Einstein famously said that the definition of madness could well be doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. By that standard, the way that our education system and communities engage with young people living with ADHD can only be described as mad.
It has been well established that children with ADHD generally perform poorly in the types of slow-paced analytical environments that are too typical of far too many of our classrooms. Yet we continue to expect them in many cases to adapt to their surroundings rather than changing the environment.
I believe this is a profoundly misguided approach and the often dismal results should be no surprise. ADHD children – or as I like to say, FastBraiin children – are not damaged or problem cases. They’re different. (I compare it sometimes to being a bit like comparing a PC to the Mac I’m writing on; one isn’t better or worse, it simply runs differently, with a different operating system.) A prime example is Albert Einstein himself, who was often thought to be out of step with his peers as a student only to ultimately apply his unique way of seeing the world to tackling some of the greatest scientific questions of all time.
We will only be able to turn around a flawed system by flipping the very structure of the system over on its head. In short, we need to completely reverse the way in which we think about and engage with kids (not to mention adults) diagnosed with ADHD. I have set out to do my part to model what this type of reversed system could potentially look like through the development of the FastBraiin model. The model doesn’t simply inform, but is entirely codified in the core operating values of each FastBraiin clinic, which have helped more than 7,000 children and adults in achieving success that they never believed could be within their grasps.
The kids in particular inspire me each day to stay engaged in this work; there has never been a more heartening professional accomplishment in my career than saying our FastBraiin students find themselves finally making the honor roll for the first time. We forget how much simply shining a light on our students with such recognition can boost their sense of accomplishment and what is possible. But many of our students have seldom seen their profiles featured in the hometown newspaper or in school award shows, because they are being assessed by an unfair standard that doesn’t recognize their special talents.
Having struggled with ADHD myself when I was younger, I know that it can be practically torture for these special individuals to rein in their natural impulsiveness and cooperate as parts of large groups of students with wildly different approaches to learning and play. I know firsthand the pain of that nagging thought, “What’s wrong with me?” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a variation on this refrain over the years in my office. It is heartbreaking that so many of our kids grow up receiving a message that they are damaged, when the reality is that they are blessed with incredible and rare gifts. Just because they have trouble completing certain tasks or focusing, too many write them off.
We need to change the message, coming from each of us, about what our kids hear. Instead of telling them that they are damaged, let’s stress that they are different. Their brains work very quickly – that’s what makes them so special. That’s what makes someone with FastBraiin into a star.
In short, let’s remove the stigma. And that will require all of us to take action – parents, teachers, and citizens.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can get started turning things around, please check out my book, Flipping ADHD On Its Head.