ADHD is not a set of symptoms along a neurotypcial continuum. It is not willful disobedience. It does not mean lower functioning. The truth is that ADHD presents differently given gender, subtype, severity, and age.
Usually when I suggest that a person has the symptoms of ADHD I am told three common statements from neurotypical individuals.
(1) They perform well at school/work. I have never noticed them struggling with the work.
(2) They are just not focusing hard enough.
(3) They are a good person. It's just that bad attitude.
ADHD is NOT... "Neurotypical"
Medical News Today describes neurotypical individuals as "people who think and process information in ways that are typical within their culture. They tend to learn skills and reach developmental milestones around the same time as their peers." Whereas individuals with ADHD are considered neurodivergent. That is they "process information and behave in a way that differs from the actual or perceived norms of a particular culture. It is a way to discuss diagnoses in a way that does not frame it as a problem or an illness."
ADHD is NOT...Solely Hyperactivity
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) there are 3 subtypes:
(1) Hyperactive and Impulsive
(3) Combined-Combination of Inattention and hyperactive & impulsive subtypes
The three subtypes range from mild, moderate to severe. It is important that you know and understand how the severity of the subtype impacts you. Knowing this information helps you to better advocate for yourself and informs treatment when seeking professional help.
ADHD is Not... Gender Specific
Researchers contribute the disproportionate rate at which boys are diagnosed in comparison to girls to differences in externalizing behaviors. Symptoms in boys may present as hyperactivity or struggles with adhering to rules leading caregivers and/or other professionals to notice symptoms. However, girls are more likely to develop skills to compensate (masking) and present with internalizing symptoms (anxiety, shyness). Girls are more likely to be misdiagnosed with other disorders and not properly diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood.
- Derealization: Feeling as though the environment around you is not real. You may touch objects to confirm you are actually in the space.
- Struggles with working memory: Working memory is stored in your brain temporarily (i.e phone numbers or multi-step directions) before being moved to your short term memory.
- Issues with maintaining peer relationships (outward struggles may contribute to peer rejection whereas internalizing struggles may contribute to being perceived as introverted/shy).
- Struggles with time management
- Disordered eating: Forgetting to eat, leading to binge eating later in the day.
- Struggles with emotional regulation: Fluctuating emotions that impact self esteem and relationships with others.
- Problems falling/staying asleep.
- Allow fidgets
- Extra time on tests
- Small group testing
- Create opportunity for movement i.e passing out papers, stretch break
- Preferential seating
Strategies At Home
Identify the symptoms of ADHD that significantly impact day-to-day living to create a system that works for you. Writing lists in smart phones or in planners for grocery shopping, chores, and work related tasks. Set detailed alarms on your phone, app limits on your devices, and sleep timers on your tv. Cube organizers with clear cube organizer bins to improve organization and decrease the "out of sight out of mind" issues.
Other forms of support can come from family, social media pages/groups, local and national organizations. Family members may be able to identify symptoms that you have not noticed. Reputable social media groups and pages provide descriptions of symptoms and coping strategies. Local and national organizations can provide you with information about resources for support and laws for protection against discrimination.