Many of the most successful and creative people have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Often among their greatest ADHD strengths are that they have so many ideas, and high energy levels to turn their ideas into reality!
By focusing on their natural talents and strengths, people with ADHD can improve their chances for success and fulfillment in life.
This article concentrates on 5 ADHD strengths to look out for and nurture in your child. It will help you to see beyond the limits and challenges of ADHD and consider the strengths of a child with ADHD.
I’ll tell you about the benefits of ADHD and how you and others can see your child’s unique profile in a positive light.
What is ADHD?
ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is considered by medical professionals to be one of the neurodevelopmental disorders. It is characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Psychologists prefer to describe ADHD as a neurodevelopmental difference. It is a difference in the way the brain is “wired”. Many of us wish that the term “disorder” could be dropped completely as it prevents us from seeing and harnessing the strengths of ADHD. It is a condition which brings both strengths and difficulties for the individual.
You may also have heard the term ADD (attention deficit disorder). Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was historically a term used for people who have difficulties with concentration without the presence of other ADHD symptoms such as excessive impulsiveness or hyperactivity. However, in the most recent update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – Version Five (DSM-V) it has been renamed as ADHD: Inattentive Type.
What Does ADHD Look Like?
Key symptoms of ADHD can include:
- Being easily distracted
- Difficulty following directions
- Difficulty staying on task
- Impulsive symptoms such as, problems doing quiet activities, problems with executive function, talking excessively, and fidgeting.
- Forgetfulness & losing personal items such as keys or books
- Not paying close attention to details, making careless mistakes
- Problems staying organised and with time management
- Avoiding things that take too much effort mentally for a sustained period of time
- Short attention span
- The ability to hyperfocus (focus on a task for hours on end, tuning out everything around you)
- High energy
ADHD Strengths Vs Problems
Have you seen kids who act without obviously thinking?
Have you heard your child say something inappropriate out loud without thinking about how others might react?
Perhaps your child finds it difficult to wait their turn in a board game?
Or maybe you try to get your child’s attention and they seem totally oblivious?
There is often so much emphasis on the difficulties associated with having ADHD. It is important to be aware of the attention deficits so that they can be effectively managed and supported. However, try not to become confined to ‘box thinking’ about your child’s abilities and personality traits in the context of ADHD.
Low Self-Esteem and ADHD
Low self-esteem is sometimes a feature of children with attention difficulties. There are many reasons for this. Children may be all too aware of what they find difficult compared with their peers but they may be less aware of their personal strengths. Another factor is that children with ADHD are often used to being told off and getting stuck in what are viewed as negative patterns of behaviour.
“Adam, pay attention!”
“Sit still, Adam!”
“Adam, don’t touch that!”
Over time, children may internalise these comments and end up feeling bad about themselves.
It’s important to acknowledge and validate the difficulties your child may experience. It’s also crucial that you harness your child’s ADHD strengths. The first step is to help them recognise them as strengths and positives.
The Good News
The good news is that ADHD children (with support and nurture) can learn to channel and develop their positive traits of ADHD. They can leverage their strengths and talents to help them lead a fulfilled life. Their strengths can be plentiful and amazing and ultimately, a huge asset.
1. Imagination and Creativity
Many people with ADHD are really creative, inventive and imaginative. They often have more than one idea floating around their brain and are the ultimate ‘outside the box’ thinkers.
They often have a different or alternative perspective and approach to tasks and scenarios. Their creativity is often channeled through an intensive knowledge or passion in a specific area.
It’s important to recognise your child’s creativity and see it as an ADHD strength. Parents’ patience and support can be vital to a child’s success in persisting with an activity. Perhaps your child has shown a real flair or interest in something the first time they try it – are you able to help them harness their ADHD strengths and explore them more deeply?
Harness Your Child’s ADHD Strengths in Creativity
Ideas to exercise and develop your child’s creativity:-
- Acting and singing
- Playing an instrument
- Building and constructing
- Art and sculpting
- Solving and sorting (mathematics, patterns)
- Coding (computing)
Children with ADHD may find that planning or managing their time can be difficult. A parent’s patience is crucial. Scaffolding and helping them with these elements can allow them more freedom to explore and enable their creativity to flourish.
2. Impulsivity and Spontaneity
People with ADHD tend to be:
- Impulsive – they may be more likely to take risks. Approaching tasks without fear can lead to more extremes of failure or success, so risk managing boundaries and expectations is important.
- Lack inner inhibitions or an inner voice that might otherwise dampen down or silence new ideas.
However, whilst these traits might cause some problems within relationships and social interactions, impulsivity can actually be a powerful tool.
- It often means that you trust your instincts
- You can turn your goals and dreams into reality
- It allows you to act swiftly in making decisions
- It enables you to seize opportunities in the moment
- Spontaneity – when you’re spontaneous you can explore and try things that are outside of your comfort zone and this can lead to amazing results!
Spontaneity can help you:
- Learn new skills
- Build confidence
- Increase your effectiveness
- Become more adaptable and flexible in your approach to problems
- Nurture and promote self-development
Most children will push boundaries and probably ‘push your buttons’! Some may have a hard time accepting limits, and these limits may be there to keep them safe. Explanation and patience is key. It’s vital that you hold your limits and boundaries to keep your child safe.
TAKE THE QUIZ!
3. Energy and Enthusiasm
Some children with ADHD have endless amounts of energy! Having abundant energy levels can be positive in so many ways. It can sometimes make children feel like they have ‘ADHD superpowers’; that they can achieve anything, that they are ‘capable’. This can actually become one of their greatest ADHD strengths.
There are lots of activities your child might consider doing to make the best use of all that energy whilst developing skills and knowledge at the same time!
- Trampolining: Eases stress, improves memory. Releases mood-boosting hormones. Develops co-ordination and balance. Improves core strength
- Scouts/Brownies/Guides. These groups build social skills, fitness, empathy, planning and organisational skills. Children learn the benefits of risk-taking and trying new activities outside their comfort zone.
- Visiting museums: Try hands-on and interactive exhibitions where your child can focus and have fun with their busy brains. They can really use their motor skills too.
- Building things. This may include following instructions or going off plan! Whatever your child chooses, they will be planning and problem solving, making decisions and working towards a goal.
- Swimming is excellent for building core strength and stamina.
4. Resilience and Perseverance
Many children with ADHD have to work harder than their neurotypical friends to overcome everyday challenges and stresses. A positive outcome is that they build a deep determination to achieve their goals. ADHD adults often show higher resilience than their neurotypical peers.
Recognising, nurturing and praising resilience in your child crucial. Here are some signs of resilience in a child that are considered strengths of ADHD.
- Demonstrates a genuine interest in school life
- Effectively problem-solves
- Shows initiative
- Is assertive and enthusiastic
- Can act independently
The ADHD Brain is both different and amazing. Many people with ADHD are able to hyperfocus. Some children with ADHD can end up focusing on something so intensely that they are oblivious to everything else that is going on around them!
Parents often find themselves calling their child’s name repeatedly to no avail. Their child’s brain is totally immersed. Sometimes, they might be so focused a task or interest, they forget mealtimes and basic daily tasks such as washing.
Here’s a great example of how to turn ADHD into a strength. Your child might find it hard to switch between tasks or to get started on tasks. However, if you can find an activity that will engage their hyperfocus, they can develop expertise and mastery in this area in a way that neurotypical children would struggle to do.
There is a balance to strike with hyperfocus. It can lead to conflict and frustration in others, but the child with ADHD is usually perfectly happy doing what they’re doing! It allows them to fully devote their attention to something that is of interest to them and that they’re motivated by.
Examples and Benefits of Hyperfocus:
- School projects may get your child’s full attention.
- With focus and practice, children can become really good at something – for example, playing an instrument, a video game or playing a sport.
- Reading – picking a genre that your child loves will improve their comprehension and reading skills.
- Developing an interest into something that could pave the way forward in their school, college or working career.
ADHD Strengths Example Case Study: Michael Age 13
Michael is a thirteen-year-old boy with ADHD who has struggled with organization, completing tasks, and regulating his emotions in the past. However, he found that his ADHD also gave him a unique perspective and a natural curiosity. Michael began to channel his ADHD strengths by using his creativity to solve problems and find new ways to approach tasks. For instance, he found that he was better able to focus on his homework when he listened to music, so he created a playlist of instrumental music that helped him concentrate. Michael also found that he was able to remember information better when he drew pictures or diagrams, so he started incorporating visual aids into his note-taking.
Michael’s creativity also led him to explore his interests in music and art. He started taking guitar lessons and found that playing music helped him focus and regulate his emotions. He also began to experiment with different art mediums and found that he had a talent for painting with watercolors. Michael’s parents and teachers supported him by providing structure and breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. They also encouraged him to use his ADHD strengths to his advantage.
Today, Michael is thriving. The advantages of ADHD firmly outweigh the disadvantages for Michael. He has found success in his artistic pursuits and has even sold some of his artwork. Michael has also formed a band with some friends and is writing his own songs. He has turned his ADHD into a strength and is using it to achieve his goals. Michael’s unique perspective and creativity have helped him excel in school, where he has become known for his innovative ideas and problem-solving skills. He has also become more confident and socially adept, thanks to his involvement in music and art. Overall, Michael’s “ADHD personality” has become a source of strength and inspiration, allowing him to explore his interests and reach his full potential. Michael is planning to become a peer mentor for other young people, so he can teach them about leveraging their own ADHD characteristics to their advantage.
The Unique Strengths of ADHD Students
ADHD students often possess a range of unique strengths that often go unrecognized and underappreciated. The strengths of ADHD students may be overshadowed by their difficulties paying attention and following rules and procedures, which is often labelled as poor behaviour.
There are many cognitive advantages of ADHD. ADHD student strengths often include a high level of creativity and innovation. ADHD students often have an outstanding ability to think outside the box and come up with unique solutions to problems. They are also often highly empathetic and intuitive, with a deep understanding of others’ emotions and needs.
Many ADHD students are highly energetic and enthusiastic, with a natural curiosity and a love of learning. While ADHD strengths in the classroom can sometimes be overshadowed by challenges, we must find ways to recognize and celebrate ADHD students and help them reach their full potential. With the right support and guidance, ADHD students can use their unique strengths to achieve huge success in school and beyond.
The Best Jobs for ADHD
Honestly, if your child has ADHD the sky’s the limit and they can succeed in most careers. However, here are some career areas and jobs for people with ADHD which might particularly appeal to your child:
- Entrepreneurship: Many successful entrepreneurs have ADHD because they are natural risk-takers and thrive in fast-paced environments. Starting a business can allow people with ADHD to utilize their creativity and innovation to create something new and exciting. They can work when and how they choose, and they don’t have to answer to anyone, which is great for people whose brains tend to flit from one area to another and like to try lots of different things.
- Sales: Jobs in sales can be a great fit for people with ADHD because they require a high level of energy, enthusiasm, and the ability to think on your feet. Sales jobs can be challenging and rewarding, and can offer a high level of autonomy and flexibility.
- Technology: Jobs in the technology industry can great fit because they often involve problem-solving, innovation, and creativity. Many tech jobs also offer a high level of flexibility and the ability to work remotely, which can be beneficial for those with ADHD.
- Trades: Some of the best jobs for people with ADHD are in the trades, such as plumbing, electrical work, or carpentry. They require physical activity and hands-on work.
- Emergency services: Paramedics, firefighters, or police officers need to have quick thinking, strong creative problem-solving skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure. They can offer a high level of excitement and adrenaline which makes them a potentially excellent match for people with ADHD.
- Hospitality: Jobs in the hospitality industry, such as working in a restaurant or hotel, also require high levels of energy, multitasking skills, and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. They can offer a high level of social interaction and customer service and lots of variation.
- Sports and fitness: Jobs in sports and fitness include as coaching, personal training, or sports journalism. This is another career area where physical activity, energy, and enthusiasm are great assets.
- Entertainment: Acting, comedy, or music may allow for the creative expression and frequent variation that many people with ADHD excel at.
Getting the Right Help
If you are concerned that your child’s behaviour may be markedly different from most children of their age and this might be holding them back, share your concerns with your child’s school. Talk to their teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) to gather evidence on how your child is coping at school and establish whether they are showing signs of ADHD symptoms. Whether or not they actually get a diagnosis of ADHD, the most important thing is that your child feels supported and understood.
How ADHD is Diagnosed and “Treated”
To support the strengths of a child with ADHD, it’s important to understand that there is no cure for this condition, and nor should there be. ADHD brings strengths but of course some areas of ADHD can impair your child in their academic progress, social development or wellbeing.
If a particular aspect of ADHD is holding your child back, there are several ways you can get support. Treatment plans may include medication, psychological support, or a combination of both.
A doctor or mental health professional can make an ADHD diagnosis including:
- Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists
Sometimes the following professionals will also be able to make the diagnosis depending on their training and experience:
- Primary care doctors
- Clinical psychologists
- Educational psychologists
Psychological support may include behavioural parent training, teacher training or working with an ADHD coach.
In our article here, you can see two case examples of how psychologists can support children with ADHD.
If You Are Considering Seeking a Diagnosis For Your Child
Symptoms of ADHD tend to emerge in early childhood. These usually become more noticeable when a child starts nursery or school.
To get a diagnosis of ADHD, your child must have 6 or more symptoms of inattentiveness, or 6 or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness (or both).
As a family, consider areas of your life that are affected by your child’s potential ADHD. A child must show differences to their peers across a range of settings, not just in one, to meet the diagnostic criteria.
Summary: ADHD Child Strengths
ADHD is not a “problem”. It is a difference in the way the brain works which can bring huge advantages. But because of the way the world is set up for our children, day to day life with ADHD can be hard. Constantly being “moulded” to behave in a certain way can take it’s toll on a child’s sense of self worth. In some cases it can result in mental health problems like depression or anxiety.
It’s so important to focus on the ratio of positives to difficulties that ADHD brings. What is your child’s greatest strength? Identify and work to enhance their ADHD superpowers and unique skills. Do this consistently for a few months and your child’s positive identity and self-esteem will skyrocket.
Find Further Help if You Are Concerned About Focus And Attention Difficulties
You can find further information and support from the following resources:
ADHD Foundation https://adhdfoundation.org.uk/
UK ADHD Partnership https://www.ukadhd.com/
ADHD Book Recommendation For Parents
Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential by Peg Dawson, Richard Guare et al
Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential by Richard Guare, Peg Dawson et al
Hayley Vaughan Smith is a Person Centred Counsellor accredited by the National Counselling Society. She is the founder and counsellor at The Ridge Practice in Buckinghamshire, and Counsellor at Everlief Child Psychology.
Hayley has a special interest in bereavement counselling and has worked as a bereavement volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Care since 2019. Being a mum to 3 girls is hard work and rewarding in equal measure and gardening and walking in nature is her own personal therapy – Hayley believes being in nature, whatever the weather, is incredibly beneficial for mental health well-being.
Join They Are The Future’s free Facebook group for regular tips and great ideas to support teens and pre-teens with their mental health! Join the group: Parent Tips for Positive Child Mental Health UK.