LD/ADD Gifts – Recognizing Your Strengths
Please note: The following is only one section of my latest self-help module ” Finding your LD/ADD Pride! Accepting Your LD/ADD”
Many adults with LD/ADD are so overwhelmed by their weaknesses, they forget to recognize their strengths and abilities. This is an understandable reaction (most people tend to focus on what is wrong in their lives rather than what is right) but focusing all your time and energy on your difficulties is likely to have negative consequences on your self-esteem. Recognizing your strengths may take a real effort on your part but it is worth it – the benefits are three-fold!
Firstly, you will feel more confident in yourself and your ability to succeed. Secondly, you can use your strengths to help you compensate for your weaknesses. For example, if you are artistically inclined, but have a poor memory, you could use your artistic ability (e.g. draw pictures or diagrams) to help you study and memorize course material. Thirdly, it is important to recognize your strengths because doing so will help you accept and make peace with your LD/ADD.
You can do this by recognizing the many positive characteristics that are thought to be directly associated with LD/ADD ( Please note: This is a crucial step to realizing your LD/ADD Pride).
Below is an overview of seven positive characteristics that are commonly thought to go hand in hand with learning disabilities and/or ADD. It is unlikely that all seven characteristics will be a perfect fit for you, but they should give you a good idea about your strengths and how they relate to your LD/ADD.
Many adults with learning disabilities and ADD are thought to be highly sensitive individuals. They are very intuitive and in-tune with both their own and other people’s emotions. Sometimes they are actually able to perceive others’ thoughts and feelings. They generally feel things more deeply and tend to be very conscientious and caring individuals. For example, Thomas West, writer of The Minds Eye, not only gives a thorough explanation of Winston Churchill’s learning disability but also describes his sensitive nature. West details Churchills tendency to break into tears quite easily(154) even out in the public eye. He notes one incident in which Churchill was moved to tears after witnessing the devastating effects of a bomb.
Highly sensitive people with LD/ADD often have a strong sense of justice and tend to fight for what they believe. As a result, they often make excellent human service workers (e.g. social workers, psychologists, activists, etc.)
Unfortunately, sensitivity has been given a bad rap in our culture. It is often viewed as a sign of weakness. If you consider yourself to be a sensitive person, you may have been criticized for being too sensitive, overly emotional, weak, or thin‑skinned. These are all attempts to shame you into hiding your sensitive nature and the awareness this gift conveys to you.
People with LD/ADD are often highly creative individuals. They tend to excel in the arts and sciences (e.g. visual, dramatic, and musical arts, mathematics, biology, and various other scientific specialties). Such creative abilities are thought to be caused by the tendency for people with learning disabilities to be visual thinkers (i.e. they think in pictures rather than words) and ADDers to have spontaneous and unregulated thought patterns (often through day-dreaming). These abilities seem to allow a less linear approach to problem-solving (i.e. ideas do not follow directly from one to the other) that often reach beyond the boundaries of organized thinking patterns. A person with LD/ADD may have an uncanny ability to come up with novel ideas to solve a problem (perhaps during a brainstorming session) that other people have not yet considered.
To demonstrate this point, one ADD adult writes:
I find that when “normal” people are faced with a challenging issue or crisis or problem ‑ they start thinking of all the ins and outs and how to go about solving the problem and all the reasons why or why not they should do what they want to do. Then after all that they start thinking of all the different ways they can go about doing what they decided they are going to do. All this takes time. Me, I just jump into something headfirst. I don’t think according to rules and guidelines and ….. And most of the time people say “wow ‑ how did you think of that?” It does cause trouble sometimes. But most of the time it works to my advantage…” (Goldie)
Many people with LD/ADD are able to piece information together in completely new ways. For example, Einstein (commonly thought to have learning disabilities) had to change his way of thinking about some extremely basic ideas, and conceptions… (West, 188) in order to fully actualize what is now considered his most famous discovery – the theory of relativity. There is also a great deal of proof that Einstein was, in fact, a visual thinker and relied on this ability in order to conceptualize most of his scientific work. According to James Adams’s article, The Brain of the Century at the website Brain.com, Einstein himself described his scientific thought process as not involving words, but rather visual images. Furthermore, Adams details one of Einstein’s daydreams involving traveling on a beam of light which Einstein credits for helping him develop the theory of relativity.
There are also other similarities between those who are highly creative and people with learning disabilities and ADD. MacArthur’s article, The Human Nature of Creativity (also from the website Brain.com) asserts that an essential element of creative genius is this urge for wholeness, an attempt to see the big picture. Perhaps then it will come as no surprise that people with LD/ADD often credit their creative ability to their tendency to see the big picture. This ability allows them to see all sides of a question (multidimensional thinking). As a result, they often have many insights into a topic, make far-reaching analogies, and/or sum up the content of an issue in simple, clear terms that everyone can understand.
The following comments about multidimensional thinking by Jim Vallieres (an adult with learning disabilities) demonstrate his ability to see the big picture
Quoted exactly as received) “To me, I can see most everything from more than one direction at the same time I can see the Black the White the Grays, Hey I’ll give up winning spelling bees for that ability. Most have trouble seeing one side of a problem. it’s a gift ” from who I don’t know” to be able to really understand something on all levels.
And of course, you can’t get some good without the bad so I’ll say I made out on the deal.
Down to Earth
People with learning disabilities and ADD don’t generally like complexity. They tend to fall into two extremes. They either (as mentioned above) view things as a whole or get so caught up in small facts and details that they have trouble forming an overall picture of a subject, problem, or issue. As a result, they often live by the phase keep it simple. This philosophy reflects in their communication and everyday interaction with others. People respect and look up to them for their ability (often out of necessity) to simplify things and apply them to the real world.
Further more, many people with LD/ADD tend to take a more hands on approach to learning. They prefer to learn about and experience the world around them through movement and touch rather than reading a book. As a result, they are frequently described as being very down to earth.
Honesty is very important to people with LD/ADD. In fact, sometimes it may be hard for them to tell even the smallest untruth (i.e. a white lie). Although this tendency can lead them to say things they will later regret, it does have its benefits because it sets the stage for clear, direct communication. People appreciate their ability to explain their point of view in simple, clear terms free of innuendo or sarcasm. Sally Smith, writer of Succeeding Against the Odds appreciates the direct, honest approach of many LD/ADD adults describing it as often refreshing to hear (66). She further appreciates the LD/ADD adult’s ability to get to the core of the question (Smith, 66) by saying exactly what they believe or feel about an issue.
Unlike many people, adults with LD/ADD tend not to be so bound by society’s norms and conventions. This characteristic makes for a dynamic and interesting personality
People with LD/ADD tend to become very passionate about things that matter to them. When they find something they enjoy doing or feel strongly about, they dive right into it and become almost completely engrossed by it. Smith cites the example of a night school student with learning disabilities who gets so involved in an activity that nothing else matters(74). At this point, they are at their height of productivity. They may even do extra work or go beyond the call of duty. They want to prove to everyone they can do as well as anybody else and they can be successful. Such passion and boundless enthusiasm is useful in the workplace and is an essential ingredient to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Many people with LD/ADD have trouble making friends and/or finding a partner, but their extreme loyalty to the relationships they do have is a beautiful thing to behold. People with LD/ADD tend to show their loyalty by their ability to preserve a friendship over a long period of time. They will often defend a friend in the face of criticism (usually said behind their friend’s back) and will stick up for them if they are being teased or bullied. This ability is more than likely linked with their sensitive and caring nature. Also, many people with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder have been teased or bullied themselves. They know how much it hurts and are therefore very protective of people they care about.
There are a number of other strengths worth mentioning that may or may not be connected to your LD/ADD. Many people with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit disorder are extremely adept at multitasking (i.e. they are able to do more than one thing at once). However, some people have great difficulty in this area. Superior verbal abilities are common in adults with Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities. Some people with learning disabilities do well in specific academic areas such as math and science. As mentioned above, other people with LD/ADD excel in the arts (e.g. visual art, drama, music). People with dyslexia and ADD often show strengths in areas requiring visual-spatial abilities such as mechanics, sports, and architectural design.
What are your Strengths?
Wherever your strength lie, it is crucial for you to you recognize them and allow yourself to feel good about them. This is not bragging – it is about giving yourself the credit you deserve. So go ahead and give yourself permission to feel PROUD of your abilities and the possible connection they might have to your LD/ADD!
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