Unlocking ADHD writer Ishani Saran explores a range of characters from children’s novels who display signs of having ADHD. Do you see any familiar names from your childhood favourites?
What do Luna Lovegood, Willy Wonka and Sherlock Holmes all have in common? They’re all characters which have exhibited signs of having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), but the authors never explicitly mentioned this!
Literature is a beautiful tool that allows us to gain more insight into the lives of the characters- by incorporating characters with ADHD symptoms, readers can try to empathise and understand the lives of those with ADHD.
Sherlock – Sherlock Holmes
Perhaps one of the earliest examples of ADHD in literature, the ingenious detective from the series by Arthur Conan Doyle likely suffered from this disorder, albeit undiagnosed due to the lack of awareness at the time. Sherlock Holmes is an extremely observant man with highly specific interests which he hyper-focuses on. He tends to leave projects unfinished, and is easily bored by the mundane. He also says what’s on his mind, and is known for his blunt honesty. His brilliant mind also leaps from topic to topic incredibly quickly- characteristic of the hyper-active mind of a modern-day ADHDer.
Luna Lovegood – Harry Potter
Possibly one of the most prominent book series of our time, the halls of Hogwarts and the memorable characters of JK Rowling have enraptured many avid readers. Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series is a prime example of a person with the inattentive type of ADHD (this type of ADHD manifests itself as a lack of focus). Luna is often seen staring out of the window, she is easily distracted, and daydreams a lot. She also is quite blunt in her speech and doesn’t hold back her thoughts, and because of this is often misunderstood by her peers. However, she does eventually find her place amongst Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
Calvin – Calvin and Hobbes
The Calvin and Hobbes comic series by Bill Watterson features a feisty and impish 6-year-old Calvin. He’s an extremely imaginative child, who has a stuffed toy tiger, named Hobbes. This tiger is brought to life in the comic strip, and Calvin converses with him like a friend. Calvin is known to make multiple witticisms, has a fertile imagination, and has an exceptionally creative mind. However, he often gets in trouble for not paying attention in class, and we see that he daydreams through many of his lessons.
Violet Baudelaire – A Series of Unfortunate Events
Violet Baudelaire is an incredible inventor who is extraordinarily creative and resourceful. This caring elder sister captured the hearts of many in the Lemony Snicket series as well as the television show, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Violet invents things in high-pressure situations with limited resources. This shows her ability to come up with unconventional solutions. For example, she has made lockpicks, signalling devices, drag chutes and more. She is famous for tying her hair up with a ribbon to help her concentrate, and her ability to hyperfocus on the problem until she can find a way out.
Willy Wonka – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
In Roald Dahl’s sugary and lively adventure, we follow the ever-eccentric and vivacious Willy Wonka through the bubbly excitement of chocolate rivers and gobstoppers. Wonka gets bored quickly and we see him move at breakneck speeds from room to room in the factory- perhaps a metaphor for his fast-paced mind. He also thinks quickly on his feet and speaks bluntly, but has some of the most inspiring quotes about dreams and the imagination!
Some of these childhood favourites may come as a surprise, and change the perspective with which we view the characters. However, they are still the characters we have grown to love. This can prompt several important conversations that help explain ADHD to colleagues, children, peers etc.
The importance of representation, especially in modern-day society, cannot be denied. With more awareness about ADHD, we hope to cultivate a greater understanding about the disorder.
The Professor T says
I was watching the modern Sherlock Holmes and recognised the hyper focus, boredom and bluntness and wondered wether Sherlock was one of the first characters to show a neurodiverse positive example of ADHD.
I am glad to have recognised a fellow neurodivergent hiding in plain sight.
Thank you for the other examples and the beauty with which you draw them out. I hope we can see the neurodiversity of ADHD/ADD and other diverse conditions celebrated more often.
Long before I understood I had ADD I started to understand I saw the world differently. I saw solutions to problems that other experts could not see and I could work under pressure that others would not choose to.
My ADD may create some challenges but it also creates opportunities. The one thing I am glad it has given me is an experience of life as always an effort, even for the seemingly easy things, like getting to appointments on time, and to see that there really are two very different experiences of exactly the same situation. I have an empathy that sometimes is so powerful it hurts, yet as the tears roll down my cheek I celebrate that I got not to walk in someone’s shoes but to walk in their emotions. That gives me a sense of the world that is humbling