Child Development

What Are the Benefits of ADHD?

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It’s well-documented that having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) comes with drawbacks. People with ADHD statistically have more interpersonal challenges as well as employment and school problems.

But many people who live with ADHD say that this condition actually comes with strengths, too. These are unique strengths that can be directly tied to ADHD, and when harnessed correctly, they can become superpowers.

Could your child have any ADHD superpowers? Read on to find out.

Research behind the benefits of ADHD

A lot of research has been done on how ADHD affects people negatively. For example, we know that kids with ADHD are more likely to have employment difficulties as adults.

And the claim that there are benefits to having ADHD is, in no way, meant to minimize the drawbacks of living with this condition. Life with ADHD presents unique challenges, and there’s no doubt about that. 

But is there any research at all supporting this claim? Do these “ADHD superpowers” really exist?

Although the research is limited, there is evidence supporting these claims. One qualitative investigation found that having ADHD comes with many unique positive qualities like high energy, creativity, and resilience. The study’s participants attributed these qualities specifically to their ADHD.

Some smaller studies have been conducted as well. For example, one study found that most children with ADHD are perceived as resilient by the adults in their lives.

Of course, this isn’t to say that ADHD shouldn’t be treated, but experts agree that focusing only on what your child with ADHD can’t do isn’t helpful. Although there’s a long way to go in terms of the research about ADHD superpowers, it seems clear that they do exist — and should be celebrated.

ADHD benefits

You may have already noticed some benefits of ADHD that your child has. Here are 3 ADHD superpowers that people with ADHD commonly report:

Courage and spontaneity 

People with ADHD are often braver than other people. Part of this is because ADHD causes people to be more risk-averse. This is sometimes associated with impulsivity, which is a core ADHD symptom that’s usually viewed negatively.

But when harnessed correctly, impulsivity can turn into spontaneity and adventurousness — qualities that reflect courage. People with ADHD often like to seek thrill and adventure. They’re willing to take risks for things they want to do and take responsibility for the consequences. People without ADHD might be more timid about taking these risks.

People with ADHD are also not afraid to be different, and they often learn at a young age that they’re not like their peers. All of the participants in the investigation above described themselves as nonconformists. This may lead them to stop caring what people think. This takes another, perhaps deeper, level of courage.

Creativity

People with ADHD think differently than neurotypical people. Their brains work differently. This is often described as part of why ADHD can limit people, but it’s also a reason why people with ADHD tend to be much more creative than their non-ADHD counterparts.

Divergent thinking is the ability to come up with novel ideas and innovative solutions, and people with ADHD are often the masters of this. The participants in the qualitative study described their thinking patterns as flashes of images and non-sequential thought processes. This makes them creative, out-of-the-box thinkers.

Another study confirmed this and found that people with ADHD outperformed people without ADHD on a divergent thinking test. A third study found that people with ADHD had more creative achievements and generated more original ideas than people without ADHD.

Hyperfocus

We usually think of kids with ADHD as being unable to concentrate, but there’s another side to ADHD concentration, too: hyperfocus. Hyperfocus describes when people (with ADHD or other neurodivergence) become so attentive to something that it almost seems like they forget about the world around them. 

Hyperfocus usually happens with activities that the person finds interesting. For example, you might have noticed that your child with ADHD can’t pay attention at school, but when it comes to building a Lego set, she can work on it continuously for hours without getting distracted.

When harnessed correctly, hyperfocus can easily become an ADHD superpower. It can allow people with ADHD to be extremely productive under the right circumstances.

Utilizing ADHD strengths

There are definitely unique strengths that come along with being the owner of a brain with ADHD; however, many don’t know how to harness those strengths. This may leave kids with ADHD growing up feeling ashamed about their diagnosis rather than proud of what it allows them to do.

Try to set up your child’s environment in a way that takes full advantage of these strengths. 

For example, if you can see that they’re able to hyperfocus on activities that interest them, turn enjoyable activities into learning activities. Encourage them to build upon these strengths. An example of this is a child with ADHD who has taken an interest in learning how to play the guitar. Allow them ample time and opportunities to practice playing guitar. Consider finding local classes or bands that they can join.

What makes these activities opportunities to learn in addition to just doing something they want to do? Find a way to tie this experience into other skills; For instance, use the opportunity to point out to them what it is teaching them about time management and accountability for practice times and class schedules or performances. Consider what social skills or problem solving skills they may learn from being a member of a band.

It isn’t that your child with ADHD is unintelligent or incapable of success. They just have different strengths than their peers. Focus on these positives, rather than trying to force them to compete with neurotypical kids while discouraging them through comparisons. In this way, you can set up an environment where your child can flourish.

Managing challenges

With that being said, if your child’s ADHD symptoms are debilitating or getting in the way of their life, then it may become difficult to always focus on the positive. Untreated ADHD is linked to negative life outcomes, and it is always important to get your child’s ADHD treated first and foremost. Your child simply cannot thrive if their ADHD symptoms are debilitating.

That doesn’t mean that their “superpowers” will go away. It just means that they’ll be more likely to be able to manage their challenges. For example, your child may always have an adventurous streak, which is a positive trait, but treatment can help them to know when it’s safe to be adventurous, and when it isn’t.

Treatment can also help with ADHD symptoms that tend to hold kids back, like difficulties with time management or hyperactivity. Stimulant medications are the most well-studied and effective form of ADHD treatment. But there are other options available, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that behavioral therapy (not medication) should be the first line treatment for kids under the age of 6.

Behavioral interventions for ADHD (like the Joon app) can help your child with their daily life skills while still preserving and honoring their unique strengths.

Takeaway

ADHD is a challenging condition to live with, but ADHD also comes with unique and wonderful gifts that should be celebrated, like creativity, resilience, and courage. Recognize when your child is showcasing these strengths. Remind them that these are their superpowers, and teach them how to harness them to their full advantage.