Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


At Wonder Years, we believe it is important for providers, as well as our patients, to have an integrated and holistic understanding of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We understand that to provide the most successful care to our patients, we must first acknowledge that no two experiences with ADHD are exactly alike. Recognizing the uniqueness of each individual’s experience with ADHD is crucial in providing effective care. We encourage our patients to explore and develop their awareness of the variety with which ADHD can present, as this is an integral step in making informed decisions about their care moving forward.

The Impact of ADHD

Living with ADHD can impact our understanding of ourselves, how we engage with the world around us, and how we engage in mental health treatment. It is first important to move through education related to the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, where we will explain the neurological underpinnings as well as the high variation of symptoms. We will also address specific strengths and struggles that individuals with ADHD experience across different life stages. In future blog postings will also share helpful tools and strategies that may be useful for our ADHD clients. Also, we will share tools that may be helpful for those who aim to best support their ADHD child, friend, or partner. Join us as we take a strengths-based and neurodivergent-affirming look at ADHD with the overall goal of developing a holistic, empathetic understanding of ADHD and destigmatizing neurodivergence.

Types of ADHD

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts individuals from childhood through to adulthood. Neurodevelopmental disorders impact how the brain develops and functions, meaning that ADHD is a brain-based disorder that can be broken down into three subtypes:

  1. Predominantly Inattentive Type: As we take on a strength-based perspective in understanding ADHD, I believe it is important for us to begin by identifying individuals diagnosed with the inattentive ADHD subtype. These individuals are often profoundly creative, passionate, and imaginative people. These are individuals whose ADHD “superpowers” often include out-of-the-box thinking and strategizing, the ability to harness focus or laser-focus to complete unique goals that others would find entirely unachievable. These are often individuals who are highly effective at multitasking or spreading their attention across multiple stimuli.

Individuals with this ADHD subtype often have a strong moral compass which allows them to empathize with and support those around them in a beautiful way. With this in mind, our inattentive ADHDers often feel their emotions, as well as the emotions of others, more intensely. This may result in frequent experiences with intense emotional moments that can be hard to manage without appropriate tools in place. These individuals may also experience profound differences in attention and are often easily distracted, either by their own internal processes or by their surroundings.

Additionally, they may have differences in their ability to sustain attention on tasks that are not in line with their natural interests. Individuals in this subtype may find difficulty in following instructions, organizing tasks, and managing their awareness of time to use time effectively to complete those tasks. They may appear to be forgetful, oftentimes losing items that are necessary for tasks or activities. They may appear to make careless mistakes, especially when engaging in tasks or activities that they consider “boring” or under-stimulating.

  1. Predominantly Hyperactive Type: Individuals with this ADHD subtype are characterized to have beautiful strengths and superpowers, and typically have strong goals. They are “go-getters,” and often are the people who respond well in times of crisis due to their natural ability to think on their feet and react quickly to stimuli. These individuals often have great energy and enthusiasm in pursuit of their interests and goals. Others are often inspired by their zeal and seemingly infinite energy resources.

They also experience hyperactivity and may have differences in their ability to manage impulses and impulsive behavior. This person likely has differences in their ability to stay still and will frequently fidget, squirm, or engage in other sensory stimulating behavior (i.e. hand flapping/waving, tapping feet/fingers, repeating words, making sounds). As a result, they may have a harder time engaging in activities quietly.

For our hyperactive ADHDers, impulsivity often manifests as blurting out answers, interrupting others, or having difficulty waiting their turn. These individuals may also have a harder time regulating their emotions and tend to react strongly and impulsively. Oftentimes, they will feel intense shame and regret in the aftermath. They may have difficulty in a traditional school or workplace setting and often benefit from developing strong self-advocacy skills to advocate for appropriate support in these environments.

  1. Combined Type: This individual experiences both inattention and hyperactivity. Individuals with this ADHD subtype often have “blended superpowers” and are creative and imaginative people who thrive under pressure due to a natural ability to react quickly as events arise. They may experience challenges with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity across different environments. These environments include being at school, at home, at work, and even within relationships.

Embracing Individuality in ADHD

It is important to mention that ADHD is a complex condition with high variation in symptoms depending on the person. Just as a cold has different symptoms that display differently depending on the person. So too with ADHD and executive functioning differences. I often say that if you’ve met one person with ADHD, you have done just that. Each person with ADHD is unique in their experience, and there is a great deal of importance in exploring and understanding those unique and beautiful differences and harnessing those powers effectively.

At Wonder Years, the journey to understand ADHD often involves a combination of medications, therapy, and coaching. This integrated approach ensures that clients of all age groups receive and learn coping strategies and skills to manage their anxiety in the long term. Medications can provide the necessary support for clients to engage more effectively in their daily living, and build confidence in social situations.

The team at Wonder Years is committed to providing a supportive, non-judgmental space where clients can progress at their own pace with the right blend of medication and therapy tailored to their unique needs. Take control of your ADHD and start your journey toward a more confident and fulfilling life.