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Minton's Playhouse
Attention Deficit Disorder

Are you ADHD, too? Click on the Happy Monster to learn more.

It's amazing how long the
Really Obvious can go undetected.
I was recently diagnosed as having
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
When I was a kid, there was no such category --
so I was just yelled at for being a wild-ass little
smart-aleck that didn't pay attention. Certainly I
have a lot of students considered ADHD, but
I had never thought about adults with this
controversial designation. Now I is one...
Max says Check it Out.
Common Traits of ADD Adults

Difficulty concentrating (but able to 'hyperfocus' on something that interests them)

Being easily distracted

Daydreaming, or 'tuning out'


Feelings of restlessness

Feelings of underachievement

Mood swings


Problems with anger control


Needing to be moving in order to think

Blurting out inappropriate remarks

Interrrupting others

Love of hi-tech gadgets, computers etc (high stimulation)

Doing or saying things that they later regret (cause of much embarrassment)

Impulsiveness (in word or action eg spending)

Poor (clumsy?) social or communication skills

Act the clown  (inc actions which they may regret)

Drumming fingers, fiddling, fidgeting etc

Thrill seeking or risk taking

Have lots of 'piles' of work

Lack of follow through

Always in a hurry

Difficulty starting things


Losing things frequently

Feelings of failure

Relationship problems

Employment problems (due to all of above symptoms)

Sounds a little grim, doesn't it?

But look at these ten characteristics:

Excerpts from an "Are you ADD" list,
from "Driven to Distraction" by Hallowell & Ratey.

    1. Are you more creative or imaginative than most people?
    2. Are you particularly intuitive?
    3. Even if you are easily distracted, do you find that there are times when your power of concentration is laser-beam intense?
    4. Are you usually eager to try something new?
    5. Do you laugh a lot?
    6. Do you get the gist of things very quickly?
    7. Are you much more effective when you are your own boss?
    8. Are you a maverick?
    9. Do you tend to approach problems intuitively?
    10. Do you often get excited by projects (but often not follow through?)

So which is it?
Is this thing we call Attention Deficit Disorder really a disorder?
Is it really a deficit?
Or is it part of a non-typical mental process
associated with being Gifted and Creative?
Gifted kids/adults often have these characteristics asociated with ADHD:
  • underachieving
  • anger and frustration 
  • high energy, intensity, fidgeting, impulsivity
  • individualistic, nonconforming, stubborn
  • disorganization, sloppy, poor handwriting
  • forgetful, absentminded, daydreams
  • emotional, moody
  • low interest in details


Please keep in mind that this is a generalized overview of how characteristics and symptoms of ADD/ADHD may present themselves in Adults.  In addition, if there is no impairment in your life, you do not have a disorder.  How these characteristics affect each individual will be different and unique.

Inattention and Memory Characteristics

  • May lose things such as keys, important papers, phone numbers etc on a regular basis.
  • May be forgetful in daily activities I know there was something I was supposed to do! or consistently forget to take out the trash, instructions from your partner, or picking the kids up from an activity.
  • May consistently begin a task and not complete it.  Maybe you start to cut the grass, go inside to get a drink, answer the phone, see there is a sporting event on TV, sit down and watch it and leave the lawn mower in the middle of the yard. Maybe you have a workshop with projects began with good intentions, all half finished. 
  • May have a problem following conversations.  Maybe your wife/girlfriend/partner talks to you and always complains that you never listen.  Maybe you are always wondering when someone told you something when they say Dont you remember I told you about this last week. Maybe you miss deadlines at work or hand in something irrelevant because you only heard half the conversation.
  • May be difficult to motivate yourself to begin a project.  Oh sure, that sounds great, Ill get started on it, well, maybe tomorrow! A project that doesnt instantly sound great and exciting may continually be placed on hold, making you look lazy.
  • May have difficulty following a timed schedule. Misjudging time can create havoc in any schedule.  Either you begin with an unrealistic schedule, allowing too much or too little time for each activity, or you cant follow the schedule because you forgot about the time and just spend 3 hours on an activity that should have taken 20 minutes.


 Okay, so you dont bounce off the furniture any more, (or maybe you do) but the hyperactivity is still present, it just shows up in different ways as you grow into adulthood. 

  • You may be in constant movement. You play with your pencil all during a meeting, or tap your foot on the floor.  You doodle on any piece of paper that is around, including those important statements you just received in the mail. 
  • You may get bored easily.  Boredom begins to set in about 15 minutes after you begin a project, or a few months after you begin a new job.  You find TV boring, the computer is better, a little more interactive, but still becomes boring.  You have an intense need to make everything in life a little more interesting.  You food contains more spices, your desk contains toys, your life is filled with gadgets that looked great at the store but you lost interest when you got home. 
  • You may become restless after a few minutes of inactivity.  Time to sit down to a relaxing evening with your partner and 15 minutes later you are ready to go and do something, or you begin to fade in and out of the conversation, planning what else you can do.  You spend your day at work walking around and talking, getting coffee, making phone calls or anything else you can do to relieve the restlessness from sitting at a desk.
  • You may have a great desire for active, risky and fast paced activities.  Basketball is great, baseball much to slow, you start counting grass blades while standing in the outfield. Driving 20 miles over the speed limit makes that boring road so much more exciting and gets you off it quicker.  Hang gliding; jumping from airplanes, racecar driving, and other such sports exhilarate you.  Riding a bike is great; riding down a steep mountain on a bike is even better. 


  • You may interrupt others or answer a question before the other person is finished.  Entering in a conversation in the middle of someone elses sentence can be embarrassing and lead to others thinking that you are rude and inconsiderate. 
  • You may blurt out your thoughts without thinking first.  Do your friends and family know you for your bluntness or complete honesty?  Do your thoughts jump out of your head before you even have time to decide if it is an appropriate response? Do you tend to hurt other peoples feelings with your remarks, even though you never intended to be insulting?

Emotional Turmoil 

  • You may become easily angered.  Do you find your temper rising over the smallest incident?  Does your family and friends wonder why you can get angry so quickly?  At the same time, are you able to release your anger quickly, left wondering what all the fuss is about?
  • You may have a low tolerance for frustration.  Without instant success, do you find yourself become frustrated with a project and leaving it alone?  It is possible that consistent failures in the past due to ADHD (diagnosed and undiagnosed) may have left you with a bad taste for failure and your frustration with not being able to complete a project successfully can create stress in your life.
  • You may have unpredictable moods.  Instability in moods, happy one moment, frustrated the next; depressed the next can create havoc in social relationships. 

Low Self Esteem 

  • You may have the ability to appear confident to others.  Previous failures and frustrations can cause your confidence to waver.  On the outside, you might appear a confident outgoing individual, while you secretly fear your imminent failure.
  • You may avoid new situations.  To avoid the fear of failure, do you avoid entering into new relationships, or into situations involving something new in order to avoid possible failure?

Symptoms of ADD/ADHD

A Typical ADD person...

1. ... is unable to get organized.

2. ... is easily distracted.

3. ...has a life that may be marked by chronic underachievement.

4. ... has difficulty prioritizing his time, attention and resources.

5. ... will often have several projects going at once.

6. ... has trouble with follow through and completion of tasks.

7. ... tends to engage in high risk activities more often and with less concern than their non-ADD friends.

8. ... Just like kids, ADDers will "say the darndest things".

9. ... not very punctual. He is either consistently late or early- -very early.

10. ...behaves as if the rules don't apply to them.

11. ... may seem extremely insecure.

12. ... is usually creative, talented and intelligent.

13. ... exhibits mood swings.

14. One of the few consistent things about the ADDer is his inconsistency.

15. ... tends to have other chronic health problems as well, especially respiratory disorders.

16. ... tends to look for "deeper meanings".

17... appreciates routine and predictable outcomes.

For more on these symptoms
CLICK on HyperBoy

For a wonderfully 
comprehensive website dealing with these 17 characteristics, click on HyperBoy [left] and find yourself transported to the About.com site.
[more below]

Click HERE for great ADHD Links


Coping with the problems that
frequently accompany ADHD

The Seven Habits of Highly ADD People

1. Personalization
Highly ADD people take everything personally.... or not at all.

ADD people tend to be more sensitive to criticism. They (we) tend to want "everyone to like us", and feel bad when that isn't the case. ADDers also read things into statements or actions that may not actually be there. Even positive feedback may be suspect.

When I walk into a room and hear people laughing, I automatically assume they were talking about me. The part of my brain that went to college knows this is crazy, but the other part of my brain, Neanderthal brute that it is, overpowers this voice of reason.

Remember: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

In work, we tend to personalize projects. This means that we may not follow directions or may become more concerned with doing it "our way", rather than the "right way". Projects which cannot be personalized may be neglected. Then we get called "lazy" or other such wonderfully motivating things, which of course we take very personally.

The positive side of this trait is that projects that we can take a personal interest in become an immediate priority, often with amazing results.

What to do:

1. Try NOT to see criticism or other negatives as personal attacks.
Most of the time, they're not. They are simply either people doing their job, or trying to help. Also, remember that while we as ADDers ask Non-ADDers to "put up" with us, we must also appreciate the frustration that they feel when doing so.

Living with ADD is tough. Living with an ADDer is too.

Disclaimer: Some people are into making such attacks. Ignore them.

2. Find a project you can personalize to your heart's content.
Then do something else. Use this "personal project" as a reward for completing the mundane chores of life.

Non-ADD people (ie - employers) can maximize this trait by assigning you jobs which can be personalized. But again, some things simply cannot. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. Do your best. The real trickis to find a job that is best suited to your unique ADD abilities and strengths.

2. Procrastination

Highly ADD people tend to be chronic procrastinators.

Basically, the entire concept of time is a priority system. Such prioritizing is precisely what the ADD brain is not designed to do. According to Dr. Ed Hallowell, "Time parcels moments out into separate bits so that we can do one thing at a time. In ADD, this does not happen. Time becomes a black hole. To the person who has ADD it feels as if everything is happening all at once."

Or maybe not at all.

Hallowell's "black hole" of time means a lot more than simply the occasional missed deadline. Planning involves estimating how long it is until something happens; having some kind of "feel" of how long an hour or a week is. While the average person hears a countdown as "10, 9, 8, 7, etc., the ADDer might as well hear "10, 9. 100, 4, 3, 16, 0 Blastoff!". The ADDer simply does not have the ability to accurately judge distance, past or future, where time is concerned.

To paraphrase my rearview mirror, "Deadlines are closer than they appear".

Simply put, we procrastinate because we

1. Do not realize how long it has been since we were asked to do something
2. Do not realize how little time we may have left before the deadline
3. Get distracted, sidetracked or bored with whatever it is that we are supposed to be working on.

What to do

Become a List Maker.

Make "To Do" lists: what to do this month, what to do this week and what to do today. Cross things off as they are completed. Reward yourself!!

Set Goals

Make personal deadlines well in advance of actual due dates. Remember to treat these earlier personal deadlines as if they are real.

Use Technology

There are all kinds of personal planners, software and other gadgets to assist you with this problem. Stop putting it off! Get some!

Those who live or work with an ADD person will need to help them remember deadlines and goals.

3. Disorganization

Highly ADD people are "Organizationally Challenged".

If ever lost, the ADDer is easily tracked by the trail of clutter left in his wake. Our offices are "organized" not by files, but in piles. In short, the chaos of ADD thinking is made manifest in the physical environment.

There are books full of all kinds of tips about getting your stuff together AND remembering where you put it. The trouble with these books is they tend to be read by people who are already organized anyway . The "Organizationally Disenfranchised" rarely buy such books. If they do, then they lose them before they have a chance to read them.

For ADDers, the problem is not a lack of knowledge. The problem is the actual application.

Probably the best solution, for those who can afford it, is to hire someone to organize things for you. But for the rest of us, there are post-it notes, vertical files... and lots of piles of stuff.

Perhaps the most overlooked organizational tool is The Trash Can This extremely helpful piece of technology is not that difficult to use, so don't be intimidated by it. Just toss those old pieces of paper and Kleenex right in there! You'll be amazed how much this simple orgazational task of "cleaning house" can help.

Or so I'm told.

4. Randomization

Highly ADD people tend to operate in a Random Access mode.

This is not a problem for us. It is a problem for those around us, especially if they don't know what's happening.

We make these apparently random, off the wall comments because we think non-linearly. Most people think in a rather linear pattern, with "A" being more closely related to "B" than to "C" and so on. Not ADD folk. We think in Radial Patterns. Point "A" is not the beginning of some line of thought, "A" is at the center of our circle of thught, surrounded by other circles, with points "B" "C" "X" "Y" "Z" and God only know what else "orbiting" this center.

I call this "Radial Thinking"

In this configuration, point "A" is just as close to "B" as it is to "Z". This makes perfect sense to us. We can be talking about dog food, and say something about how much food our hamster eats, and it makes perfect sense because its in the same "orbit".

To really complicate the picture, each orbiting circle of thought can have all kinds of tangents. All of these orbits and tangents will still make sense to an ADDer - up to a point.

Even we have our limits.

But to a non-ADD, linear thinker, it is very confusing. They have trouble keeping track of all of these seemingly unrelated topics.

What to do

Be nice to the Non-ADDers.
They're doing the best they can.

They really can't help it.

5. Incompletion

Highly ADD people tend to not complete things.

There are a number of reasons for this. We get distracted. We get bored, and find something new to work on.

We get overwhelmed.

We give up.

I think that we often avoid completion because we don't want to lose focus. Hyper-Focus is a Big Word in ADD We love to finally have something that holds our attention, so we prolong it as much as possible.

What to do

1. Divide larger tasks into smaller, more managable sections.
Celebrate each "completion" as you work your way through the project, keeping your eye on the ultimate goal as you do.

2. Make specific, measurable and acheivable goals

3. Establish Deadlines. Stick to them.

6. Frustration

Highly ADD people tend to get easily frustrated. People who live with ADD people tend to get frustrated.

People who write about ADD people tend to get frustrated.

There are plenty of reasons for this. The real issue is

What to do With segues like that, I should be in radio

Recognize what is causing the frustration.
Try to deal with the cause rather than the symptom.

Don't become fixated on the frustration.
Move on. At least become frustrated with something different. We tend to "dig in" sometimes. Don't. Recognize what is happening and walk away. Give it a rest. Don't give up, but don't keep making the hole deeper.

Find some kind of enjoyable physical activity to use as a vent
Run. Walk. Swim. Play a musical instrument. Anything that works as a release.

7. Manipulation

Highly ADD people can be real manipulators.

Sometimes my honesty and frankness amazes even me. But then again, maybe I'm just trying to manipulate you.

We throw fits. We overreact. We do all kinds of really dishonorable things just to get our way. Why?

Because we are human.

And because we can.

ADD kids and aldults are smart people. We can figure out real fast how to cover our butts and get what we want. Or so we think. Sometimes it works.

This is an important point for parents of ADD kids. If the child learns that he can manipulate others by his actions, he will carry that lesson into adulthood. These kids grow into the adult ADDers who have so many social problems.

The worst thing you can do for your ADD child is to teach them that manipulation works.
To do so is to condemn them to a life of failed relationships, lonliness, frustration and failure. This manipulation is one of the first behaviors that newly diagnosed Adult ADDers have to recognize and work on.

What to do
1. Rather than manipulate, learn to co-operate.
2. Become very aware of your motives and actions.
3. Practice self-observation


Max's Scorecard

Adult Indicators

Some indicators that can be suggestive of ADD:

  • Easily distracted; forgetful; daydreaming
  • Procrastination; inability to complete things
  • Disorganization; messiness; clutter
  • Difficulty with making decisions
  • Behavioral or verbal impulsiveness
  • Difficulty with expressing thoughts in speech or in writing NO
  • Significant periods of depression; low self-esteem
  • A sense of failure; not living up to one's potential
  • A sense of being different, unconventional
  • A sense of internal restlessness; constantly active
  • Difficulty with falling asleep or waking up alert
  • Very sensitive to being told to do something, teasing, criticism, rejection or anger
  • A sense that your mind is always active; thoughts jumping from one topic to the next
  • Easily bored; intense need for excitement
  • Difficulty with following rules
  • Very impatient; low frustration tolerance
  • Emotionally sensitive; easily upset, depressed, hurt or angered
  • Difficulty with personal or work relationships
  • Frequently late or rushed
  • Difficulty in estimating how much time something will take
  • Impulsive spending and money management problems
  • Personal or family history of substance abuse, depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty with reading comprehension or retention NO
  • Frequently changing jobs, interests or activities
  • Frequently losing or misplacing things
  • Perfectionistic tendencies
  • Strong need to control or have things your way

Diagram shows overlap of other disorders with ADD

When I was a kid, there was no such category as
ADHD. But looking at this diagram, I recognize that
I had  not only ADHD but certain characteristics of
both Depression and Oppositional Defiant Disorder
[a milder form of Character Disorder.]
My research in these areas has made me much
more aware of how common these complications
are among the students I teach. This is one of the
reasons I am "out of the closet" as having ADHD.
I want my kids to realize two things:
1. Having ADHD does not mean
you are lazy, stupid, or crazy.
You may be gifted, talented and creative.
2. Having ADHD makes school harder,
but it does not mean you can't
achieve at a high level [I did!]