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Is it ADHD or Plain Stupidity?



Here in America, we have a name for every mental disorder imaginable: ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, Dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anorexia, Schizophrenia, Idiot Savant, etc. Where I come from (Philippines), you’re either smart or stupid. We don’t like complicating things so if one has a comprehension problem, our first impression is: this person is stupid. We fail to recognize that there are various factors that contribute to people’s apparent lack of mental acuity. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s a universal malady: if you can’t pick up quick enough – you’re labeled stupid.

Children are bullied in school when a classmate is slow-witted, “off” or doesn’t act like everybody else, just like what happened to my daughter. It was during her elementary years when she was diagnosed with ADHD. I wasn’t surprised. Many incidents occurred and still occurring when I felt like pulling my hair from sheer frustration. I couldn’t understand why such an intelligent child can be utterly “stupid” sometimes. It’s an oxymoron alright: like dealing with an idiot savant. I was puzzled about many things for a while. Her behavioral pattern is so peculiar that making friends is hard to come by. When she gets overly excited, calming her down is like pulling teeth. It was hurtful to hear a relative call her “freak” when she’s still a child.

The most alarming incident, as a parent, transpired when she missed the school bus, and end-up walking home because she didn’t think to go inside the school to ask the teacher for help. She could have been abducted, which is a most frightening thought to parents. Years passed and we couldn’t wait to see her “grow up.” She was already in her early twenties when we discovered she’s also suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, a common companion of ADHD.

I will discuss only three disorders briefly from the list I mentioned earlier - as I have personal experience with them, except for dyslexia, which I included because it is a common learning disability.


ADHD is also referred to as ADD. This is often diagnosed early in life because the symptoms are easily recognizable. Some of them are:

  • Lack of focus
  • Memory problems/forgetfulness
  • Overactive behavior/fidgety
  • Impulsive
  • Disorganized
  • Changes topics frequently during conversation
  • Inability to listen intently
  • Finishing homework in school is always a problem (for students)
  • Socially Inept
  • Easily distracted by noise

A chemical procedure is not required to test for ADHD. Oftentimes, parents become aware of their children’s eccentricity, especially when they receive behavioral notifications from the school. When diagnosed as a child, the pediatrician will have separate surveys from the child’s parents and teachers. If you suspect your child to be suffering from ADHD, consult their doctor for confirmation. Physicians love to medicate, but it’s not always the solution to ADHD. Every case is different. You just have to figure out what’s best for your child.

For adults, all you have to do is go online and take a free Adult ADHD test. Or, you may consult a doctor as well especially when you believe it’s affecting your livelihood.


Asperger’s Syndrome is also known as high functioning autism. It is a mild type of Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD) in which autism is the most serious type. They are often called “Aspies.” Normal interaction with others is hampered since their right hemisphere is not functioning properly. Their brain circuitry is not normal. Emotional maturity is also delayed. They don’t have a sense of humor. What is commonly obvious to most people are not with AS sufferers (ergo, no common sense). If they are faced with an unfamiliar situation, making a quick decision is a struggle. Similar to ADHD, they have difficulty making friends. Some of them are overwhelmed with strange anxiety like my daughter's fear of answering the telephone. Their intelligence, however, is not affected. Most of them have above-average intelligence. Both my daughter and husband have high math IQs. Aspies are mostly left brain, which is the epicenter of math and logic. Each individual case is different.

One incident that made me suspicious about my daughter’s bizarre behavior happened when she’s in high school. She played violin in her orchestra class. One afternoon, I dropped her off after school hours for her concert practice. As I drove off to head home, I looked at my rear-view mirror to check if she had gone inside the building. I was surprised to see her still standing in front of the door where I left her. I stopped driving to observe if she’ll do anything, but she just stood there. I drove back to find out what the problem was: The door was locked because the school is closed for the day. However, there’s another door that was left ajar for students to enter. My daughter was paralyzed by the obstacle and couldn’t think of another alternative. A similar story happened to the brother of an acquaintance who happens to be a genius.

It took over 20 years for me to find out I live with people inflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome. According to my daughter’s doctor, a high percentage of AS came from the father side of their parents. And unfortunately, there’s no medical cure for this disorder, because it’s basically a developmental ailment. We can only offer our guidance and affection. Professional counseling can be helpful but costly. My relationship with my family improved upon learning that there are reasons beyond their control why they act and think the way they do. I just wish the knowledge came early. It would have saved me many years of frustration. My understanding of human intelligence was broadened by firsthand experience with my family’s plight.


Undiagnosed children, or adults, are often taunted as stupid. Dyslexia is a learning disability. It is very difficult for them to read, write, and spell. Oftentimes, we make the assumption that these people are stupid because we don’t understand that dyslexics’ brain don’t work normally. Letters and words are mixed-up making it hard for them to comprehend. Their learning ability is hampered, but not their fundamental intellectual capacity. Most of them have above-average intelligence. You can learn more about this disorder by going to the site I mentioned at the end of this article.


IQ test favors those who are adept in math – which doesn’t favor me. I’m happy to know that experts believe IQ test is not sufficient enough to test ones true intelligence. Amen and amen. And here’s my personal perspective: One, this test does not take into consideration cultural issues like the language barrier. f you don’t understand the question well, how can you possibly get the right answer unless you guess it correctly (assuming they took a test written in English which is their second or third language)? Two, test results can be improved with prior preparation. There’s an abundance of prep test books that’s readily available. If two people with an equal level of intelligence took the same test, the one with better preparation gets a better result. And three, your mental disposition, like when you’re under stress or sleep-deprived, at the time you took the test can affect the result. The bottom line is: IQ tests don’t define you. It’s how you lead your life and make choices that ultimately make you at peace with yourself.

Howard Gardner, a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard University and now a Professor of Cognition & Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, also known for being an iconoclast, shattered the popular belief that intelligence comes in a single form and can be measured only by a standard test (IQ). He opened the world’s eyes to the spectrum of intelligence with his theory of multiple intelligences. He started with seven and added two later on. Despite negative reception from polemics, many accepted his theory. He conceptualized that there are many types of intelligence because people are all unique individuals and learn differently. High academicians remain skeptical of this theory - but are widely accepted by educators. Gardner didn’t pursue the development of standardized tests for each intelligence category to avoid being stigmatized.

The multiple intelligences, according to Howard Gardner, are:

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1) Logical/Mathematical – reasoning and math

2) Musical – the uncanny ability for musicality

3) Linguistic – affinity for language, ability to express words verbally and in writing effectively

4) Bodily/Kinesthetic – people who are good with their hands and body

5) Existential – sensitive with humanity

6) Intra-personal – ability to appreciate/understand one’s self and human conditions

7) Interpersonal – ability to communicate and interact well with others

8) Naturalist – loves nature and other living things

9) Spatial – imaginative, ability to handle things physically, artistic

So you see, just because you can’t do what others can doesn’t make you stupid. We all learn a certain way. Whether there’s full validity to Gardner’s theory or not, we can’t ignore the fact that there are many elements that affect our mental capabilities like the disorders I’ve mentioned. It’s important for us to understand that “there’s more to it than meets the eye,” whenever someone is slow-witted. Environment - especially poor living conditions, drugs, alcohol, health issues, sleep deprivation, genetic disposition, and many others affect our cognition. Furthermore, some are poor in giving explanations that the listener ends up thinking there's something wrong with their comprehension, when in fact, what's lacking is more data. Sometimes, one missing word can make a difference in putting two and two together. Smart people are guilty of this because they assume the listener knows what they know.

It’s easy to pass judgment on others and categorize them as stupid during their moments of “slowness.” Everyone has flashes of stupidity. In retrospect, I’ve had my share of being called “stupid,” and was asked if I'm "retarded" during my moment of vulnerability. The sad part is, they weren't joking when they hurled those nasty words. They didn't know I suffered from hyperthyroidism which affects brain functioning, and at times, I'm simply just going through a "dingbat" (slang for empty-headed) episode. In the aftermath, these people are no longer a part of my life. I'm sure others will come - but I'm ready for them. You never know what one word will trigger in someone’s brain. You may be ditched out of a friendship or any kind of relationship. Putting others down is a sign of an inferiority complex. We may feel better for a brief moment after making someone feel smaller than a dot, but eventually, it always backfires.

Lives were lost because of cruel words. Many students here in America committed violent acts because they’ve had enough of the bullying: of being called stupid regularly. Contrariwise, lives have been saved because of kind words in the right circumstances. This article’s goal is to shed some light regarding factors affecting our intelligence, in the hope that maybe, we’ll be kinder towards other’s disabilities or predicaments.



bziebarth from Columbia Missouri on July 14, 2015:

Additional really enjoyed this hub. I am 37. I have lived with ADHD my entire life. But, I wasn't diagnosed until the age of 28.

I agree with your earlier commentor. I too have a high IQ. Research has found a correlation between high IQ and ADHD. It is because ADHD is actually a set of genetic traits used by our hunting ancestors. The high IQ was used for quickly solving problems.

The bullying is kids not being taught to respect other people. A funny moment in my life was when I ran into my bully from high school years later. He was working at pizza hut. I was a counter terrorism investigator.

I now write a blog to help others with ADHD harness their benefits. I am going to put the link here. I only do this because it goes with the subject. Feel free to edit it out if you want. It is

Petualang on December 30, 2014:

I just want to say I am just very new to blogging and aculalty savored this blog site. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your website . You amazingly have amazing articles and reviews. Many thanks for sharing with us your webpage.

Roxie on December 29, 2014:

Your honsety is like a beacon

Matt from Utah on May 09, 2013:

I am ADHD and I love it!! I am not stupid or broken, I just feel...gifted.

I have 5 kids and three of them are ADHD. My little girl is really struggling in school but she is so creative outside of school. Sure she is behind in reading and math is just not happening for her at this point but she is gifted in other areas.

She is more creative and witty than any of the other kids her age and she just excels in things that she has an interest in. She helped me change my right wheel bearing in my car and instructed on how to the the left. I was amazed, not only that she was so interested in but that she picked up on it so fast.

We have been gone to a couple of Mark Patey's seminars and they have helped a ton in learning how to cope and manage her (an my) ADHD.

fil-am view on March 08, 2012:

Way to go ADHDchick! More power to you - and thanks for your input!

ADHDchick on March 07, 2012:

I have ADHD and an IQ in the 95th percentile (tested by an actual psychiatrist--not an online test mind you). All of my life my peers have called me dumb, stupid, ditzy, and a spaz just because I had a little more energy. It made me angry for a while but then it dawned on me that THEY were the ones that were too dumb to comprehend my condition. From then on, every time I was teased, I sat back with a smug smile and realized that I had twice the brains that they will ever have and their cruelty towards me had given me the motivation to achieve more in life than they ever will.

fil-am view on August 29, 2011:

Thanks a bunch instantlyfamily! I appreciate your comment.

instantlyfamily on August 29, 2011:

Thank you for your insight and knowledge. The title grabbed me and the article held me. Nice work!

Carmelita McMillin (author) on August 03, 2011:

It's not the point Yoshuinto. It's how people think when they encounter people with mental disorder. The title is just to grab your attention.

yoshuinto on August 02, 2011:

rather interesting point regarding mental disorders being regarded as just stupidity

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