My Favorite ADHD Things
It’s ADHD Awareness Month, and like a good ADHDer, I’m just getting to it now!
Why is ADHD Awareness as important as other things that get a whole month dedicated to them, like Medical Librarians and Pickled Peppers? Well, one reason is that a lot of people have an ADHD brain. Another is that lots of people have an ADHD brain but don’t know it yet, and awareness is the first step. Another is that we are still, in 2021, talking a lot of shit about things like ADHD, and that shit gets internalized and re-purposed into all sorts of fun stuff, like shame, self-doubt, and depression. When we talk about things like ADHD in more neutral and nuanced ways, they lose a lot of their stigma.
I talk to my kids a lot about my ADHD, which led my son to ask, in a recent Guess Who? game, “does your person have an ADHD brain?” Since I know he doesn’t mean “ADHD” as an insult, I was not offended, but rather, impressed with his comfort. And I could look down at my character and enthusiastically answer, “yes!’
I’m very picky about my favorite ADHD things. Just like ADHD is both over and under-diagnosed (while some doctors hand out Ritalin like candy, there are still tons of ADHDers, especially girls and women, who need a diagnosis and aren’t getting one), there is both tons of ADHD material out there and not enough.
For a small-time writer, I had a huge reaction to the piece I wrote about my own ADHD, and a lot of that, I believe, came from how little the story of ADHD is told in a balanced way, by people who have it. While my ADHD brain has a gazillion ideas that I will either never start or never finish about what to do about, I’m practicing starting small and imperfectly. Though my ADHD makes me want to write a list that rambles on and on, my respect for ADHD readers is forcing me to keep this short and sweet. Thus, I present to you, my current list of favorite ADHD things, to enjoy, add to (please comment), and share.
Favorite ADHD Things for teens and grown-ups:
ADHD Sucks, But Not Really: In 13 minutes and 22 seconds, Salif Mahamane manages to explain both the challenges and advantages of having ADHD, how ADHD intersects with being a Black man, and how one of the coolest research studies ever proves that ADHD only sucks if you’re in an environment that solely values not-ADHD things. And one great thing about Ted Talks is that if you don’t have the patience to watch it, you can read the transcript! Thanks for giving us multiple modalities, Ted.
Help for Women with ADHD: My Simple Strategies: Most books for adults with ADHD are either a) all gloom and doom, or b) really fucking boring for someone with ADHD to read. Or, BOTH! Usually, these books tell me, in such long-winded ways that they make me want to yell to the heavens, “this should have been an ARTICLE!” that I am this lady:
But Joan Wilder manages to write a book about ADHD that a person with ADHD would actually want to read. This is the book that made me go “ooooooh, yup, this is me” with a sense of relief and recognition, rather than fear. Oh and, it’s an e-book so you get it instantly, which really makes an ADHDer feel good inside. I’d rather be this lady, thank you very much:
Dani Donovan: Dani is an artist and ADHDer and her ADHD comics are the quickest way to understand ADHD in yourself or others that I’ve ever seen. Some of these visuals knocked my pants off, as they say. She just started a blog with a post about gifts for neurodivergent folks, and if anyone wants to get me this self-warming coffee mug it will literally cut 45 minutes of reheating time out of my days. Looks like she’s coming out with a book soon called The Anti-Planner, which gets me feeling all tingly.
Favorite ADHD Things for Kids (with help from grown-ups):
Jus’ Talkin’ About Brains: No link, just some thoughts. Best way to de-stigmatize ADHD for kids, whether they have it or not? Modeling and talking about how all brains are different and come with their own gifts and challenges. Just like we need to talk to all kids about race, not just kids who might be discriminated against, we need to talk to all kids about neurodiversity. Start with your own brain: “Wow, my brain really has a hard time with numbers, but I can understand anything if it’s in words.” or “Well, my brain loves looking for Lego pieces but it has a hard time building them, maybe Dad can help you with that?” Lean into how weird or vulnerable this can be. When you talk about jobs, household responsibilities, friendships, leisure, think and talk about how you make decisions based on what is easy or “trickier” for your brain to do. You’ll probably learn something about yourself. For kids, I like to use the word “yet” with them a lot, as all of this is still forming. “Huh, you feel like your brain focuses on art well but doesn’t focus on writing yet? Interesting” I like to ask questions about what they notice about their own brain, never make these comments for them (they get to speak for their brains) and remind them of the plasticity (brains are always growing and changing, especially if we practice things) of the brain, especially in young people (though we also want to be sensitive to the fact that, because our brains are all different, just “trying harder” might not be a good solution for someone). You can read more from me about talking to kids about ableism here. Here’s an example of how different brains do things differently:
2. How to Explain ADHD to Kids: A super spelled-out, neurodiversity-affirming guide to talking to kids about ADHD by one of the realist, Dr. Liz Angoff. Liz reminds us that “the way we talk about ADHD now will influence how a child sees themself for the rest of their lives,” and teaches us how to create an empowering ADHD diagnosis that allows kids to advocate for themselves.
3. The “Army” Episode of Bluey (Season 2, Episode 16, avails on Disney+ and Amazon Prime): This less-than-ten-minute cartoon is a fun story about a kid’s first day of school that also manages to show both the struggles and joys of ADHD (never named but very much implied) for a young jack russell terrier. I cannot recommend it enough. Even if there are no kids in your life, watching this episode will may you realize how much we shit on kids with ADHD and how much there is to gain from putting them in situations where they can thrive.
Parents can watch this with their kiddos and have an informal conversation. For a teacher, one possible lesson plan around this show, adaptable for kids K-6, is this:
Start talking to the class about how ADHD is a “kind of mind” that likes new and exciting things, lives in the present more than the future, and sometimes has a lot of energy or imagination. Some people think ADHD is a “disorder,” but there’s nothing wrong with being ADHD, just like there’s nothing wrong with being a girl, boy, Jewish, fast reader, slow reader, etc. What else do you know about ADHD? Who do you know who has an ADHD brain? (you can bring in famous people here like Simone Biles). You can make a KWL chart.
Show the episode and talk about what you saw. What was hard for Jack and why? What worked well for him? What did other people do to help him or makes things more difficult for him?
Discuss how everyone can be “Good ADHD friends” to themselves or others. What made Rusty a good friend to Jack? For example: forgive mistakes, embrace spontaneity and don’t worry too much about the plan, let people be active, follow your friend’s interests, be flexible.
Thanks for caring about ADHD! What are your favorite ADHD things?
Also, if you liked my piece on ADHD earlier this year, would you be so kind as to Tweet it with the hashtag #longreads? I have such a big dream that they will choose it as an editor’s pick this month!
I’m working on an ADHD-In-Pictures post. Think I’ll get it done in the next 13 days??Here’s a taste so you can tell me if you want more: