Do You Agree With This 5 Min. Description Of Adding Negative Numbers, or Wadda Ya Think About Dis Theory of ADHD?

This video discusses the addition of negative numbers and other topics in basic mathematics

The question I ask is pretty straightforward. After viewing this video – Addition & Multiplication Practice – please let me know if you agree that the sum of two negative numbers is itself a negative number. For example, do you agree that -7 + -7 = -14? (You can leave your thoughts about this in the “comments” section of this post. I’d be very interested to know how you feel about this and, most importantly, how does this assertion potentially impact your self-esteem.) I bet you are still scratching your head wondering why I ask such a ridiculous question. Why would I ask you if you “agree” that the sum of two negative numbers is itself a negative number. The math is the math. The answer is what the answer is. It’s ridiculous to ask you if you “agree” with this. This much I think we can all agree on. (Slight pun intended.) But then what are we to make of a question recently posted on Facebook by the Edge Foundation? Their question was:

Do you agree with this 3 min. description of executive function & ADHD outlined by Dr. Russell Barklay [sic]

Let me state right now that I have nothing against the Edge Foundation. However, I do have something against the use of the word “agree.” In the video, Dr. Barkley is not describing a theory that came to him the other day while he was taking a long, hot shower. He’s presenting a theory based on over 25 years of scientific research. The use of the word “agree” implies that Barkley is presenting something that we may not like, that may not comport with “our” reality. The use of the word “agree” gives us the right to DISagree with what Barkley says. By using a word that allows for DISagreement, as if the facts were not the facts, it leaves open the possibility for alternate explanations which, we know, are simply bright-sided, feel good theories of ADHD (it’s a gift; it’s a set of superpowers; it’s the basis of entrepreneurialism, blah, blah, blah). If someone believes that the theory is wrong, then one should provide alternate scientific evidence or should show how the data can be interpreted differently.

So, how should the question have been worded? The problem is that it WAS a question. It should not have been a question at all. By posing it as a question, it implies a level of doubt about the truthfulness of Barkley’s theory. Further, by posing it as a question, it opens the door for the perpetuation of alternate explanations of ADHD which, it seems, cluster around the kumbaya feel-good myths about ADHD. ADHD is a serious neurogenetic disorder. It’s time to take it seriously. It’s time to move beyond the “back-slapping, have-another-beer, throw-another-dime-in-the-jukebox” attitude that too many ADHDers perpetuate and, in so doing, undermine the true seriousness of this DISorder.

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  • Robert Tudisco


    I don’t quite understand your post here, but I will say this, I think it is entirely possible to accept the research and findings of Dr. Barkley who I respect a great deal. I think it is important to recognize the significant of the impairment that ADHD provides. However, even those with ADHD who consider it a gift must recognize that there are significant impairments and challenges that they face on a daily basis which is entirely consistent with Dr. Barkley’s findings. The blessing of ADHD comes in learning enough about yourself to understand your strengths and gravitate toward them and also to understand and respect the limitations that ADHD provides and learn to navigate around them.

    Another way of saying this is that the brain is extremely adaptive to work around certain impairments. No one would doubt that blindness is a significant impairment which must be respected, however, the brain has a way of compensating that makes other senses somehow hypersensitve. A blind person may develop an extremely hypersensitive sense of hearing or smell. Learning to use those gifts and capitalize on them is extremely effective, but the impairment of sight loss cannot be ignored.

    During the 1980s there was a television show called The Greatest American Hero. It was about a college professor who received a gift of a special suit from Aliens. The suit had special powers and was a gift for mankind. But, the Aliens left without leaving the instructions. He would wear the suit but the powers constantly got him into trouble because he did not know how to use them. The metaphor is that the suit is like ADHD, it can be your biggest impairment, or a gift, depending on how you use it. It all comes down to knowing yourself and recognizing that you can do something much better than the non ADHD world, but there will always be significant challenges to the things that the non ADHD world take for granted.

    I am the Executive Director of the Edge Foundation, where we provide specialized coaching for high school and college students with ADHD. At Edge, we seek to identify students as early as possible to help them identify and develop their natural talents, while helping them recognize and respect their inherent impairments. The impairments though are significant in many cases. Encouraging students to gravitate toward their compensatory strengths and navigate around their weaknesses helps them not just to survive in high school and college, but to thrive there.

    Robert Tudisco

    • Jeff


      The point is that the question you posed on Facebook implied the possibility of responding in the negative and made it seem as if “agreement” was a matter of opinion. But Barkley was not offering opinion. He was offering science. Either the theory is correct or you offer an alternate theory.

      Further, it is not logically consistent to accept Barkley’s theory while seeing ADHD as a gift or a blessing. Barkley will tell you that ADHD is no gift. (See the second video on this page: It is absolutely wrong to use the word “gift” and ADHD in the same sentence and the reason it is wrong is because it is misleading. The definition of “gift,” according to Merriam-Webster is as follows: “a notable capacity, talent, or endowment; gift…mean a special ability for doing something; gift often implies special favor by God or nature” (see: ). I have never found a definition of “gift” which implies the inability to complete projects, the inability to have a good night’s sleep, the inability to pay bills on time…and so forth. As I have noted in other posts, the “gift” mythology has caused me great heartache, frustration and anger. Maybe I’m an idiot but when I read the word “gift” in the context of ADHD, when I read about how ADHDers have some supposed “secret sauce” that separates them from the others and the much anticipated metamorphosis of my life did not occur, I eventually realized that the problem was that I believed the “gift mythology.”(See:

      “The metaphor is that the suit is like ADHD, it can be your biggest impairment, or a gift, depending on how you use it. ” – This perpetuates the gift mythology. Barkley’s point is that it is NEVER a gift and that all of the science and all of the studies prove, overwhelmingly, that it is not a gift.

      • Robert Tudisco

        With all due respect Jeff, I think you missed my point entirely. Hypersensitive hearing is a gift, but when looked at in the context of a compensatory mechanism to cope with blindness, there is no way to look at the sight impairment as anything but a gross impairment. When looking at sight, there is no way to view blindness as a positive. But looking at the natural ways the brain adapts, can be gifts in the way that they are used. This is not inconsistent with Barkley at all, it is just a different way of looking at it. There is no way to characterize ADHD as a gift when you are looking at it in the context of Executive Functioning. It is nothing but a gross impairment. It is the adaptive ways that our brain gets around the impairment that is the gift of the human brain.

        There is nothing good about my ADHD when it comes to Executive Functioning, nor will there ever be. It will always be a gross impairment and challenge. But, as a result of doing things at the last minute all my life, I have developed an adaptability and comfort zone in chaos that most “normal” people don’t have. I call that being in the eye of the storm. My wife is the most non of the non ADHD spouses and plans everything to the last detail, the problem is that when the plan doesn’t work and an emergency arises, she falls apart.

        I don’t dispute Barkley’s at all and I acknowledge the seriousness of the impairment and that in many cases it leads to addictive, antisocial and even criminal behavior. On the other hand if that is all that there is to see when someone has ADHD, then what hope is there to see anything good. I also think that the people who go around saying that their ADHD is a blessing without acknowledging the impairments and challenges are unrealistic. It is a gross impairment that needs to be respected. I just think that the story doesn’t end there.

        But then again, that is my opinion on ADHD even factoring in Barkley’s statistics.

        Robert Tudisco

        • Jeff

          I’m afraid to disagree with you because, if I’m not mistaken, you were a lawyer. ;)

          But seriously….I see your point. The one bone I *will* pick has to do with that sentence where you wrote that “I acknowledge the seriousness of the impairment and that in many cases it leads to addictive, antisocial and even criminal behavior. On the other hand if that is all that there is to see when someone has ADHD, then what hope is there to see anything good.” I think the problem here is that we (the “collective” we) have a different attitude towards mental health issues as opposed to physiological issues (for the sake of argument I’m ignoring the physiological basis of mental health issues). I know of several people who have Type I diabetes. I have never heard them say that untreated diabetes leads to serious health complications (such as organ failure and death) so, instead, they will look at the “positive” aspects of diabetes. We’ve never heard that because there ARE no positive aspects of diabetes. So why do we insist on saying that there is (or must be) something positive about ADHD? Why can’t we just say, “If untreated…you’ll have problems x, y and z but, if treated, you can avoid those problems altogether and you’ll be able to lead a normal life.” Why is that not good enough? Doesn’t that explanation offer hope?

  • Tara McGillicuddy

    There’s also a bit of debate among some ADHD professionals about ADHD and Executive functioning. There are some professionals who disagree with people like Barkely and believe that Executive functioning problems are not actually part of ADHD and are separate disorder. Maybe the Edge Foundation was trying to ask people which school of thought they were in when it come to ADHD and Executive Functions.

    • Jeff

      Tara, I admit my ignorance concerning the alternate explanations of ADHD. However, I find that from my non-scientific understanding of ADHD, that Barkley’s theory, because it is based in part on the fundamental concept of time which I believe is the fundamental issue underlying ADHD (see: ), resonates with my own understanding of ADHD. Having read his “ADHD: What the science says” and “Taking charge of Adult ADHD,” Barkley is providing an explanation that is at the fundamental level of understanding ADHD in the same way that particle physics provides the fundamental understanding of the physical world. That’s my take on Barkley. But…to your point…you may be correct in what you say in terms of the intent of the original question. It’s not the way I interpreted the question.

  • Betsy Davenport, PhD

    Jeff. Of course you are right about Barkley and the Edge question. Edge was trying to garner attention for itself by asking a dishonest question with careless wording. That is what Facebook and organizations are all about. It used to be just for people, but now we have companies and campaigns and foundations (what is a foundation anyway?) clamoring for attention. It’s like Fox: ask a not question and some people will answer it even if the premise is wrong.

    We can debate til the cows come home whether the Gifters have any merit (but they don’t, so it is a waste of time), and we can wonder why the Gifters are so invested in their fake gifts (they want to feel better than because they feel less than – the oldest trick in the book, and very mean spirited), or we can notice that Edge gets lots of attention for itself by posting such foolishness.

    In truth, no one can hold a candle to Barkley. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he says things some people don’t want to hear. It is transparent to me. All the time and energy spent on whether someone agrees or disagrees is all bullshit.

    • Jeff

      Betsy, I can’t thank you enough for having written this. So many times I feel that I’m talking to an audience of one (me) that I begin to think that…men are from Mars…women are from Venus…Jeff is from NGC 4594. (And how many people are familiar with NGC or Messier catalog designations?) The truth is sometimes right in front of our faces yet we wiggle every which way in order not to see it. And you are 400% correct concerning the “not” question. That sleight of hand is often used by Fox News and anyone who wants to sow the seeds of doubt even if “doubt” is absolutely unwarranted.

      • Betsy Davenport, PhD

        Of course the Mars Venus thing is another sales pitch — for the book.

  • Betsy Davenport, PhD

    And any extraordinary skill or competence we develop in order to compensate is derived from being human, not from ADD. That is so obvious.

  • kim possible ringtone

    If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. If you can’t change it, accept it.

    • Jeff

      Dear Ms Ringtone, thank you for your advice. It’s greatly appreciated. BTW, that’s quite an unusual last name. It reminds me of something that a friend once told me about. He used to work at a particular government agency. They worked with people all the time and, well, sometimes the people would get nasty. In fact, they would get so nasty that they would ask to speak to a supervisor. Well, my friend (and others in his office) would do what they are told. They would say, “I’ll transfer you to my supervisor, Mr. D. Al Tonee” and they would hang up the phone. You see, Mr. D. Al Tonee was really the mispronunciation of these two words: dial tone.

      At another time I’ll tell you the story about the award letter they would send out to people. Can you guess who signed the letter? (I won’t leave you hanging. His name was “A. Ward.”)

  • best mortgage rates

    Superb post and you are a great writer.

    • Jeff

      “Superb post and you are a great writer” – Thank you! You are absolutely correct!! I would also add, “and good looking too!”
      One question: Were your parents whacked out hippies? Who would name their kid “Best Mortgage”?

  • Bobo

    Less filling. Sheesh.

    • Jeff

      But leaves you wanting more? ;)

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