The old attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) story goes like this: My brain is broken, it has ADHD and therefore I can expect to have lots of problems. The new ADHD story goes like this: My brain has a difference called ADHD and we now know that we can change the brain, so if I need to I will work hard to increase my brain’s capacity. Neuroplasticity is a recent scientific breakthrough that shows us that we can change our brain by what we do and how hard we exert ourselves.
Even now we hear ADHD stories in which a child who has the diagnosis is told that the harder he tries the more he grows his brain. This increases his motivation. He is highly motivated and works hard, he thinks of himself as a brain athlete and indeed he does change his brain and goes onto lots of success. No longer will we tell kids their brain is broken, so they think “why try?” and lose their motivation.
Because they stop trying they begin to fail and they lose self-esteem and the opportunity to grow their brain. Imagine the difference between telling a child that has a brain disorder compared to telling him that he can be a brain athlete and can re-wire his own brain if he works hard enough. If you tell your child a different story, you will get a different outcome. Sometimes we think of stories as reflecting reality or even misrepresenting reality (i.e. “he’s just telling stories”). We are learning that the stories we tell can create reality. It’s time for the discovery of neuroplasticity to be the major theme in our ADHD stories.
By Lara Honos-Webb PhD