Hidden Strengths of ADHD

If you’re like most parents, you see ADHD as a learning disability. And it certainly is.

As I look back to my own childhood with ADHD, I can remember feeling isolated, angry, and confused.

I didn’t know I had ADHD at the time. Neither did my parents. It’s only in retrospect that I can see that my forgetfulness, my impulsiveness, and my angry outbursts were all symptoms of my ADHD.

I wish I would have known that at the time. There was a lot of unwarranted shame I put on myself.

Although I never outgrew my ADHD, I can also see that the skills I developed to compensate for my ADHD have been very beneficial in my adult life and helped me to succeed. I’ll get to those later. First, let’s talk about you and your child.


How Can I See an Upside When There’s So Much Downside?

Whether it’s getting your school to accommodate your child, or dealing with impulsive or angry behavior, or trying to help your child keep his grades up, you can certainly be excused for not seeing an upside to your child’s ADHD.

Schools give out grades for the things students with ADHD find difficult, like completing and handing in homework assignments and visual learning.

I remember my son feeling “less than” for not having the academic achievement of his big sister. He called his sister “his idol” and felt he would never measure up to her.

I told him that he’s good at things that his sister finds more difficult, such as loyalty, kindness, and being a good friend. It’s just that schools don’t give out grades for those things.

It seemed to help.

Like all children, your child with ADHD has above-average qualities and below-average qualities.


What Adults With ADHD Tend to Do Well

Here’s what people with ADHD tend to do better (on average) than people without ADHD once they reach adulthood.

It’s important to note that ADHD did not cause these attributes. Like a blind person who learns to sharpen her hearing, children with ADHD often learn to work around their limitations by more fully developing their other qualities or choosing activities and professions that match their unique skill set.

People with ADHD are:

  • Intelligent: Although school can be a challenge, it’s not due to low intelligence. They’re good problem-solvers. They can see the big picture. They are critical thinkers and visionaries.
  • Creative: They tend to think outside the box. They’re adaptive and flexible. They’re often artistic. They’re good at brain storming and they can look at things from a different angle. They make good customer service representatives, inventors, or entrepreneurs.
  • Energetic: They’re ambitious and passionate. They’re willing to take smart risks. They thrive in high-risk, pressure-filled, dynamic professions such as police officers, trial lawyers, or emergency room physicians.
  • Adventurous: They’re spontaneous, curious, and ambitious. They are action seeking and tend to love the stimulation of outdoor activities. They often like to choose physical professions that give them freedom and/or allow them to interact with a variety of people, such as ski instructors or firefighters.
  • Hyper-focused: They’re good at immersing themselves completely in a task. This helps them be great in jobs like computer programmers or science researchers.

Now, not all of these attributes can be applied to your child. After all, we’re talking about averages. But I bet a number of them resonate with you.

As your child matures, you’ll find that they are able to cope with and compensate for their negative qualities while taking better advantage of their positive qualities.


Your Child Can Be Successful (Perhaps Hugely Successful)

Fortunately for people with ADHD, the real world s/he is entering into after they’re finished with school is not so hyper-focused on academic success.

As I look back on my success as an adult with ADHD, I can see how I used these hidden strengths to my advantage.

I thrived as a computer programmer, and parlayed that into success as an entrepreneur.

I founded a computer software company. My company grew to more than 300 employees and $65 million in annual sales. I spun out an internet company and sold it 4 months later. I eventually sold my original company as well—both for a huge profit that allowed me to live the rest of my life donating to worthy causes and helping others without having to worry about a regular paycheck.

As I look over the above list, I can see how I used each of these strengths to found and grow my business.

My intelligence helped me assess options and choose to take smart risks. My creativity gave me the idea that became the very first online tax preparation software. My energy and passion was certainly needed to get through many 20-hour days. My adventurous side helped me to turn down early buy-out offers because I knew the company could become so much more. And my hyper-focus kept me heads-down in computer code and kept me involved as lead programmer in addition to my duties as president of the company.


See the Real Person Behind the Learning Disorder

Your child is not his/her ADHD.

You know this. You do your best to make sure your child does too.

It’s just that sometimes all parents get overwhelmed with the negative consequences of the learning disorder.

If your child lacks a good self-image or is too hard on him/herself, you can work to rebalance the equation.

Whether your child lets on or not, your opinion is him/her is still crucially important. Show your child you are proud of him/her. Be encouraging. This often isn’t easy to do!

Strength leads to strength. As your child recognizes how developing his coping skills can actually be turned to his advantage, he will gain the confidence, motivation, and self-respect to realize his full potential.


What hidden strengths do you see in your teen with ADHD? Please share in the comments section below!


 Steve Safigan I’m Steve Safigan, a certified professional life and business coach with a master’s degree in positive psychology. I help parents build confidence, motivation, and mental toughness in their soon-to-be college students. Work with me.


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