Skip to content

Living Well: Take strengths-based approach with ADHD

Although ADHD can be present in all ages, the school years tend to be a time of recognition that something is impacting behaviour and performance

Now that we are into the school year, the topic of attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder enters the conversation once again.

Although ADHD can be present in all ages, the school years tend to be a time of recognition that something is impacting behaviour and performance. In my practice, I have a different take on ADHD.

First of all, I am not comfortable with a label that has the word “deficit” prominently placed. I believe this is one reason many individuals with ADHD express that there is something wrong with them and they feel bad about how they are in the world.

The messages that tend to go with the deficit label are negative in nature.

“Why can’t you sit still? Why are you talking to everyone and not doing your work? If you would listen, you would know what to do. Your project is not finished. Your homework is not done.”

I like to take the strengths-based approach when I am dealing with any kind of an issue but especially with behavioural issues. This is easy to do with ADHD because there are so many superpowers. These are the remarkable abilities that come with this condition.

I put emphasis on the creativity and imaginative thinking that is part of the cognitive processing in the ADHD brain. Along with this is a hyper focus that is, in fact, the opposite of attention deficit.

Individuals with the ADHD brain have many interests and their brain moves quickly through a variety of topics. The brain can absorb a phenomenal amount of information very quickly using hyper focus.

The key is interest in the subject. The individual will research every aspect of a subject that is of interest and this can be sustained for a period of time. The nervous energy that is often noted can bring high levels of energy, endurance and enthusiasm.

When there is interest there is an incredible amount of motivation to get things done. Many people with ADHD think fast and translate their thoughts into actions more quickly than others in a group. This ability can contribute to much success in school and later in a career.

Individuals with the ADHD brain can connect pieces of information, connect the dots so to speak, that are not apparent to other brain types. There is an ability to recognize commonalities and this is probably what contributes to the intuitive thinking of the ADHD brain.

New information is quickly assimilated and applied with some gaps in a subject being filled intuitively from prior learning. The ADHD brain has excellent problem-solving potential due to an out-of-the-box approach to resolving a situation.

These are just a few of the superpowers of the ADHD brain. They far outweigh the deficits.

Yes, there are challenges and strategies to help manage some of the behaviours that can get in the way. Every brain type has challenges and strengths. I choose to pay attention to the strengths that provide the foundation to move forward.  

Deborah Joyce is a psychotherapist with a practice in Powell River and Comox Valley. For more information, go to

Join the Peak’s email list for the top headlines right in your inbox Monday to Friday.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks