My son was diagnosed with ADHD halfway through the sixth grade. He struggled with the transition out of elementary school, with more classes, teachers, homework, and a greater need to organize and prioritize. Despite our efforts to help him, he was failing most of his classes.
The principal called an emergency meeting with me, his mom, his teachers, the counselor, paraprofessionals, and every other adult who played a role in his life—and chastised him in front of us for twenty minutes. He asked our son if he was “smart enough” to be in middle school and told him he had the worst grades in the entire school.
It was soul-crushing to witness. I realized that the environments my son spends his time in – school, sports, group activities, and other organized systems – are not designed to accommodate the challenges he faces with ADHD. As he struggles to perform in a system that isn’t designed for his brain, he endures constant reminders that he’s not good enough.
Psychiatrist and author William W. Dodson, MD, estimates that by age 12, children with ADHD receive 20,000 more negative messages from parents, teachers, and other adults than their peers who do not have ADHD. So unsurprisingly, kids with ADHD are more than four times more likely to suffer from depression, and more than five times as likely to attempt suicide. The negative perception about neurodivergent people is everywhere. If you search Google Images for “ADHD kids stock photography,” you won’t see a smiling child anywhere on the first page of results. Instead, you’ll see sad pictures of unhappy kids who are not learning in class, misbehaving, or driving their parents crazy.
This is not an accurate depiction of adolescent ADHD. There is no scientifically accepted connection between ADHD and intelligence. But there are links between people with ADHD and a unique ability to solve problems and ideas based on broad and disparate information. Why isn’t our perception of people with ADHD more aligned with this? The current narrative doesn’t describe the intelligence or potential of ADHD kids or accurately depict their struggles.
It’s time for us to be better.
My partner and I built The Neurospicy Shop, a website that sees neurodivergence from a positive place. It’s full of education, resources, products, and tons of helpful content by and for people with autism and ADHD. We portray these conditions as they are: a set of conditions that do not define us or limit our capacity but make us some of the best analysts, problem solvers, thinkers, artists, and inventors in the world.
Our website has zero stock imagery of sad kids and angry parents. You’ll see a positive community full of help, encouragement, and a focus on everything that’s right with neurodivergent people. Please join us as we change the narrative around ADHD and autism. If you don’t know about these conditions, we have resources to teach you. If you are autistic or have ADHD and need tools and resources, we have stuff for you (and soon, we’ll have a box subscription, too!) We’re just getting started, and we’re eager for your feedback on our content, products, and design. Let us know what you think! Thanks for reading.
A final note about us
We’re not doctors, and we absolutely believe in science. Our resources here are informative only, and should not be taken as medical advice. We’ll update our content as new research emerges, so if you see something that’s gotten out-of-date, please send us a message!
Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity, Hardcover
So you think you’re autistic: A workbook for the confused person who’s just trying to figure things out Paperback
Uniquely Human: Updated and Expanded: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
Masterpiece: an inclusive kids book celebrating a child on the autism spectrum