ADHD can be a blessing and a curse

By Barbara Christiansen DAILY HERALD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is usually thought of as a negative — something that needs to be fixed, or at least mitigated.

Mark Patey has a different perspective. And he should know. He has the disorder, which is a term he also says is inaccurate — opting instead to use “difference.”

He was the keynote speaker Friday at the fourth annual Conference on ADHD at Utah Valley University.
“There are two opposing viewpoints on ADHD and they are both right,” Patey said. “Some people call it a curse or disorder. Others look at all the gifts that come.

“It is a gift and a curse. You can’t get one without the other.”

Patey has looked for the gifts, following the path of being his own self.

He is an entrepreneur and speaker. He owns BlueStep Technologies, 4CarePharmacies and Growth Climate Education and Therapy Centers. He has been the host of his own motor sports show on ESPN. His most recent accomplishments include writing the book, “Addicts and Millionaires: The Gifts and Curse of ADHD.”

He described two types of individuals — those who are the ABC, 123 types, who follow a specific plan from beginning to end, and those who are more flexible and able to make corrections to their course as needed, which is a behavior that can be found in ADHD individuals.

Patey asked the attendees at Friday’s conference to visualize more than 2,000 ping pong balls on mousetraps, set side by side in a large grouping. As someone drops another ball into the middle, it sets off a chain reaction, with balls flying every direction. He called it the imperceivable beauty of chaos.

“It is beautiful,” he said.

From that chaos much good can come through creative thinking.

“The secret is to be you and be OK with you,” he said.

“We are distractable. That is awesome, yet the world wants to cure us.”

The words deficit and disorder conjure the notion there is something wrong with the 7 percent of the population with ADHD, he said. Instead, it should be viewed as a difference, he said.

“The types of people are different and I believe God intended it that way,” Patey said. “The problem is that the world thinks it needs to be corrected.”

Instead of being made to conform to the majority, those with ADHD should be encouraged to find themselves and magnify their gifts, he said.

Patey and his wife have four sons, and some of them have ADHD. When one began having problems at school, the Pateys were asked to medicate him or move him to a different school. When they eventually chose to change his school, the new officials asked why they were changing.

Instead of putting a negative label on his son, Patey said that he was a genius and that his brain goes so fast he gets bored and will entertain himself. With that perspective and understanding, the school officials agreed later he actually was a genius.

One attendee asked Patey how to handle an ADHD student in the classroom, while maintaining order for others.
“Recognize that the hyperactive brain reacts physically,” he said. “The brain does it first and the body acts out.”

He suggested the use of “fidgets,” including modeling clay or doodling.

“Some people think better when they have movement,” Patey said. “I have never seen any scientific study that eyeballs are connected to the ear. The ADHD brain has to multitask to function.”

To discourage other students from trying to fidget when there is no need, Patey said the teacher should have a contract with the ADHD student. It would give permission to put the student on the spot any time to answer a question. Since the student is typically good at multitasking, he or she can usually answer correctly.

Patey also does search and rescue, flying a helicopter to find and rescue individuals. He told a story about a downed paraglider on the back side of Y Mountain. From his perspective, he could see how dangerous it was for the paraglider to hike down to meet rescuers. However, the man, who was not badly injured, was convinced he should go down instead of up as the helicopter crew was indicating to him. Sometimes he tried to go up, but took five steps up and four steps back, getting discouraged. Eventually, he finally made it to the top and safety.

Patey compared that to helping people with ADHD.

“This is how I see the world of ADHD,” he said. “They can be a little lost, a little scared. They think that they know which way to go. With a different perspective you see that sometimes the direction that people are pointing you at is the very thing that will kill you.”

“People with ADHD have a very high rate of suicide. I struggled with suicide. I have the hardest time trying to live with the label of a disorder.”

The success Patey has had with his companies has helped him. He followed his own creativity to make them successful, then sold them.

“I have been fortunate in my businesses and selling my companies,” he said. “I have something tangible I can latch onto. You have to have something to hang onto to not just drown.”