Living with ADHD is a challenge. But many geniuses have overcome the challenges of the neurological disorder to leave their mark on the world. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Mozart, George Bernard Shaw, Salvador Dali, and John Lennon. What do they have in common? True, they are all geniuses. Add former US president Abraham Lincoln, swimming legend Michael Phelps, basketball great Michael Jordan, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, entrepreneur Richard Branson and chef Jaimie Oliver to the list, and you get a band of people who scaled the peaks of excellence. All of them have ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The neurological disorder never stopped singer Justine Timberlake or actor Emma Watson. Not even comedian Trevor Noah. It just goes to show that people with ADHD can have incredible careers.

Success stories there are aplenty. Yet, it’s not a rosy path. Living with ADHD is a challenge. The disorder triggers extreme responses. Some contradictory. Hyperfocus may soon give way to easy distractions. Eureka moments follow rank stupidity. There are many more behavioural patterns which make life with ADHD an emotional rollercoaster. That makes caring for a child with ADHD a test of patience and temperament.


ADHD couldn’t stop these UAE kids

In the UAE, a 24-year-old who didn’t want to be named, chases the dream of becoming a space scientist. His siblings too have the neurodivergent disorder: one has launched a startup, and the other wants to be an international criminal investigator. Another Dubai resident who lives with ADHD is a business development manager, although the disorder was diagnosed late. Many more have overcome their struggles to build successful careers. Behind these children are parents who held their hand and helped them navigate the challenges of ADHD.

More often, the diagnosis comes as a shock. Denial was the first reaction of Namita Nair (name changed) when her son said he was diagnosed with ADHD. The distraught mother didn’t believe it. “I refused to accept he had ADHD.” A specialist in Dubai confirmed that her son Rohit (name changed) indeed had ADHD.

Rohit, 26, was fine with the diagnosis. “I was actually relieved. Finally, I had a diagnosis, and there was treatment available to help me stay focused on my future goals.”

ADHD symptoms

For 23 years, Rohit went through life without knowing that ADHD was responsible for some of his unexplained behaviour and hyperactivity. That changed during his undergrad studies in the US. “A friend noticed my ADHD tendencies and a neuro specialist confirmed it,” he said.

The diagnosis set Rohit free. “Before my diagnosis, I was extremely aloof, which led to struggles in meeting deadlines, completing projects, and staying in touch with my loved ones. A bit of research helped me understand my neurodivergent behaviour. Now medication and coping techniques have helped,” says Rohit, who is now a business development manager in the UAE.

How’s it to bring up children with ADHD? How can parents help them build fruitful lives? Mónica Schottenheim has all the answers.

The Argentinian expat is a mother of three children with ADHD. “My eldest son, now 24, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and ADHD when he was eight years old. My other two children were diagnosed in their teens. Today, they are successful thanks to behavioural therapy and a good family support system.”

Schottenheim’s eldest son graduated from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and holds a Master’s in particle physics from the University of Amsterdam. He employs the Pomodoro Technique (See below) effectively. “He is doing his second Master’s in Aerospace Engineering Track Space at TU Delft [Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands]. His ambition is to work for the European Space Agency, and I am here to support him in his journey,” Schottenheim says.

ADHD Pomodoro

The Dubai resident’s second child, a son aged 22, has founded a start-up. Her third child, a daughter, 20, wants to be an international investigator of major humanitarian crimes. “She’s a very caring person who loves to help others,” Schottenheim adds.

All three children have gone on to pursue their interests unhindered by ADHD. How did they manage? According to Schottenheim, parents’ support is critical. “As a mother, I focused on their strengths rather than weaknesses. I encouraged their passions and pursuits.”

Her experience prompted Schottenheim to start a support group for mothers in the UAE with neurodiverse children. An educator and certified coach, Schottenheim brings her knowledge to help others. “The group is a safe space, judgement-free, especially helpful when mothers and their children with ADHD feel alone, afraid and not understood. We are here to give and receive support, advice and understanding with love and respect.”

Advice to parents with ADHD children

Schottenheim’s advice to parents is to be patient. “Connect with your children instead of correcting or judging them. Focus on their good qualities and interests, and take care of their mental health. Before everything, take care of yourself. As a mother, we cannot pour from an empty cup. Since our children mirror us our inner work and awareness of our emotional state are important. If we are anxious, we won’t help them,” she says.

Schottenheim’s daughter, Victoria Hamlin, 20, says: ”Mental health is important, and understanding how to overcome it in your way even more. Everyone is different and goes on separate paths in life that may lead them to the same goal. One needs to find what works for each. Every failure brings you one step closer to success. Don’t let failure or obstacles stop you.”

ADHD treatment options

How do you treat ADHD? What are the therapies available? Identifying the specific subtype (See below) of ADHD is crucial for tailoring effective interventions and support, Dr Derk W. Krieger, a consultant neurologist at NMC Royal Hospital, DIP, says. “ADHD can significantly impact academic and occupational performance, relationships, and self-esteem. However, with proper diagnosis and a multidimensional approach involving behavioural therapy, medication, and support systems, individuals with ADHD can manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives,” he adds.

Three subtypes of ADHD
Three primary subtypes define ADHD. The inattentive people find it difficult to complete tasks and organise activities. These individuals may seem forgetful, frequently lose items, and struggle to follow instructions.
The hyperactive-impulsive types fidget, struggle to remain seated, interrupt others, and act without considering consequences. The third is a combination of the above two.

Here are some treatment options, according to Dr Seyed Mohammad Mahdi Monzavi, Specialist Paediatrics, Saudi German Hospital, Sharjah.

Behavioural therapy

Dr Monzavi says this approach focuses on teaching children strategies to manage their behaviours effectively. “It involves setting clear expectations, providing positive reinforcement for desired behaviours, and implementing consistent consequences for inappropriate actions. Parent training programmes help them reinforce these techniques at home,” he adds.

Psychoeducation provides parents with information about the disorder, helping them understand their child’s challenges and guiding them on effective parenting strategies.

- Dr Seyed Mohammad Mahdi Monzavi, Specialist Paediatrics, Saudi German Hospital, Sharjah


Medication should always be prescribed and monitored by a qualified healthcare professional. Methylphenidate and amphetamines are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms. Dr Monzavi says, “These medications help improve attention span and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity.”

Psychoeducation and support

Psychoeducation and support are equally important for an individual with ADHD to lead a good life, and parents play a vital role, Dr Monzavi says. “Psychoeducation provides parents with information about the disorder, helping them understand their child’s challenges and guiding them on effective parenting strategies. Support groups and counselling can provide valuable emotional support for parents and children.”


It is all about understanding one’s own ADHD and finding work that complements the strengths of the individual.

- Dr Ajay Kumar, Specialist Psychiatry, Prime Hospital, Dubai

Finding jobs for people with ADHD

Can people with ADHD have fulfilling careers? What are the jobs that suit them? People with ADHD can have rewarding careers if they find jobs that make them happy, according to Dr Ajay Kumar, Specialist Psychiatry, Prime Hospital, Dubai.

“It is all about understanding one’s own ADHD and finding work that complements the strengths of the individual. ADHD is not a condition that fits neatly into a box. It is about finding the right job for an individual’s ADHD,” Dr Kumar says.

The food industry could be a good for people with ADHD. Dr Kumar says: “Cooking requires intense focus on the task at hand, but doesn’t necessarily need one to be constantly forward-planning in the long term. Working in the food industry may also involve unusual hours, with irregular pacing, which many people with ADHD find stimulating.”

Teaching is a good fit for people with ADHD. “Teachers, daycare workers, teaching assistants, special education teachers, social workers, and even higher education roles such as an assistant professor, all lend themselves to some of the most common presentations of ADHD. They require dynamism, original thinking, quick changes of pace and thoughtfulness,” Dr Kumar says.

Writing — working with words — is another good option for people with ADHD. “As a journalist, copywriter or editor, you’ll need to cover a broad range of topics daily, and you may be required to move locations quickly — perfect for someone with a lot of energy and creativity. The only problem is a close deadline, which could add to the stress,” Dr Kumar says, adding that people with ADHD can consider careers as artists, dance choreographers, performers and musicians.

Why ADHD is no hurdle for success

Impulsivity, hyperactivity and procrastination are enough roadblocks to a successful career and fruitful life. But these children in the UAE have shown that with parental support, medication and behavioural therapy, it is possible to circumvent the ADHD hurdles.

ADHD sure is no impediment to success. Just look at US animation king Walt Disney, British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, American boxer Muhammed Ali, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh...the list is long. Geniuses all. ADHD couldn’t stop them.

ADHD Greats