ADHD and the Nervous System
In a recent article published in ADDitude Magazine, Dr. William Dodson described the integrated paths of ADHD and the human body’s nervous system as they relate to deadlines, procrastination and overall motivation. In fact, Dr. Dodson claims the ADHD nervous system is unique and special in that it regulates attention and emotions in different ways than the nervous system of those without the condition—the secret behind the ADHD brain, if you will.
ADHD is diagnosed in a number of different ways. There are literally anywhere from 18 to 100 criteria or traits that formal diagnosticians have used to sort through possible symptoms. Many ADHD doctors and practitioners have tried to simplify this method by understanding the true impairments of ADHD at its most fundamental nature. Dr. Dodson claims this special feature that only affects people with ADHD, and not “neurotypical” people, is actually biological.
In actuality, Dr. Dodson claims that individuals with ADHD do not have a damaged or defected nervous system, but a unique one with its own set of rules. Contrary to popular belief, people with an ADHD nervous system have significantly higher IQs, are hyperactive internally and pay much more attention to everything than their non-ADHD counterparts. When they are “in the zone,” people with ADHD can cruise through the day with no impairments or executive function deficits. This is common when ADHD individuals are thrown into a competitive environment or are challenged by new or novel tasks. This is also the reason why procrastination is a general impairment with people with ADHD—they can’t get the work done until it becomes interesting, challenging or urgent.
Neurotypical people use three factors to decide what to do, and how to start and complete a task: importance, secondary importance, and rewards/punishments. For a person with ADHD, importance and rewards do not motivate behavior. In school, work and life, ADHD people are given a “neurotypical owner’s manual” at birth, which works well for everyone else, but not for them.
Dr. Dodson claims the implications of this new understanding is key for coaches, doctors and professionals. He recommends early intervention, before an ADHD individual has been frustrated and demoralized in the neurotypical world, with medication and a rewritten owner’s manual to help people with ADHD get into their zone by noting techniques that work. That way, when they are called on to perform, they can understand how their own bodies work and apply the techniques that are helpful in that particular situation. This new approach doesn’t try to force ADHDers to fit a “neurotypical” mold, but rather, gives guidance that lasts a lifetime by playing to individual strengths.