ADHD Is Not a Gift

ADHD is not a gift…but it can come with gifts.

If you’re tuned in to any social media, you will have bumped into the ADHD exemplars, successful celebs who are proud to tell you that they have ADHD. Most media lists are still made up largely of ADHD men. Just to even the score, here are a few famous women who have talked openly about being diagnosed with ADHD: Lisa Ling (diagnosed at 40), Karina Smirnoff, Solange Knowles, Mariette Hartley, Michele Rodriguez, Roxy Olin, Zooey Deschanel and Paris Hilton.

We love to hear about famous people with ADHD because they are proof that people with ADHD can find success. But be careful! Celebrityhood often comes with an air of effortlessness about it. Not only do celebrities look perfect, they look like they are perfect without even trying. This is a dangerous message for students with ADHD, who will often have to work harder than their peers to stay on task and succeed in school. Also, students may draw negative comparisons between themselves and these famous ADHD exemplars.

When sharing the stories of famous people with ADHD, make sure you help students see both sides of the story. Look for celebrities who discuss their ADHD in a realistic manner, acknowledging the challenges and highlighting the benefits of perseverance and self-awareness.

For most of the women and men with ADHD that I know, the journey from misunderstanding and shame to acceptance and even finding positive aspects of ADHD is not always as tidy and linear as it might appear in a short article. Often people with ADHD feel that they have to restart that journey after every  failure, challenge, or frustration. Perseverance and and increased self-knowledge will help your students identify useful strategies that will help them to put together a life that matches their interests and their strengths. For me, sharing realistic stories and struggles of famous young women and men can teach our students what it is like to live as adults with ADHD.

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager