ADD/ADHD: Differences, Not Deficits


People with ADD and ADHD have differences in their attention, and not deficits. This is an important distinction which helps with the understanding that there are gifts in ADD/ADHD.

ADD/ADHD: Differences, Not Deficits - Support for Students Growth Center

The term for the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD has changed multiple times. In 1980, the term ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ came to be. It has changed slightly since then, but the field is relunctant to change it again because of how negative that would be (it could impact the advocacy and legislation that has been achieved through hard work).

People with ADD are often gifted with the ability to pay tremendous attention to things that are important to them. They have have a singular attention span which is far better than what ‘non-ADDers’ have if they use their natural gift of hyperfocus.To us this suggests a ‘difference’ in attention and not a ‘deficit’.

The term deficit itself refers to pathology and lack. Differences refers to just that- differences.

Recognizing this difference is important as we advocate for a change in the paradigm of ADD toward a strength based diagnosis. One which focuses on the gifts and differences, and not the lack and deficits.

It’s our contention that each and every ADD brain has genius in it. The definition of genius, as defined at Dictionary.com includes: gen-ius: – an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc.: the genius of Mozart. – natural ability or capacity; strong inclination: a special genius for leadership. – distinctive character or spirit By definition ‘ to be a genius ‘ one has to be different from others.

People with ADD are different and we contend that there is genius in each and every one of them.

Now people who might take issue with this statement will say that ADD affects people with different levels of intelligence. So, there are some people with superior IQ with ADD, and there are people with average IQ who have ADD, and there are people with low IQ who have ADD. Irrespective of the IQ level ‘ each person with ADD has genius inside.

The ADD brain has tremendous capacity for these aspects of genius:

  • Being unique: People with ADD often ‘march to the beat of their own drum’. They bring a unique perspective due to the fact that they are not ‘programmed’ to conform ‘ and their ability to maintain their unique nature can lead to many gifts throughout life (when it’s nurtured appropriately)
  • High levels of creativity: when the ADD mind receives information ‘ it manipulates that information differently. This leads to high levels of creativity.
  • Insightful: When using information differently than non-ADD people, ADD’ers develop significant and useful insights
  • Direct: people with ADD can be very direct, to the point and on target. This can be ‘too much’ for people without ADD to handle ‘ as they aren’t used to information being presented so directly and accurately
  • Quick to act: While many people suffer from ‘paralysis of analysis’, the ADD mind is quick to take action and experiment ‘ hence the belief that geniuses like Edison had ADD
  • Can look at the same thing differently than others: As alluded to above ‘ someone with ADD can look at the same material as others and see very different things and draw very different conclusions
  • Interpersonally intuitive: The powers of observation of those with ADD can be very strong, and their intuition particularly powerful. This can be a challenge for others who don’t recognize this as a gift ‘ and it can be perceived as a lack of ‘tact’.

These traits, and many others ‘ lead to the gifts of ADDScience Articles, and the genius that’s inside.

About the Author

Dr. Kenny Handelman is a Board Certified Psychiatrist in Canada and the USA. He is an expert in ADD and ADHD. His goal is to help people to improve their lives by finding the right options and information.

Photo Credit: Abdüs (flickr)