Embracing ADHD

CADDAC National Director

Guest Post by Don Reist, OCT Director, Specialist: Special Education at Tutorwiz Education Centre. Public Speaker on Education and Special Education

Many people consider ADHD to be a lifelong curse. However, the fact is that many highly successful people have or had ADHD.

Thomas Edison was a poster boy for ADHD. He left school at an early age because his teachers deemed him to be “too dumb to learn anything”. Although some question his personality, he became one of the most prolific inventors of all time, patenting 1093 inventions, including: the light bulb, motion pictures, the phonograph and the electric generator.

Leonardo Da Vinci is noted for only completing a small percentage of the things he started. Through his sketches and illustrations we know that he envisioned hundreds of things quite literally hundreds of years before his time.

Albert Einstein, whose very name is synonymous with genius, suffered with ADHD. He was very forgetful and often oblivious to everything around him. There is a story that one day he left home and headed down the street having forgotten to put on his trousers.

Sir Richard Branson has ADHD and dyslexia. He left school at 15 years of age as he was not gaining anything from it. Today he is self-made billionaire. He is the owner of the Virgin Group which includes amongst other things an airline and Virgin Galactic a company which plans to provide suborbital spaceflights to space tourists.

All these people have incredible imaginations with thousands of ideas bouncing around in their heads. Most importantly they have the ability to hyper focus. When people with ADHD are passionate about something they can dedicate themselves to it and work and concentrate harder on it than the average person can even imagine. Because their ADHD minds thirst for stimulation they strive in situations in which the average person falls apart. In a crisis, there is no one better to handle the situation than a person with ADHD.

How do I know this? I suffer from ADHD. I was the daydreamer in school. I use to sit at my desk and wander off into Lala land on a daily basis. When I wasn’t daydreaming I was fidgeting in my seat wanting to run around the room. However, I was very fortunate in the fact that I was passionate about learning. When something new was introduced in class I became totally focused.

My lack of interest at university resulted in me dropping out after only a few months. I wandered from job to job. I became fascinated with computers. I returned to university to get my degree in computer science. At this point my ADHD served me well. I could not afford to quit working. Hence I worked full time while attending classes. My passion for computers enabled me to use my ability to shut everything else out. Upon graduation, I worked for IBM Canada. My ADHD helped me skyrocket up the ladder. In one of my positions I was responsible for supporting an online banking system used by many trust companies. If the offline processing did not complete the trust companies could not open for business. Anytime the offline failed I would hop out of bed and head into the office. While everyone was running around in panic mode, I sat at my desk whistling a tune looking for and then fixing the problem. The trust companies always opened on time!

I have two university degrees. I have run a successful company for the past eight years. I am a specialist in special education, I am writing a book on educating students with special learning needs and I have hosted my own television program for the past four years. I also thoroughly enjoy public speaking especially on the topics of special education and education in general. ADHD has not prevented me from being successful.

Is ADHD a curse? In many ways it is. However, if you embrace it instead of trying to hide or deny it and take advantage of its positive effects which includes the fact that five tornadoes are constantly twirling in your head, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.


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