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Why having ADHD is like driving a Maserati

Kids with ADHD are often plagued by ‘going too fast’, a condition which impacts them academically and often socially.  When they ‘go too fast’, students get poor grades because they miss parts of questions, jump ahead steps in math problems, or struggle socially because they overlook social cues from teachers or peers.  While students with ADHD are quite bright and creative, they can experience setbacks on their way to completing graded work.

Recently, I was working with a studentwe’ll call him Joe.  Joe has a Maserati.  Under the hood, there is lots of (brain) power propelling Joe forward. Despite his best efforts to keep up in a competitive school, Joe regularly underperforms on nearly every test and quiz.  Joe had been taught to ‘review’ as a study skill (reviewing is not a skill but that will be covered in another blog).  After spending a few sessions with  Joe, we came to the conclusion that he had two problems: 

  1. Joe didn’t like hard work because he had a pretty good engine under the hood and up until middle school, he didn’t have to work hard.
  2. Joe was driving his Maserati through tests on mountain roads at about 70 MPH—not a recipe for success.

Giving Joe more time on tests wasn’t going to help him slow down, nor was testing Joe in a quiet place.  Joe had to learn two things: 

  1. There are no shortcutsno substitute for the hard work of learning.  
  2. HOW he was driving his Maserati was harming him.  

I had to use this car analogy with one of my own children when he was in grade school.  It was explained to him that he had two cars upstairs, a red one and a green one.  The red car is the Maserati, the green one is an F150.   Often the Maserati would speed ahead, leaving the F150 behind.  The heavy lifter, the F150, the great tower was not able to do his job well because the Maserati was too far out in front.  However, if the F150 and the Maserati drove together as partners, the best outcomes would occur.   

If a student has both ADHD and a processing speed delay, he/she has a Maserati and an F150.  It was once explained to me by the director of admissions at a private school that you may not initially get the right answer out of this student, but if you waited a little longer, you’d get a better answer.  

So what happened to Joe?  Once he was shown that he was wrecking his beautiful Maserati, repeatedly, he was willing to try a different approach.  The outcome was achieving 98/100 on a math quiz and 97/100 on a history quiz.  Joe’s on his way up the racing circuit.  He’s not a Formula 1 driver just yet, but he’s now experienced what it takes to get results, building a strong foundation for academic success.   

Not everyone learns to drive their Maserati so quicklybut they can with good instruction.

1 reply
  1. Milan
    Milan says:

    Having ADHD definitely can feel like driving a Maserati — AND a Monster Truck, Taxi/Uber, bumper car, and a Unicycle… all at the same time!

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