Since Sam was four, we knew he was different.
One minute he would be staring out the window lost in the clouds and the next minute he would be organizing all of his toys, grouping by size and creating a train of items (large to small) that stretched through the entire house.
His pre-school teachers didn’t know how to handle him even though they told me “he has so much potential if only he could sit still, pay attention, and focus on his work.”
At the time, I knew nothing about ADHD, ADD, Aspergers, Autism—or any label on the spectrum, for that matter. Since my enlightenment, I have seen so much attention placed on how terrible it is to have ADHD that I started to forget how great it is for Sam to have the those “special” abilities and the “super-powers” that come along with it.
Yes, it’s true. Each trait has both a positive and negative side to it.
Unfortunately, if your child is in a traditional school setting, with traditional teachers using a traditional curriculum, it’s tough on these kids. Even with some adjustments, if his teacher is burned out, tired, has an extreme lack of patience or, quite frankly, just doesn’t like your kid, you can rest assured you have a tough road ahead of you.
My son has been there recently—and it sucks.
However, if you have been lucky enough to have truly gifted, talented, inspiring teachers who not only understand your child, but enthusiastically celebrate them, then you’ve hit the jackpot.
My son has had two teachers like this and I still feel very blessed to this day. (You know who you are, and I love you.)
After a child receives a diagnosis of ADHD, you can only think about all the things that are wrong with your child. And, thus begins your child’s experience with daily, negative feedback from adults who cannot see his pro-abilities and can only experience frustration with his dis-abilities. This causes feelings of shame, fear, self-doubt and severe low self-esteem.
“Don’t do that.” “What’s wrong with you?” “Don’t move.” “Stop talking.”
Wouldn’t those words make you feel worthless and disempowered as a child? Wouldn’t that make you lose your voice later, at a time in your life when you really need to speak up for yourself?
If you or your child continue to focus on the negative aspects of ADHD, you will begin to believe that everything in life is too difficult to work through. But when you flip the focus and see that each (so-called) negative trait has a positive side to it, you will see just how beneficial ADHD can be. Magic happens when you see the true mirror image of each trait.
Negative labels are destructive to everyone, especially to the person who labels him/herself. Dump those negative labels—ignore the negative chatter—and see just how amazing your child is!
Here are a few of the mirror images of each trait and the things that are so worth celebrating:
He sees what others don’t see, and he sees so much more.
His creative perspective gives him an alternate vision to see beyond the surface. Some people see rain drops, he sees sparkling reflective circles dancing on his window. He’s mesmerized by how they move across the glass.
He’s a champion multi-tasker.
Most of the people who are critical that your child cannot stay focused and on task are people who can only manage to do one thing at a time. Not your child. He’s a super-task-master. Maybe he’s got two computer screens going on at once, plus the TV, or listening to music while doing his homework. No problem. He can handle it.
He’s philosophically deeper than most people.
His conversations jump as if off the pages of a Dostoyevsky novel. His conversations may not be exactly of that nature, but most likely he is pontificating about subjects his friends have yet to understand (life, death, suffering, humor, space and time, all with a very dreamlike back drop).
He is an artist, an actor, a writer, an athlete, a chef, a musician, a filmmaker, a skateboarder, a surfer and a dreamer.
He is also a comedian, a hairstylist or a cabinetmaker. Maybe he’ll work for Google or start his own next generation Google. Who else would be able to understand the detailed path of algorithms and coding? The world needs him.
When he finds something he loves, he does it with passion.
Once his focus finds something he truly loves, nothing can stop him. Passion drives him to greatness. A good teacher will gift him with this lesson.
He’s an out of the box thinker.
He has innovative ideas most people would never think of. Ingenious ideas fly into his brain all hours of the day and night. Yes, as a parent, you are not alone—other parents with ADHD kids know what it’s like to have a kid who cannot sleep. If you’re as fortunate as me, you can thank his brilliant 4th grade teacher for inspiring him to keep his brain active, his body moving and celebrate his genius.
He is funny, and always optimistic.
He loves to laugh and is usually the class clown. Like all great comedians he finds something funny or looks at the bright side of issues that would bring most people to a state of doom and gloom. Sometimes his own doom and gloom take over but that’s because he feels more than others do. But even then, he finds the humor in it. It helps if his 3rd grade teacher is a gifted, superior nut job—and I mean that in the most endearing way. She was a gift from heaven.
He is resilient.
He has to be. Sometimes, life is up against him. Ignorance, impatience and frustration are thrown in his face—typically in a school setting—by a teacher who sucks. But he keeps trying.
He works well under pressure, with the right support.
Actually, he works even better under pressure when he has the right cheerleaders. This is probably the most important quality. He can stay up all night preparing a spectacular presentation and then deliver it the next day with a charming, engaging personality. Sam wanted to do a recent presentation wearing a necktie. I said go for it.
Your child has struck gold if he has a teacher who celebrates his gift and lets him unfurl his wings and shine. Sam had two teachers like that at his elementary school and they should be commended for being such talented, committed and caring professionals. They also had the difficult task of undoing all the damage that the less evolved teachers in his life had caused.
He has a photographic memory.
Be it numbers, words, letters, or places, those digits stick. His brain is a warehouse, a storage center, archiving memories and visuals since he was two years old. He may forget his lunchbox at school, but he won’t forget his best friend’s locker combination.
He is compassionate, empathetic and totally lovable.
His loving heart feels what is in someone else’s heart. He’s the sweetest boyfriend or sibling anybody could ever want. He truly is the best friend you’ll ever have.
If your child has ADHD, it’s none of your business what other people think of them. So, don’t listen. Don’t ask. Embrace your super hero and celebrate his bright, shining gift. When he grows up, he’ll never forget who cheered him on, and who didn’t. That friend that moved on? Their loss. That horrible teacher he had? She’ll still be there in that classroom crushing someone else’s spirit.
But your child? Who knows. He no doubt will be changing the world with his words, his music, his talent, his art, his science or even just his smile. And he will never forget those wonderful teachers and true friends who saw it coming and always had faith in him.
Never, ever lose touch with them. They should always be credited with some part of who your child becomes.
Here’s to all the super heroes out there with more than just one letter on their capes.
Author: Shannon Pinsky
Apprentice Editor: Keeley Milne/Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photos: Joe Green/Flickr