My dog knows I struggle with planning the steps needed to complete some tasks. Well, he probably isn’t actually aware that I struggle, and come to think of it I don’t so much struggle as sometimes simply skip some of the planning.


This all became clear to me as I got giggling at myself the other day. I was reading “Spark,” John Ratey’s new book. He describes what he calls the “pirouette” as his ADHD patients leave a session only to spin back to retrieve their keys or cell phone. I realized I was doing my version of the ADHD dance as I left my house on the way to the office, and my dog was watching the whole process.


I pick up my purse and tea mug, say goodbye to the dog and walk out the door. Sometimes I make it to the car before I hurry back in to retrieve a paper or book I want to share with a client and then I’m out again. Often I’m back in again to grab my gym bag or yoga mat. All the time my dog is quietly watching me come in and out organizing my leaving as a sort of “in action” style of planning.


ADHD is diagnosed through a series of recognizable attributes, but those same attributes are shared by many people who aren’t diagnosable with ADHD. I also like Ratey’s term to describe these people with ADHD style symptoms but not the full blown diagnosis; he calls this “shadow” ADHD.


Understanding this notion can be a real help to individuals who feel the diagnosis has essentially pushed them into an image of themselves that makes them uncomfortable. Having the diagnosis doesn’t make you completely different from others, just different in the specifics of your style of coping with life.


Those with ADHD are only distinct from many, many others in the severity or complexity of their issues. They are in step with the American dance, just doing their footwork to a slightly faster more complex beat and occasionally stepping on their own toe.