Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

ADHD Overview

“AD/HD is a trait, a way of being in the world." ~ Edward Hallowell


“A person with AD/HD has a brain with a Ferrari engine but with Model T brakes. Having AD/HD is like having a turbocharged racecar brain; your brain goes faster then the average brain.“ ~ Edward Hallowell


Think of your memory bank as a board, the information to be stored in your memory as nails to be driven into the board, and your attention as the hammer to be used to drive the nails into the board.  If your attention is inconsistent, nonexistent, or if you are overloaded or if you are multitasking, many of those nails will not be hammered in correctly, if at all.  The nails will fall out; likewise, the information will fall out and not be stored in your memory.

~ a metaphor used by Ed Hallowell explaining the direct correlation between memory and attention ~


A person with AD/HD can’t screen out incoming stimuli, hence they are distractible, and they can’t screen out outgoing stimuli, hence they are impulsive and hyperactive.

~ a metaphor used by Ed Hallowell to explain the core symptoms of AD/HD ~


An August 2010 article by Brenda Patoine might answer a perpetual question expressed by some parents of children with AD/HD: “How can my child spend hours playing a video game and not able to complete even 30 minutes of homework?”  The label “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder” carries the assumption that whoever has it has some deficit-something lacking-in their process of attention.

But research is showing that this assumption doesn’t hold true, said Martha Bridge Denckla, a clinician and director of the development cognitive neurology department at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and John Hopkins University.  “I am constantly having to explain to parents about AD/HD is not a deficit in the sense of say, a budget deficit or a thyroid deficient, where you don’t have enough of something.  Rather, it is control over attention.

Denckla has found it useful to speak in terms of allocation of attention when communicating with parents about AD/HD.  The question, Denckla, says, is: “Where is the child’s attention being allocated?  Is it where it needs to be to meet the demands of home, school, and society?  They can’t inhibit themselves from looking at or being distracted to something interesting, rather than the-let’s face it, something boring-things we’re asking them to do.”

Read the full article at


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


Three World Renowned Experts on AD/HD

Three Different Insights & Perspectives: One Understanding


Dr. Edward (Ned) Hallowell, world-renowned expert on AD/HD

Dr. Hallowell is a psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 25 years, the founder of the Hallowell Centers in New York and Boston, and author of sixteen books including Driven to Distraction, Delivered from Distraction, Crazy Busy, and Superparenting for ADD. He is a nationally renowned expert on AD/HD and other areas of mental health and well-being.


Below are passages taken from Delivered from Distraction by Edward Hallowell, M.D. and John Ratey, M.D.

Words said to Dr. Hallowell by a little boy with AD/HD before treatment, "My thoughts are like butterflies. They are beautiful, but they fly away.” After treatment he said, "Now I can put a net around the butterflies."


“No two people who have AD/HD are alike. Variety and inconsistency make it impossible to capture a definite picture of this fast-moving mind-butterfly.”

“As Edmund Burke, the great eighteenth-century statesman said, ‘Just because there can be no clear line drawn between night and day, yet no one would deny there is a difference.’”

“We don’t know exactly what causes AD/HD, but we do know it runs in families. Like many traits of behavior and temperament, AD/HD is genetically influenced, but not genetically determined. Environment combines with genetics to create AD/HD. Environmental toxins may play a role, watching too much television may play a role, and excessive stimulation may play a role.”

“We estimate that about 5 to 8 percent of a random sample of children have AD/HD. But if one parent has it, the chances of a child developing it shoot up to about 30%; if both parents have it, the chances leap to more than 50 percent.”

“New genetic studies showed that AD/HD runs in families. Heritability is statistic based on weighting genetic influences against environmental influences. It is calculated through twin studies and adoption studies. The heritability of AD/HD was figured to be about 75 percent, which is very high for a condition in the behavioral sciences.”


The following is from Edward Hallowell's article in the Harvard Business Review titled Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform, January 2005.

Based on MRI scans, people with AD/HD suffer slightly diminished brain volume in four specific areas of the brain that have various functions such as…

* Modulating emotion (especially anger & frustration)

* Assist in learning

* Generating thoughts

* Making decisions

* Setting priorities

* Organizing activities

Medications used to treat AD/HD do not change the anatomy of the brain, instead they alter brain chemistry, which in turns improves brain function in each of the four areas and so dramatically bolsters the performance of the AD/HD sufferers.


Disadvantages of AD/HD


* Tendency to procrastinate & miss deadlines

* Struggle with disorganization & tardiness

* Can be forgetful & drift away mentally in the middle of a conversation or while reading

* Performance is inconsistent: brilliant one moment & unsatisfactory the next

* Tend to demonstrate impatience & and lose focus

* Unless, oddly enough, they are under stress or handling multiple inputs (Why? Because stress leads to the production of adrenaline, which is chemically similar to the medications used to treat AD/HD.


Advantages of AD/HD


* Possesses rare talents & gifts, which often goes unnoticed or undeveloped because of the problems caused by the conditions negative symptoms

* Can be remarkably creative & original

* Unusually persistent under certain circumstances

* Often posses an entrepreneurial flair

* Display ingenuity & encourage that trait in others

* Tend to improvise well under pressure

* Strong leaders during times of change because they have the ability to field multiple inputs simultaneously

* Tend to rebound quickly after setbacks

* Bring fresh energy to the company every day.


An overview of AD/HD and how it affects time, perspective, attention, and stimulation


AD/HD & Time

Someone once said, “Time is the only thing that keeps everything from happening all at one.”

In the world of AD/HD, there are only two times: there is now, and then there is not now.

Time parcels out moments into separate bits so we can do one thing at a time

In AD/HD, time collapses, making life feel like as if everything is happening at once

It is now, never, or maybe later

This creates panic


AD/HD & Perspective

One loses perspective and the ability to select what needs to be done first

What needs to be done second, and what can wait for another day?

Instead, you are always on the go, always trying to keep the word from caving in on you

In the world of AD/HD, there are only two times

Now, and not now!


AD/HD & Attention

A person with AD/HD does not suffer from a deficit of attention but a wandering of attention

Your mind does not go empty, it goes elsewhere

The term attention deficit disorder completely misses the point

AD/HD is not a deficit of attention but…

A lack of control of attention

Attention wants to go where it wants to go, and people with AD/HD cannot always control it!


AD/HD & Stimulation

People with AD/HD hop from stimulation to stimulation, and do not want to wait

They do not want to linger over anything

Savoring the moment is not something that comes naturally

Thrill must lead thrill, whether golf, business, conversation, or romance




“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.