Inattentive ADHD & The Elephant Brain


Helping children and parents understand inattentive-type ADHD

Book Review: Andrew’s Awesome Adventures With His ADHD Brain

This article consists of two parts: The first is an explanation of inattentive-type ADHD and how it is different from other types. The second is a review of a book called Andrew’s Awesome Adventures With His ADHD Brain, by Kristin and Andrew Wilcox

This book was co-written by Dr. Kristen Wilcox and her son, Andrew. It fills an important gap in the literature, as most books about ADHD focus on the externalizing symptoms such as emotional dysregulation, aggression, and hyperactivity.

Because less is widely known about inattentive-type ADHD, I’ll start with an explanation of the differences between the ADHD types, and my thoughts on the book will follow.


Inattentive ADHD

Many with predominately-inattentive ADHD are overlooked because their symptoms are less obvious. To be frank, the inattentive profile is more often missed because the symptoms are less inconvenient to parents and teachers.

Students are usually diagnosed with ADHD in their first few years of school, when their executive functioning challenges become more apparent.

This is most likely to happen when a child’s behaviour is disruptive in class, and the teacher refers the student for additional supports and assessment. If a child’s struggles are less visible, and mostly internal, they are more likely to fly under the radar.

Kids with predominately-hyperactive ADHD are, on average, diagnosed around the age of 8; whereas kids with predominately-inattentive type are, on average, diagnosed around the age of 10.

This only accounts for those who are formally diagnosed in childhood, and doesn’t include those diagnosed in adulthood (like me), or not at all.

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Gender differences

When people think of ADHD, they often think of little white boys who are bouncing off the walls and can’t sit still — and when it comes to my own son, they wouldn’t be wrong.

However, ADHD presents differently from one person to the next, and the criteria in the DSM-5 was developed primarily with middle-class white male children as the central focus.

There are people with ADHD from all walks of life — regardless of gender identity, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or race — ADHD is not just a white boy neurotype, it can impact anyone from anywhere.

On the flip-side, not all little white boys have ADHD, and not all white boys with ADHD have the predominately-hyperactive type.

Boys who have predominately-inattentive ADHD may be overlooked because they’re not wiggling in their seats excessively, interrupting people, and speaking out in class without raising their hands.

They’re forgetful, often leaving their homework at school, or completing it but forgetting it at home. Perhaps they’re day-dreamers, their eyes and minds wandering to what’s happening outside the classroom window, rather than remaining focused on the lesson.

Their rooms are messy and disorganized, and they can never seem to find anything, or even remember where they left it. They are always running late and are constantly losing track of time.

They frequently procrastinate and have trouble following multi-step directions because they forget some of the steps partway through.

They don’t look hyperactive and fidgety on the outside, but on the inside, their brains may be bouncing from one thought to the next. Their hyperactivity is internal more than external, making it more difficult to notice.

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Elephant Brain

This is where elephant brain comes in. Andrew likes to think of his ADHD as an elephant living in his brain.

“It is big and imposing, and it gets in the way.”
 — Andrew Wilcox

Kristin and Andrew’s book is written in two parts. The first half of the book is written from Andrew’s perspective, describing some of his challenges and strengths as they affect his everyday life.

This will be very helpful for parents who are struggling to understand why their child can’t just remember their homework or to clean up after themselves without additional strategies and support.

It’s not a matter of trying harder, it’s a matter of neurology.

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This information will also be very helpful to older children and tweens (I’d say from about 8–12 years old) who have ADHD, as it could really help them better understand their own brains through the similar experiences of another kid.

The second part of the book is written by Dr. Kristin Wilcox, Andrew’s mom, who also happens to have professional expertise in the area of ADHD and pharmacology.

In Kristin’s chapters, she highlights some of the biggest struggles which come along with having an ADHD brain. I like that the focus wasn’t only on strategies for changing children’s behaviours, there were suggestions to help adults change our perceptions and approach as well.

Dr. Wilcox made clear many of the challenging behaviours in our ADHD kids are not intentional. I also appreciated that she didn’t neglect the many strengths of having a differently wired brain, such as creativity, innovation, and outside-the-box thinking.


Relatable

At one point, Kristin mentions having a background in psychology and neuroscience, which led her to believe she understood ADHD.

Until she had a son with ADHD.

I felt this.

I have a degree in youth work and a degree in psychology. My son and I both have ADHD, but it wasn’t me who identified — or even suspected — ADHD in either of us.

When the school team initially brought up the possibility, I was surprised. My son could focus on something he found interesting for hours at a time (which I now understand is hyperfocus, and common in neurodivergent folks).

My son was diagnosed at age 6, after the school psychologist completed an extensive psychoeducational assessment with him. I was diagnosed about six months later, at the age of 36!

As I learned more, it became very clear. I remember wondering to myself, how could I have all that education, yet so little understanding of ADHD?

This is due, in part, to the weaknesses in our education system — both in how we educate professionals, and in how we attempt to teach all children in the same, standardized way.

Books like this one are another important step toward educating people on the complexities of ADHD, increasing our knowledge and understanding, and opening our eyes to the many positive aspects of neurodiversity.

© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB


Related Articles

Positive ADHD Traits

Executive Functions for Parents And Kids

Executive Functions In The Classroom


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Additional Related Articles

ADHD in Women and Girls

Actual ADHD symptoms the DSM-5 misses

Adult ADHD: The Essentials


References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Data and Statistics About ADHD. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

Wilcox, K.M., & Wilcox, A.S. (2022). Andrew’s Awesome Adventures With His ADHD Brain: Helping children and parents to understand inattentive-type ADHD. MSP Press, LLC.

Published by Neurodiversity MB

Jillian has Child and Youth Work diploma as well as a BA in Psychology. Jillian worked on the front lines of Social Services agencies from 2003 - 2012. Jillian has taken numerous continuing education courses and has attended various workshops focused on supporting neurodiverse children, in particular children with ADHD.

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