A Fresh Look at ADHD

Prof Dr Jan Bonhoeffer
8 min readJun 3, 2020
© anastasianess via Adobestock

“I love your haircut, Joel. It looks like a crown, or like one of those hats which Egyptian priests wore in ancient times.”

The young boy smiled as he passed by me and sat down on his chair. The notes in his file told me he was 12 years old, although he looked much older, on account of being very tall and muscular. He wore a gray hoodie sweater, with a quilted vest on top, dark comfortable pants, and hi-shaft basketball trainers. Indeed, his hair did remind me of an Egyptian priest. The curls were very tiny and grew straight upwards, with the sides and back of his head cut very short.

He was very grounded and graceful in his movements, he moved to the chair something like the way that a lion or a tiger moves, with slow deliberate movements: a little cool, with the bounce to his gait, as if he was walking to music that the rest of us could not hear.

He looked at the ground as he passed me, as though trying to hide his face. I could tell that something was going on within him that he did not want me to see. His body was full of energy, but he was containing it. He reminded me of a young puppy who has been well trained to sit, and heal, and lay down, and fetch; you can tell that the physical body is bubbling with frisky energy, but it has been contained within learned boundaries.

His father had a royal demeanor. I could see where Joel had got his disciplined energy from, his father was sitting upright, straight and tall. A first-generation immigrant from Ethiopia, his hair was cut very short into tiny curls, gripping tightly to his head like barnacles. It was also shaved short on the sides. Everything about him was new and shiny: the well-polished brown leather shoes, the well-pressed cotton pants, the freshly pressed brilliantly white shirt, with standup collar. He had clearly spent much time at the fitness center. Joel’s mother was Swiss: shoulder-length blonde hair and fair skin. She was also very tall. They were clearly very much in love with each other and obviously delighted in the same values: clean, new, crisp. Everything about them announced their success. When I shook both of their hands, the grasp was firm and confident.

“How are you today, Joel?” I asked their son.

“Fine,” he replied. He turned towards me, but with his eyes still cast towards the floor.

Prof Dr Jan Bonhoeffer

There’s never been a better time to revise our understanding of health and our role as caregivers.