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Barbara Jordan
Feb 16, 2011

Adults with ADD: Different Not Wrong

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of all the stigma surrounding Attention Deficit Disorder. After all, we all experience a little distractibility, impulsivity, memory lapse, and disorganization every now and then.  I propose that we consider ADD a diversity issue rather than a deficiency.

Being a solution-oriented therapist, an optimist at heart, I agree with Lynn Weiss, PhD. According to Weiss, author of ADD in Adults, problems only occur when there is a poor match between your “brainstyle” and your life/work/educational setting. Weiss uses the analogy of sending a fish to flying school. The inability of the fist to fly doesn’t mean that it cannot successfully feed itself, get places, and live a happy, successful life. She adds that ADD isn’t necessarily a “devastating condition” or the outdated notion of a disorder that needs to be “fixed”. Nor does having ADD mean that you have a psychiatric condition. However, you will seem disabled if your home/work/educational situation doesn’t fit your way of living, working, and learning.  Weiss makes the case that although ADD/ADHD is seen as a disability and placed within the Americans with Disabilities Act, “there is nothing inherently wrong or disabled with you … (if you have) ADD attributes.”

Weiss points out the unfortunate fact that when you have ADD traits, you seldom have the support and encouragement necessary to enable you to reach your potential. The process of socialization probably has robbed you of self-acceptance and self-confidence. You see, we are socialized to behave in ways that clash with an ADD lifestyle. For example, it is preferred or sometimes even mandated that we sit still in school. So if you learn by being active, you are hurt by labels implying your inferiority. You begin to believe there is only one acceptable way to think, act, learn, work, or live. You endure further damage when you buy into the belief that your way is wrong. Let’s say you must do something that doesn’t fit who you are or how you operate. If you complain, fumble, and/or react by feeling negative, unpleasant emotions, you probably get reprimanded and labeled. If you resist, you may be labeled “difficult” or “defiant”. If you complain, you may be called “argumentative”. Weiss claims that this happens because you are forced to do things that don’t match your “brainstyle”. Instead of changing you, Weiss believes that you should change the environment. “You can learn skills to bridge the (gap) between your innate skills and the expectations placed on you… you (can) learn to accommodate your situation. You are perfect just the way you are.”  Rather than trying to fit social/vocational/educational standards that do not fit, you can feel good about yourself by being who you are innately.

So what can you do to change your environment? How do you bridge the gap between your innate skills and the expectations placed on you? First of all, concentrate on your strengths and team up with others who can cover your weaknesses and compensate for your shortcomings. Every successful client I’ve worked with has surrounded him/herself with people like this. Create structure in your environment wherever there is a lack of internal structure. Whenever you can, create programs or projects you want to create or manage. Then find someone in your organization who is interested in using what you’ve developed. Focus on finding a lifestyle, job, or school that fits you. Develop skills in following through and staying on track. Overcome procrastination. Develop organizational and time management skills. And, lastly, use to your advantage your natural skills and gifts.

Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to

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