After 35+ years specializing in this field, and with the experience of treating at least 40,000 A.D.H.D. patients of all ages over these years, these are observations and comments I can offer synthesizing BOTH personal insight and extensive professional experience.  I hope readers will find this helpful.








Individuals who have A.D.H.D. have long been known to have a very typical pattern of remarkable strengths and weaknesses.  This essay is intended to help parents, spouses, relatives, teachers, and other important people in their lives who do not have A.D.H.D. understand some of the unique features of their inner world.


For every Positive Attribute (+) which typically is found in A.D.H.D. children, adolescents and adults, there is almost always a corresponding Problem (-), to wit.


(+)  Quick and astoundingly innovative, “off-beat” sense of humor.


(-)  exceptionally poor social judgment in when and where the most “colorful” features of this humor should be used!  Frequently in boiling hot water due to offensive humor in VERY INAPPROPRIATE SITUATIONS.


(+)  Naïve and extremely trusting of other people.  Are direct and “up front” with peers and colleagues.  Never imagine other people are different; do not imagine other kids and colleagues may be lying to them.


(-)  Are taken for suckers and are “Easy Prey” routinely:  Set up, fooled, led into disaster, swindled, easily taken advantage of in every way imaginable.  A.D.H.D. children and adolescents especially are virtually and psychologically defenseless vs more sophisticated same-age older peers, and this remains true for adults as well.


(+)  Able to produce incredible work in a crisis, or when intensely interested in a particular subject.


(-)  Parents, teachers, and employers then assume this should be routine, and the child, adolescent or adult has not been working “up to potential” all along.  Instead of recognizing and rewarding the unique facets of this effort, the question asked is:  “Why don’t you do this with everything, every day?”


(+)  Very quick to forgive others for their transgressions.


            (-)  Then after they forget the transgression, are victimized all over again soon thereafter.


(+)  Leap, intuitively, to astoundingly accurate conclusions: in science, math, literature, philosophy, psychology, and many other areas.


(-)  Often cannot explain to others how they arrived at those conclusions when carefully questioned.  If they have taken and used notes, the notes may be hard to find, illegible or lost.  Since they have not “followed proper procedures,” their work is dismissed.


(+)  Able to “Think Outside the Box” and use very innovative approaches to solve a variety of human and scientific dilemmas.  Results may be amazing.


            (-)  Process likely to offend Establishment and provoke severe, successful retaliation.


(+)  Learning tends to occur in intuitive leaps, as in the Hare’s approach to a race with a Tortoise.


(-)  Standard teaching is geared to the steady pace of Tortoises.  Hares are not welcome in the classroom.


(+)  A.D.H.D. individuals usually put in terrific effort while on a job, and often lose track of time, work late, and carry on some work related activities after work.


(-)  Regrettably, getting to work on time is often not an attribute of A.D.H.D. individuals, and many employers are careful clock-watchers who value punctuality over productivity.


(+)  A.D.H.D. individuals of all ages can usually be “perked up” by an opportunity to engage in a FUN social activity: a birthday Party, a swimming party, a Teen party at a neighborhood club, etc.


(-) “Perked Up” often tends to become “Overexcited” and then “Out of control” very quickly.  Once really “wound up,” A.D.H.D. children, most adolescents and even many adults lose all contact with their BRAKES, and dangerously impulsive behaviors may ensue.


(+)  As adults, A.D.H.D. men are typically generous, engaging, loving parents who thoroughly enjoy playing with their kids.


(-)  But they are extremely inconsistent in providing discipline, ranging from ignoring to overreacting to problematic behavior with few intermediate gears, and they almost always lack the patience to help children with tedious tasks like homework.


(+)  From a very early age, oddly enough, although absolutely “suckers” in so many other areas, kids who have A.D.H.D. may be religious and spiritual skeptics.  The reason for this is simple:  Their intuitive reasoning capacity allows them the emotional and intellectual freedom to leap from the discovery Mom and Dad are Santa Claus to, in moments, the revelation there is no Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny is You Know Who. And then of course, right into a fierce skepticism of all the mythology of established religion.


(-)  This terrific capacity for remarkably rapid accurate intuitive reasoning often plays out very prematurely for A.D.H.D. children, and their parents, long before either the child or the parents are ready to cope with the dilemma in a developmentally – logical manner.  Now a young child has prematurely become a cynic about spiritual issues, and resistant to moral teachings of his/her Church.  This is a situation which OFTEN does not have a salutary outcome.


(+)  Individuals who have A.D.H.D. typically have exceptional memory for pictorial imagery and long term verbal memory, when these instruction strategies are combined.  Even better, when a ‘tactile’ feature is added, then A.D.H.D. individuals learn new material very well and have excellent long-term memory for it.  This is known as “Showing – Telling – Doing” teaching.  It works wonderfully.


(-) This highly successful teaching tactic is never used in American (or European) academic schools.  It is used in European vocational schools with excellent success, and on-the-job vocational training for American teens and young adults in areas such as auto mechanics, electronics, computer repair, etc.  The learning strategy which A.D.H.D. individuals are weakest is, of course reading written texts with even basic comprehension, and then taking timed tests based upon trying to interpret written questions.  A.D.H.D. children adolescents and adults frequently fail these tests despite knowing the material very well and being easily able to answer the same questions accurately when they are asked verbally.


(+)  Lots of energy, innovation, zest for special projects, boredom with tedious details, irritability, “touch” feelings, disorganization, intolerance of distractions, social and conventional intensivity, difficulties with time management, jokes which offend some co-workers, and problems with temper control can make A.D.H.D. adult a UNIQUE asset to any company!


            (-)  The same characteristics can make this individual intolerable in an organization in        conformity with established rules and regulations is highly regarded.  A.D.H.D. children are Non-Conformists, as Adolescents they take a course often Outside the Lines, and as adults they typically cannot work for AT&T! They almost always succeed only when they are their own “bosses” in an area of endeavor they truly enjoy and can embrace with full enthusiasm.  THEY CAN BE GREAT.


(+)  Adolescent boys and young men who have A.D.H.D. are eager to go on with EVERYTHING. Enthusiastic, “Ready to Go,” and “Can’t Wait!”  They have terrific enthusiasm!


(-)  And then they get behind the wheel of a car, the carnage begins, and the tragedies strike one family after another.  Accident rates are 4-5 times higher than those for non A.D.H.D. adolescent boys and young men, the accidents are far worse, the injuries are far more severe, and this is a list which goes on and on.  All A.D.H.D. experts now insist their adolescent and young adult patients take their medication prior to driving; all available evidence indicated this normalizes accident and injury rates.


(+)  Adolescents and young men and women who have A.D.H.D., like all other individuals that age, have sexual ideas and impulses.  This is – for most of us – a normal, and enjoyable, part of growing up.  As younger adolescents, most boys with A.D.H.D. – only are VERY SHY and immature about these issues, and often 1-2 years less “developed” than same-age peers.


(-)  However, between ages 18 and 22, even these shy and immature boys seem to break out of their shell and, with astoundingly poor judgment, impregnate an incredible number of girls, and girls who have A.D.H.D. seem to be amazingly vulnerable.  In Dr. Barkley’s research, at age 22, comparable groups of A.D.H.D. youth, at age 22 had 49 pregnancies compared to 1 for non-A.D.H.D. youth.


Ironically, we are teaching “Sex Education to most of these children during the years (12-14) when they are virtually phobic about the idea of any kind of contact with the opposite sex, but then when they begin to psychologically and physically mature and are receptive to learning about these issues, at ages 15-18, we assume they are as sophisticated as their peers.  They pretend that it is true, but it isn’t.


This discourse could be greatly expanded (and, in time, probably will).


Many of the great explorers in history clearly had A.D.H.D., e.g. Alexander the Great, Sir Thomas Burton, etc.  Some of the best-known inventors in history without any doubt had A.D.H.D, e.g. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and many others.  An astounding number of the best known American entertainers have without doubt histories and symptoms of A.D.H.D., including Whoopie Goldberg and Robin Williams to name a couple.  Among sports stars, A.D.H.D. is common:  Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Isaiah Thomas, just to pick on a few basketball players.  The list of politicians is without question led by sir Winston Churchill, who, as a child, was a Holy Terror!  There is little doubt the White House has been, very recently, and (very likely) currently, the residence of one or more U.S.President with A.D.H.D.


So let us celebrate people who have A.D.H.D. certainly do not, necessarily, have “defects” which prevent them from attaining remarkable success.  They have abilities that compensate MORE or LESS for their difficulties, and over time they usually become more and more effective in deploying strategies using their strengths to solve problems, while asking for help from other individuals in areas in which they cannot cope with due to A.D.H.D. – related impairment.



©  Corydon G. Clark, M.D. 2003 - 2011