For four days in July, I attended the 2013 ADDA Conference.  My time was spent:

1. Talking with authors  and experts.  (Thanks, Joyce Kubik, you and your book are an inspiration!)

2. Attending sessions with audio podcast celebrities.  (Hi, Ari Tuckman, thanks for helping me understand the psychology to peoples’ aversions to ADHD meds!)

3. Checking out the incredible talents of other attendee’s who performed at the ADDA Talent show.  (Thank you,untold performers who were so brave to dance and sing! It was an inspiration to see you there.)

4. Meeting the generous and great coaches who share resources, knowledge, and an urgency for ADHD advocacy. (You know who you are!)

All of theses alone were reasons enough to attend the conference!  But the “biggest bang for my buck” was the inspirational keynote speakers that tied all the sessions I attended, all my personal angst and experience with ADHD, and the study that came together in a new and fresh way.

Yes, ADHD is real. (Kinda knew that.)

Yes, ADHD impacts your life. (Been there, done that.)

And…Yes! You are far more than your neurology AND the context in which you live your life! (Whoa! Say again?)

I just had my very own “Oprah Ah ha Moment!” I must confess I was very aware of the first two, but the keynote speeches pounded the last bit of the ADHD trifecta very clearly into my head!  Check it out…

Disorder or Neurodiversity?

It all started with Diana Ross’ Motown hit song, “Reach Out…” at this year’s ADDA 2013 Conference. The theme was “Reach out… for Connection, Hope and Empowerment.” I drove all the way to Detroit to attend my first ADDA conference and got a real eye-opening experience!

Sari’s Solden’s opening keynote speech was about celebrating neurodiversity rather than buying into the medical pathology that ADHD brains are disabled.  (For more information about neurodiversity check out this definition on Wikilinks). She asked that ADDers “take pride in their own brain differences” and noted, what I have thought for some time now … a limited social context shouldn’t determine anyone’s success in life. Period.

Sari, who was born in Detroit (in the very same hospital as Dianna Ross, no less), witnessed the “Motown” experience firsthand as cultural changes took place in the ‘60s. That era coincided with her choice to learn about cultural studies in college, highlighting the transformation process of acceptance by cultural groups. This process, used by the blacks in the ‘50s, and more recently, by the gay movement, can transform a social group from shame to pride by using well defined steps to gain self-acceptance. These steps include:

1. Pre-Awareness and conformity. (Seeing yourself in personal deficit compared to those around you.)

2. Contact and denial. (Denying the group you are a part of and hiding your deficits.)

3. Compassion and confession. (Acknowledging yourself and accepting your perceived deficits privately.)

4. Tolerance and Connection. (Knowing yourself and seeking others who are like you.)

5. Acceptance and Pride. (Wholly accepting who you are and being proud of your strengths, knowing your perceived weaknesses and acknowledging them for the world to see.)

Social Context Shouldn’t Determine Anyone’s Success in Life…

Rick Green, also spoke to the group gathered in Detroit.  But this very funny and inspiring Canadian comedian who is best known for his role in writing, directing and acting in the long-running Red Green Show, showed his humanitarian side. By leveraging  his talents and influence in ADHD advocacy, Rick provides resources for those with ADHD through documentaries and his Totally ADD website.

Rick continued the theme of acceptance by sharing how connecting with the ADHD world through his website was not only changing the quality of life by creating a community of acceptance, but is also saving lives by giving much needed ADHD information to those suffering in isolation.

The misinformation about ADHD and its impact on those who unknowingly live with it and suffer, are almost intolerable for those of us who understand ADHD brains and know that leading productive lives is MOST CERTAINLY in the realm of possibility. Knowing and understanding that it is shame and the social context for those without support (sometimes finding themselves in agony and are suicidal) only pushes Rick Green and the many others involved in ADHD  advocacy to get the word out about neurodiveristy and acceptance of our brain wiring!

What about Attention Surplus Disorder?

Finally, Dr. Ned Hollowell, shared his life story which included important people along his path who recognized his talents AND supported his own unique way of learning through their connections to him.  This child and adult psychiatrist, is a NY Times bestselling author, world-renowned speaker and leading authority in the field of ADHD.  He graduated from Harvard College and Tulane Medical School, and founded The Hallowell Centers in Sudbury, Massachusetts and New York City.  He was a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty from 1983 until he retired from academics in 2004 to devote his full professional attention to his clinical practice, lectures, and the writing of books on ADHD.

Again, I heard the underpinnings of neurodiversity weaved into the conversation by asking the audience to consider the ADHD criteria through the lens presented this way:

  • Distractibility as curiosity
  • Impulsivity as creativity
  • Hyperactivity as energy

He wondered aloud if another disorder shouldn’t be considered if neurodiversity were unreal.  Should there be an Attention Surplus Disorder?  Dr. Hallowell actually reminded those in the audience that it takes both kinds of people in this world to make it work successfully. Chiding, “you only have a disability if you believe you are less than others in this world.”

It was inspiring to be with a group of people who are so dedicated to improving the quality of life for those who “move to the beat of a different drummer” and consider a more accepting society, not only faulty brain wiring.  Not only did I make great connections with some very knowledgeable people in the ADHD field, but I also took away new understandings that gave me both hope and empowerment in the process! So “Reach Out…”and let me know what you think about this neurodiversity notion, attention deficit as a disability, or other thoughts this article brought up for you… I’d love to hear from you!

DeShawn Wert, Coach and Consultant of Your ADD Answers, develops YOUR answers using your brain, your terms, and your life. Contact at or (765) 618-2275

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