeled "bad kids" by teachers at school when their impulsive behavior became difficult to handle. When parents, teachers, and the rest of society dwell on the downfalls of disabilities like ADHD, it can lead to "self-fulfilling prophecy." If you keep telling a good kid that he or she is a bad kid, he will eventually become a bad kid if he believes you. Combine ADD and willful, rebellious behaviors and you’re on the quick path to other destructive behaviors such as alcohol/drug dependencies, as students reach out to chemicals to deaden their feelings of inadequacy.
The earlier ADHD is diagnosed, the more likely youngsters will live a normal or better than normal life. Some of the symptoms that will help you identify ADHD are: forgetting appointments and obligations, constantly misplacing or losing things, being disorganized, difficulty paying attention to what people are saying, careless mistakes when doing a boring task, procrastination, partially completing tasks, daydreaming, and inability to focus on one task. Keep in mind that ADHD is not the same as a strong-willed or active personality. If you suspect your child suffers from ADHD, please seek qualified professional opinions to determine if this is the root of your child’s problems.
The Good in ADHD
So you’re confident your child does indeed suffer from ADHD. What does this really mean for his future? As negative as the above information sounds, there are positive sides to this – even advantages. Typically, a positive diagnosis means that the person has an average or above average I.Q. Because of their inability to "mono-task" and their strong tendency to "multi-task," children with ADHD are frequently too bored and impulsive to hold regular jobs. Although this may seem like a setback, keep in mind that a person doesn’t have to have a "regular job" to bring glory to God. These kids have the advantage of having more energy than their non-ADHD peers and they tend to be more creative. As their energy and creativity is cultivated in a healthy direction, they take more risks and can become entrepreneurs.
Students from high school on can be encouraged to find their particular niche in the business world if they are properly diagnosed with ADHD. Strong creativity in any form, toward any subject, can be encouraged. If these students tend to function independently of schedules as youngsters, chances are they won't fit into a "9:00 – 5:00" work system, but that’s okay.
For example, one of my sons loved to play games on his computer when he was younger. He had trouble attending classes regularly. Even though he had a high I.Q., his class work was merely average. Since he enjoyed playing video games and spent most of his time doing that, he decided to attend our local art institute. There he became a gifted creator of video games. He has always been a "night" person, so he likes to work mostly at night. In this field, he can set his own hours and put his field of creativity to its greatest use. He has become very successful at it, in no small part because God worked through his ADHD.
My son isn’t the only family member who has ADHD – he got it from me. I have significant ADHD and have taken medication for years, which increase my ability to concentrate and focus. For much of my life, I "toughed it out" with no medication. But when I really thought and prayed about it, I decided that if I can take better care of my patients by having significantly improved focus and concentration, then I could better use the education and talents God gave me.
Having been in medical practice now for over 30 years, I can arrange my schedule to my satisfaction and still have the freedom to write, do public speaking, participate in radio and TV programs, etc. I can multitask to my heart’s content, creating music, working on special projects, and writing books (seventy-one to date!). I have also written many articles for many magazines, such as this one. If it weren’t for my ADHD multitasking personality, I might not have been able to accomplish many of these things. Finding ways to work with my ADHD, instead of against it, has enabled me to more successfully serve Christ and mankind.
Ways You can Help Your ADHD Work to Your Advantage
Some people with milder ADD only need education and counseling to learn coping skills, so don't feel pressured to start filling prescriptions for your child upon an initial diagnosis. Others benefit from vitamins with essential amino acids like phenylalanine to give their brain food. But many, like myself, do benefit from ADHD meds.
Some current medications thought to probably help ADD, whether approved for that purpose or not, are: Provigil, Wellbutrin-XL, Effexor-XR, Cymbalta, Strattera, and the Stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderal. Although we may be hesitant to put ourselves or our children on medications, be open to God’s leading. For some, medication is not the answer, but for others, finding the right medication can be God’s answer to prayer in your life.
When children with ADHD receive proper treatment, we see the hidden advantages flourish. With the right combination of medications, vitamins and counseling we see that trademark energy and compulsivity motivate lots of people to create new businesses and to diversify their daily routine. Finding ways to work with a child’s strengths and weaknesses can result in great financial and creative success, which in turn can help them feel fulfilled and serve more effectively.
And this isn’t limited to ADHD. Whatever trials your family may be experiencing, God can and will work through them for your benefit and His glory.
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9)
Adapted from Blue Genes (Tyndale House Publishers) by Paul Meier, M.D., Todd Clements, M.D., Jean-Luc Bertrand, and David Mandt, Sr. M.A. Copyright 2005. www.meierclinics.org.
D r. Paul Meier is a pioneer in the integration of the genetic, psychological and spiritual nature of man, with advanced degrees in Human Physiology (Michigan State University), Medicine (The University of Arkansas Medical School), Psychiatry (Duke University Medical School), and biblical studies (begun at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and completed at Dallas Theological Seminary). Dr. Meier has practiced psychiatry for over thirty years and has written over seventy books including Love is a Choice. Meier has also taught at Trinity and at Dallas Theological Seminary for twelve years. Currently Dr. Meier practices at the Meier Clinic in Dallas, TX.