Success with ADHD blog by Ayushi Dhingra

“Which one of these facts about ADHD surprises you the most?” I asked my 10 year-old client who had just recently been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

He pointed to the second bullet point: “ADHD does not determine a person’s future. Many people with ADHD are hard-working, intelligent, and highly successful people.”

“Why does this surprise you?” I asked him gently.

“Well, I don’t think I’m that hard-working. Can someone with ADHD really be that successful?”

This was my third time seeing this client. It had been just a few months since he was diagnosed with ADHD. From the few sessions I already had with him and through conversations with his mom, it was clear to me that he was hard-working, especially when it came to activities he was passionate about.

He had spent months working on a wooden fish statue with his dad. He had been taking care of his pet gecko. He had done a tremendous amount of research on various animals for school assignments and for his own knowledge. He readily shared fun facts with me during our sessions (did you know axolotls are known as the Mexican “walking fish”?).

Unfortunately, as is the case with most people with ADHD, he has a hard time initiating and following through on unpreferred tasks, some at school and mostly at home (much to his mother’s chagrin).

When I had introduced occupational therapy to him at our initial appointment, I explained that I was looking at all the activities that occupy his life. As a kid, this would involve activities related to school, home, and play. These would be a mixture of activities that he wants to do (i.e. reading, researching animals, taking care of his pet) and activities that he doesn’t want to do but needs to do (i.e. maths for school, brushing his teeth, and helping out around the house). At the end of the day, even as adults, we all have activities that we don’t want to do but need to do.

I was disheartened to hear that this client did not see himself as hard-working and could not see himself on the path to success due to his ADHD diagnosis. Sometimes this frame of mind alone can be a barrier to participating in everyday tasks because someone like him may think “well, what’s the point?”. So I decided to use this as a starting point for him to build some confidence and hope for himself that he does have the capacity to be on a path to success.

“Hmm, let’s see. Why don’t we look up some successful people today who might have ADHD.” I suggested.

As I started Googling “successful people with ADHD”, this client eagerly inched closer with curiosity to see what came up on my screen. His eyes widened as he saw one name in particular…Michael Jordan. He could not believe it and asked to continue scrolling down the list as he pointed out other names that he recognized. Another one that caught his eye was Dav Pilkey. When I asked who this was, the client excitedly told me that this was the author of Captain Underpants, a children’s book series that he used to read.

“So what do we think? Is it possible for someone with an ADHD diagnosis to be successful?” I asked him, as we finished our search.

“I had no idea so many of these people had ADHD.”

“Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to tell because they’ve learned how to manage it really well. And with some practice, that’s what you’re going to do too.”

Occupational therapy is all about facilitating clients’ independence in completing daily activities that are necessary and meaningful to them to live a healthy life. As occupational therapists, we work with our clients to help them identify what the barriers are to participating in those activities. Sometimes, that barrier is a negative self-perception because of how much meaning is attached to a diagnosis.

Through just one Google search, this client is now hopefully one step closer to reframing his thoughts around ADHD because who knows…maybe he could be the author of the next children’s series of books.

And that shouldn’t be surprising at all.

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