You Cannot Afford Not to Understand Me: ADHD as Difference, Not Disability

Support for children with ADHD/ADD has grown in recent years in an effort to help them become more planful, organized and focused, like their logical-sequential peers.  Personal experiences are shared to challenge this as a goal worth pursuing and to illustrate the harm that results from attempts to replace perceived weaknesses and disability with socially-constructed strengths. Ways to celebrate and nurture all minds are shared.

As a result of this presentation, participants will:

1. Identify the characteristics of students who are labeled as ADHD/ADD; the characteristics of logical-sequential processing; and explain that the value placed on one set of these characteristics over another is a social construction.

2. Critique expectations for students to possess logical-sequential abilities (be organized, planful, focused at all times) in order to be successful students or in order to be ‘normal.’

3. Explain how attempts to replace perceived weaknesses of students with ADHD/ADD labels with perceived strengths devalues and disrespects these students, and deprives them of the opportunity and the human right to think in diverse ways.

4. Challenge the idea that ADHD/ADD is actually a disorder or disability, rather than a diverse way of thinking and processing. 5. Discuss alternative ways to approach teaching and learning so that all minds, abilities and strengths are respected and celebrated, because this diversity benefits everyone.

Lucia Guarino, Whitney Rapp