It’s very important when you explain ADHD to a child that you use a strength-based model, a model that does not include anything dangerous, negative, upsetting.
The model that I like to use that is in fact very accurate is the following – I’ll tell a child – “Guess what? I have great news for you! You have an amazing brain. You’ve got a Ferrari engine for a brain!” And I’ll say, “You know what a Ferrari is?” And they’ll say, “Yeah, yeah.” “Well, your brain is like a race car! Your brain is way powerful and that’s great! You’re a champion in the making,” I said. “But there is one problem. You’ve got bicycle brakes. You can’t slow down when you need to stop, when you need to.”
And that’s really what ADHD is all about. And the kid’s get it. “Yeah, you’re right, you’re right.” And I say, “And I’m a brake specialist. So work with me, and we’ll strengthen your brakes. We can’t do it overnight, but over the course of years you’ll build those brakes so you’ll be able to stop when you need to, slow down when you need to. And win races instead of spinning out at the curve.”
That’s truly what ADHD is all about. It’s a state of relative disinhibition. You can’t inhibit incoming stimuli, hence you’re distractible, you can’t inhibit outgoing impulses, hence you’re impulsive and hyperactive. That’s race car brain with bicycle brakes. I’m a break specialist. Strengthen your brakes. Kids buy into that enthusiastically, instead of saying, “I have some deficit disorder that needs to get treated,” say, “I’ve got a race car and I need to strengthen my breaks, so I can be a champion.” And that’s the truth.