What I Love About My ADHD Kid
Parents share seven ADHD traits that make their kids exceptional.by Lara DeSanto Health Writer
Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often get a bad rap. While ADHD can cause troubles in some settings—like a quiet classroom during an exam, perhaps—in other scenarios, we know that ADHD can actually have some serious positives for our children. For example, maybe your child with ADHD surprises you with their out-of-the-box problem-solving, or their killer sense of humor.
To honor these positive sides of ADHD, we asked parents of ADHD kiddos to share their favorite things about them. But first, what is ADHD, anyway? This condition is one of the most common mental health disorders that can affect kids. It can affect adults, too, but it’s usually first diagnosed in children in school settings because symptoms can lead to problems in the classroom, according to the American Psychiatry Association (APA). The three most common symptoms of ADHD in children include:
Inattention, or ability to keep focused
Hyperactivity, or excessive movement (for example, kids may have trouble sitting still for long periods of time)
Impulsivity, or a tendency to act on a whim without thinking it through
While these symptoms can cause problems, they’re not your child’s entire identity. In fact, says Alexander Strauss, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, NJ, highlighting the positive effects of ADHD can help your child succeed.
“Focusing on kids’ strengths is important,” says Dr. Strauss. “If you believe kids will struggle and tell them that they’ll struggle, they are more likely to struggle. If you can find creative solutions to their deficits, they are likely to thrive.” ADHD can lead to struggles, sure—but in some ways, it can be a gift. Here’s what parents say they love most about their ADHD kids.
They Have a Great Sense of Humor
You may find one positive side effect of your child’s ADHD diagnosis is their ability to make everyone around them laugh. Research backs this up, too. A study in the journal Psychology found that children with ADHD scored higher than their peers when tested for creative strengths, including humor.
Katie, of California, sees this in her two sons with ADHD: “They are two of the funniest people I know,” she says. “Since they were born, we have laughter in our house at all times. Yes, they can be disorganized and messy, but they’re funny, loving, and fill my heart with joy.”
“[My child’s] brain works so fast that she’s always the first to laugh at jokes and puns,” adds Diana, a mom of an ADHD kiddo based in Kansas.
They Come With Creativity in Spades
Some ADHD kids may blow you away with their creativity. “My favorite things about [my son] are his imagination, the creative ways he solves problems, and the fun games he invents,” says Kristen of Utah.
Jim, of Granada, Spain, says his son’s innovation and creativity are great sources of pride. “When he was young, I used to ask him how any experience (museum, hike, even daily errands) could be turned into a game. From that, he started designing board games for fun. He ended up going to Rice and is now a software developer.”
Science also supports this notion, says Dr. Strauss. Studies show that children with ADHD tend to find out-of-the-box solutions more readily than their peers.
Energy, Energy, Energy!
While hyperactivity can be problematic, extra energy isn’t always bad, says Dr. Strauss.
“[My daughter with ADHD is] full of energy,” says Melissa of Eugene, OR. “She takes seven dance classes a week, and she's always the best and most exuberant dancer in the room.” Getting kids involved in activities where they can channel their energy in a positive way is key.
“In the kind of standard setting where you need to sit still and pay attention in school, that’s where you get the bad rap of ADHD—but if you look at the sports field, for example, where kids are more easily able to look at different stimuli and move between them quickly, having more energy could work well,” Dr. Strauss says.
Superb Social Skills
Symptoms of ADHD like inattention and hyperactivity may lead to problems with social interactions in some children. That said, many parents find their kids with ADHD to be especially outgoing. “My ADHD kiddo hasn’t met a person he won’t talk to,” says Chavonne of California. “He is the mayor of wherever he goes and is the brightest, friendliest, funniest, and most charming human being I know.”
Funnily enough, Chavonne wasn’t the only mom who described her kid as “the mayor.” Christine of Nashua, NH, says of her son, “He is the sweetest kid. He ‘buys’ me flowers at the store, and he always wants to bring them in for his teachers and his friends at school. He is highly social, and we call him the mayor—he loves to go and visit everyone at school before he leaves for the day. Everyone loves him, even though he has a different learning style and isn’t ‘normal.’”
They Are Often Deep Divers of Knowledge
Have you ever sat in awe while your child rattled off a novel’s worth of information about a highly specific topic? This may be a common experience for parents of children with ADHD.
“When my 9-year-old with ADHD is interested in something (like the Battle for Normandy during World War II, for example), his mind becomes a sponge to soak up every kernel of available information about that topic,” says Matt of Gaithersburg, Maryland. “He becomes relentless in his pursuit for more knowledge.”
It’s true, says Dr. Strauss—this characteristic can be a major asset for children with ADHD. “Oftentimes, kids with ADHD will hyper-focus, especially on things they’re very interested in,” says Dr. Strauss. “If you can make those things productive and healthy activities, it can be fantastic for them.”
Take it from Carolyn of Denver: “My 11-year-old is a brilliant researcher and a compassionate animal lover. Put the two together and you have the most cared for hamster who lives in a homemade hamster mansion and eats dandelion weed to keep him warm in the winter!”
Compassion and Empathy Come Easy
While the impulsivity that comes with ADHD can sometimes lead kids to make comments or exhibit behaviors that negatively impact others, these behaviors typically aren’t mean-spirited, says Dr. Strauss. In fact, he says children with ADHD can be more accepting and compassionate.
Debi, of Ocala, FL, says her favorite thing about her son with ADHD is how kind and considerate he is of others. “He often watches out for the underdog and takes a stand on their behalf. He can be counted on to do the right thing even when no one is looking.”
Meredith, of Phoenix, echoes this sentiment. “[My son’s] heart, hands down, is my favorite thing about him. He’s the most caring, honest, and sweet child.”
They Are Resilient and Content
ADHD can throw many hurdles your child’s way, especially when it comes to academics. But successfully navigating those challenges may help build confidence, too.
Lisa, of Shirley, MA, sees this in her son: “He is able to not let things bother him. He is very resilient and doesn't take things personally, which is the opposite of me.” Additionally, says Dr. Strauss, ADHD symptoms may free kids of the tendency to stress over nitty-gritty details to an unhealthy degree.
“You may find that if [your child] is not as focused on certain things, they don’t get as stressed out or worried about those types of things,” says Dr. Strauss. “So you might have somebody who’s happier and more content because they’re not as concerned about the details.”
In order to help your ADHD kid—really any kid—thrive, it’s important to find routines and settings that work for them. “In the right kind of situation, ADHD can be extremely beneficial for kids,” says Dr. Strauss. And much of this comes down to how much support your child has. For example, if your child has adequate support from you, the rest of your family, their school, and more, they can succeed and thrive with ADHD—and even harness some of these “ADHD strengths” for good.
“There are so many activities and careers in the world that kids can be involved in and prepared for,” Dr. Strauss says. “I think it’s important to recognize your own bias as a parent and think about what is best for your child. [Find] what helps your kid and what works for them.”
ADHD Symptoms: American Psychiatric Association. What Is ADHD? psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd
Humor Test: January 2017. Creativity in Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Psychology 8(03):319-334. DOI: 10.4236/psych.2017.83019
ADHD and Creativity: Holly A. White. Sept. 30, 2018. Thinking “Outside the Box”: Unconstrained Creative Generation in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Creative Behavior. doi.org/10.1002/jocb.382
Social Skills: Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Relationships & Social Skills. chadd.org/for-adults/relationships-social-skills/