Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. This is particularly true for girls and women. Girls’ and womens’ ADHD tends to manifest differently from boys and men. The symptoms may be harder to recognize and/or they may have developed strategies to compensate for their ADHD symptoms. This is predominately the case with ADHD testing. Computerized tests such as the T.O.V.A. and the CPT test diagnose 80% of individuals with ADHD. In other words, there is a false negative of 20% of individuals that have ADHD and are not identified by these extensive tests. Hence, a thorough history with a deep understanding of neuroscience and executive functioning is critical to determine whether an individual would qualify for an ADHD diagnosis.
The advances in neuroscience through the technology of brain imaging has facilitated our understanding about the complexity of the brain. The brain is viewed as a self-regulating system. This fundamental human capacity is the ability to regulate and control our thoughts, feelings and behavior. Recent developments in neuroscience have increased our understanding of the neural underpinnings of self-regulation. Self-regulation is often used interchangeably with the term of executive functioning.
Executive functioning includes:
- non-verbal working memory
- verbal working memory
- emotional self-regulation
- planning and problem solving.
A person with ADHD or an individual who has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum of Autism tends to have deficits in one or more of these areas. Given that there are many variations in which an individual can have strengths and weaknesses; the cognitive profile of each individual with executive functioning will look differently. This variance is often termed as being neurodiverse. Being neurodiverse suggests that a person’s brain functions differently than a neurotypical person. A wonderful metaphor for how an ADHD brain functions is by imagining one’s brain to be an orchestra without a conductor. Each individual brain part functions well but struggles to communicate with other parts creating deficits in executive functioning.
These executive functioning challenges may include:
- difficulty focusing on what is important
- trouble concentrating
- controlling impulsive behaviors
- forgetting or losing items
- squirming or fidgeting
- talking excessively
- careless mistakes
- have trouble taking turns
- have difficulty getting along with others
- low frustration
- difficulty organizing tasks
- over-eating, compulsive spending, addictive behaviors
- lack of motivation
- completing work in a timely manner
- comorbid anxiety and/or depression
Despite these challenges, being neurodiverse offers great advantages. First and foremost, neurodiverse individuals are intelligent. They have average to above average IQ’s. They naturally think outside of the box and are innovative by nature. In fact, it is noted that many successful entrepreneurs have ADHD. The areas of their ADHD that have lead to their success in business include hyper-focusing, divergent thinking, risk taking, and hyperactivity. With therapy and ADHD coaching, one can learn to harness one’s strengths and minimize one’s weaknesses to be healthy, happy and successful.