The title of this post is a quote from Dr. William Dodson in an article in ADDitude magazine. Dr. Dodson goes on to explain that because of their ADHD nervous systems, folks with ADHD use their high intelligence in ways that differ from most neurotypical people. People with ADHD nervous systems are often creative, outside-the-box thinkers who can come up with solutions to problems that more linear thinkers don’t readily see.

Some of the challenges of ADHD are often misunderstood as signs of lower than average intelligence. If a student, for example, has a working memory challenge or a slow processing speed or is always late turning things in or appears not to be paying attention, an educator who doesn’t understand ADHD may conclude that student is less intelligent than students without such challenges. These are challenges of executive functioning, not intelligence, and they will be discussed in a later ADHD Fact.

Challenges in executive functioning don’t relate to intelligence. This is one reason why educating the educators about ADHD is so important. The student with ADHD may be using her unique intelligence in ways that do not meet the criteria set by and for neurotypicals folks. Or they may have been so beaten down by the education system that they have given up. It’s important to look beyond the behaviors and support the learning and processing style of each individual.

So, while it’s not a given that if you have ADHD you have a higher-than-average IQ, many people with ADHD do seem to be quite bright. In another article in ADDitude, Dr. Thomas E. Brown noted that in his study of 157 adults, all of whom met the criteria for ADHD, every one of them had an IQ of 120 or higher, which puts them in the top nine percent of the population.


Linda Swanson is an ADHD Coach in Warrenton, Virginia. She and her husband, Neil, are partners at Free To Be Coaching, LLC, where they coach in person or by phone, Skype, or FaceTime. They coach students from middle school through college as well as adults of all ages, and they also facilitate two support groups for parents of children with ADHD. Linda and Neil are both graduates of the ADD Coach Academy and are credentialed by the International Coach Federation and the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches. Linda can be reached at or (703) 508-4774. 

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