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In case you, like me, have been living under a rock for the last few years, let me introduce you to the force of nature known as the Holderness Family. A family of four, they’re Penn (dad), Kim (mom), Lola and Penn Charles (two teens), and a pup named Sunny. If this sounds pretty typical, well, it is. And it’s also not.

They may look like a regular family, but they’re actually a modern media phenomenon; Holderness Family Productions, where Kim is Chief Executive Officer and Penn is Chief Creative Officer. They produce videos, social media content, a podcast, and write books. According to their website, the family business has garnered 4.5 million followers across platforms and a billion views overall. Not too shabby.

Now, their newest book, ADHD is Awesome, from HarperCollins is out on April 30. It is absolutely fantastic.

Maybe because I’m a mom to two (very) little ones who quit social media when it got too toxic for my tastes, but I hadn’t heard of the Holderness Family when my editor reached out and asked if I’d like to chat with them about the new book. Heck, yeah, I thought when I read the title.

I have ADHD, and my kid almost certainly does as well, and I’m always excited to read something hopeful about neurodivergent folks’ place in the world. A few weeks and more than a couple of rabbit holes of Holderness Family videos later, it’s safe to say I’m grateful the ADHD community has these voices in our corner. 

With a healthy dose of poignancy and humor, Penn and Kim have created a volume that’s useful both to ADHD-ers and to their loved ones. Within a few pages of reading, I realized I was underlining almost every sentence and filling the margins with exclamation points.

When I got to the first of Kim’s notes, I turned to my wife and told her I wanted her to read it, too—I’d never read a book about ADHD that brought forth the partner perspective so beautifully (or at all).

ADHD is Awesome isn’t about ignoring the tough parts of having a different brain, but it doesn’t make it the sole focal point either. In taking the hard and the joyous into account equally, the book has helped us both feel seen.

Harper Horizon, an imprint of HarperCollins Focus

From the Comments Section to the Bookshelf

Penn was diagnosed with ADHD in college, when the organizational skills and focus necessary to deal with a full course load made his brain difference less manageable. But it wasn’t until he had kids and started a media company with Kim that things began to really become unwieldy.

“I realized that I needed to learn more about [ADHD] than I did in college. I was letting my family down, I was letting my wife down. I wanted to do a deep dive, to find systems I could put in place to [manage better],” he told me. “Now, really, we’re at a point where we’re on the verge of explaining to the world that [ADHD] is not necessarily an awful thing if you learn how to control it.”

When the Holdernesses began their deep dive into the science behind ADHD, they started to share that journey with their followers. As with the rest of their content, this is done with a comic spin (case in point: “You Might Have ADHD,” a side-splitting original new song) and a positive tone. This content, according to Kim, ended up creating the most authentic connection they’d ever experienced as content creators. 

“We realized that we were giving adults and kids a launching point for normalizing what their brains are like. A lot of people have had a very negative experience with ADHD,” said Penn, “It had been explained to them as if they were broken, that there was something wrong with them. Looking at that, we thought it would be a good idea to try to put our thoughts [about ADHD] together in a book so that they could have something tangible. Something to look at, to hold, to see.”

A Chorus of Voices 

One of the things I love about this book is how much expertise can be found in its pages. Just a few of the brilliant minds who contributed to ADHD is Awesome include Dr. Ned Hallowell, Dr. Russell Barkley, Dr. Marcy Caldwell, and Jessica McCabe (creator of How to ADHD).

“When we started creating content around [ADHD], we just wanted to say ‘Hey, there are some brilliant things we’re finding out about this,’ and to share the positive [side] of it,” says Kim.

And share is what they did. The book itself is almost 300 pages long—and features a 23-page bibliography at the end, where readers can find all the research, interviews, and other resources to support the insights the Holdernesses have set out to share. 

“All these people are on the same team,” says Penn, “We’re trying to advance the understanding of ADHD because it’s incredibly misunderstood. We want people to know—we’re doing this, which means that you can do it too. These people, these voices, are very important voices. They’re letting people know that ADHD is a treatable brain difference,  that medicine isn’t the only answer, that putting systems in place can allow you to exist with this, that you can enjoy all of the good things that come with having this brain. That includes spontaneity, creativity, and a sense of humor.”

Harper Horizon, an imprint of HarperCollins Focus

Living in Neon Technicolor

The first thing any reader will probably notice about ADHD is Awesome is that it’s very colorful. Each page features illustrations, every chapter is color-coded, and there are frequent non-sequiturs or departures from the ostensible narrative. 

In other words, it’s written like an ADHD brain thinks

“We know the ADHD mind is going to wander anyway,” says Kim, “When we’re mentioning something about biology, and suddenly you’re thinking about a whale’s brain, we’re going to then give a fun fact about it.”

This associative writing style isn’t distracting for an ADHD-er; we’re naturally curious and interested in every passing thought. On the contrary, I found it more engaging because my distractions were all rolled into the reading experience. 

For Penn, it also made the writing process a whole lot easier. He found himself adding post-it notes to the manuscript and wondering how to incorporate them. “Rather than having to control myself and tamp down all the asides, we thought—what if we just put the post-its in the book?”

The result is a downright technicolor joyride of a book that somehow walks the reader through a lot of science, a world of techniques for ADHD management, and a sizable body of anecdotes. Honestly, it kind of feels like a Holderness Family video in book form—silly, self-aware, funny, and grounded in real-life experiences. 

Harper Horizon, an imprint of HarperCollins Focus

Missing the Mark? Not Anymore.

Penn and Kim say they hope this book becomes the What to Expect When Expecting for ADHD-ers and those who love them. It’s the book they needed when their son, Penn Charles, was diagnosed a few years ago, they say.

Overwhelmingly, the messaging about ADHD has been and continues to be negative. Do a quick search for “Adult ADHD” and you’ll find information about how the disorder is commonly accompanied by anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, struggles with addiction, and even a lower life expectancy. Research backs this up.

By contrast, the lion’s share of ADHD is Awesome is about thriving—not trying to heal ADHD. Not how it can limit your life or make things more difficult (although they talk about that, too). It’s about the gorgeous, incredible ways in which this neuro-difference can enrich the lives of ADHD-ers and those who love them. This is a profoundly important message. 

Penn says their son, who was 12 when he was diagnosed, shows pretty similar symptoms to the ones he had at the same age. The difference? A willingness to work with the family to help him thrive.

“I never got diagnosed—it wasn’t a thing back then,” says Penn, “No one had figured this out. When he was diagnosed we had knowledge of these systems that you can put in place to help.”

Contrary to popular belief, the answer to all ADHD struggles is not only stimulant medications. There are practical ways to intervene as well. For Penn Charles, this meant moving his lower-focus classes to the morning, when he’s sharper, and making sure he’s at the front of the class. It also meant home systems to ensure schoolwork and other responsibilities don’t get lost in the shuffle.

“He’s highly intelligent and he doesn’t have a lot of behavioral issues, but he has some emotional flooding. [Things get] to him and he just kind of snaps, he’s sensitive and emotional. A lot of times, in middle school, that can be tough,” says Kim. 

The Answer is Compassion

Living with a person who has ADHD is not easy. I know this—my wife puts up with a lot. Like… forgetting my shoes on the roof of the car and watching them bounce down the highway. Or forgetting a credit card payment (again) and owing the requisite interest. For Kim and Penn, the answer to these challenges is compassion and empathy. 

“We’re still passengers on this flight,” says Kim, as Penn nods along, “We are still working on this and it is not easy. Understanding why his brain is this way has really helped our relationship. We both give each other a lot more grace. That said, in our house, ADHD is the explanation. It is not the excuse. He does not get a free pass for walking out the door without shoes on. But now that we understand why it happens in his brain, that’s allowed me to offer more compassion.”

The truth is, every one of us is unique, whether we’re neurodivergent or neurotypical. We all bring both challenges and joys to any relationship. The ADHD brain is awesome. Weird, and quirky, and full of strange, wonderful ideas. Forgetful, volatile, and unpredictable. But lovable nonetheless. 

Harper Horizon, an imprint of HarperCollins Focus

Do you think you may suffer from ADHD and live in Florida, California or New York?

If so, please consider scheduling a proper virtual online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis with one of our physicians. Although we have an online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis tool, a proper diagnosis from a Board-Certified Medical Doctor will help you know for sure. If appropriate, a customized treatment program will be recommended at the conclusion of that initial visit.

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