ADHD Awareness month, part 3: Strengths and misunderstanding the disorder

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — ADHD is often portrayed in a negative light, and commonly misunderstood, but it also comes with a few strengths.

Experts believe that genius, Albert Einstein had ADHD. If this is true, it proves that one can have the disorder and still grow up to be incredibly successful in life.

My son could talk in full sentences before he could walk and recite an entire Dr. Suess book before he could properly hold a fork. His brain was advanced in some areas, yet lacking in others.

Dr. Christopher Sarampote, Program Officer at the National Institute for Mental Health said kids with ADHD have some major strengths.

“They can be bright, and they can be creative,” Saramote said. “People get distracted by the troubles that kids are having. These kids are really funny, they’re just really neat to be around.”

My son is a prime example of this, he loves to make others laugh. At his Preschool graduation, they gave out awards and he received the “snickerdoodle” award for making everyone, well, snicker.

“I think one of the strengths is creativity,” said John Claunch, 43-year-old dad of two who has ADHD. “When I do have something I’m really interested in, I hyperfocus on it.”

Rita Olek, mom of four ADHD children said her 7-year-old twins are definitely on the creative side.

“Their personalities are starting to come out, they love music, they love to sing,” Olek said. “It is very rewarding when they accomplish something.”

“When you have a kid who’s excited who can’t stop talking but wants to tell you what’s on his mind, that can be really fun and really cool,” Sarampote said. “These kids given the proper support can really do amazing things.”

Claunch is a real estate agent and said that some aspects of his career work well with his disorder because he loves talking to people about homes.

“When I am doing research for somebody looking for a house, seeing somebody getting really emotionally involved with the purchase of a home, like to me, that’s something that I can really dig into and be a part of and so it’s really fulfilling in that regard,” Claunch said.

Because the disorder is still so new, Sarampote said a lot of ADHD children are labeled troublemakers.

“Kids with ADHD are often misunderstood, people think that they are bad kids, or that these are kids that aren’t trying hard enough,” Sarampote said.

“I was obviously not as well behaved as other kids and the thing about it is teachers didn’t really know anything about ADHD so they just assumed I was a bad kid,” Claunch said.

My father has ADHD and when he was a child, he was dubbed the problem child. He said he heard that he was bad so much that unconsciously, he started to believe it and act out on those behaviors.

“They get a lot of negative messages early on. Sometimes kids can internalize that message,” Saramote said. “And then even sometimes they start taking on some of those attributes that are being thrust upon them because they believe it to be true about themselves.”

It’s no secret that kids love attention, but Saremote said ADHD kids live for positive feedback. Saramote said to praise them twice as many times as you punish them.

“It’s really important for adults and for others in a child’s life to kind of note those strengths and the really positive things they are doing and to let them know about it,” Saramote said. “Yeah, you have incredible superpowers, you are incredibly creative. You are a joy,”

“They like that praise, they appreciate it a little bit more I think,” Olek said. “And behavior charts mean a lot more to them than just your average kid I think.”

Throughout the day, my son earns stars that he can use for video game time. He would do almost anything for a star.

“The truth of the matter is, this is a brain disorder,” Sarampote said. “Like anything in life, things that are more challenging you’re not going to want to do. They’re just going to be more tiring and more frustrating.”

As an ADHD mom, I face challenges that non-ADHD parents don’t face and I’ve even been judged by complete strangers for my son’s behavior.

“I think that’s an important message for people to hear, that these are great kids, that they are just working harder in certain areas and we need to help them out to make sure they are at their best,” Sarampote said.

My son is young and I know that some of our toughest years are still to come. But I try to remind myself, that everyone’s parenting journey is unique. Some of us are raising fish, while others are raising birds and we should never expect a fish to fly.

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