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  • cherylgigler

The Brain Doesn't have a Wheelchair


ADHD may be invisible, but its impact is real


Just because you can’t see inside the brain of people with ADHD doesn’t mean that they aren’t struggling in significant ways!


As I was traveling after a surgery that didn’t allow me to walk long distances, I got a glimpse of what life looks like from a wheelchair. For one thing, you are at the mercy of the person wheeling you. Secondly, it’s obvious to all that you have a physical problem going on. At least at the airport, most people make way for you, realizing that you have a problem.


That doesn’t happen for people who have ADHD.


Bystanders often have a hard time understanding why a person with ADHD is often late, procrastinates, seems disorganized, forgets important things, or acts flighty. They might conclude that the person is lazy or is using ADHD as an excuse. There’s a landmark book whose title speaks to this: “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?!” by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo. Having ADHD is not an excuse, but it is an explanation.


You may have heard the phrase, “the brain doesn’t have a wheelchair.” In daily life, we can’t open up the front of a person’s brain to see the struggles going on inside. But invisible disabilities can be just as crippling as those needing a wheelchair.


The challenges that people with ADHD face are due to cognitive impairment. That is, the person has trouble with the part of the brain responsible for various thought processes. It is sort of like having a company without a CEO. ADHD researcher Dr. Thomas Brown likens it to having an orchestra without a conductor.


Outwardly, this might look like being “scattered.” People with ADHD might have trouble getting started, staying with a task long enough to finish it, or being able to stop doing one thing to start another. They may impulsively jump from thing to thing, struggle with doing homework or paperwork and have thousands of unfinished projects.



We now have accommodationsby law that are designed to protect people with ADHD. This is because cognitive functioning—the ability to think—is now seen as affecting a major life activity, just like walking or seeing.


The ability to think, plan, or organize is necessary for various areas of life on a daily basis. Challenges in this area shows up in school, on the job, and at home.

Secondary students who have ADHD often struggle with paying attention, following directions, and completing homework assignments. College students might wrestle with managing time and breaking long-term projects into smaller, more achievable tasks. Working adults may grapple with being on time or meeting project deadlines. Entrepreneurs or homemakers with ADHD may lament their difficulty using time effectively in an unstructured environment.


Just because others can’t see your disability doesn’t mean you have to limp through life. Find support and encouragement from a certified ADHD coach. Set up a free consultation!

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