Kinetic Cognitive Style

Hard toy of Squigger, a Randimal that combines a Tiger and a Squirrel
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ADHD or what I prefer to call Kinetic Cognitive Style (KCS) is another good example. (Nick Walker coined this alternative term.) The name ADHD implies that Kinetics like me have a deficit of attention, which could be the case as seen from a certain perspective. On the other hand, a better, more invariantly consistent perspective is that Kinetics distribute their attention differently. New research seems to point out that KCS was present at least as far back as the days in which humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies. In a sense, being a Kinetic in the days that humans were nomads would have been a great advantage. As hunters they would have noticed any changes in their surroundings more easily, and they would have been more active and ready for the hunt. In modern society it is seen as a disorder, but this again is more of a value judgment than a scientific fact.

Bias: From Normalization to Neurodiversity – Neurodivergencia Latina

I’m not a fan of the “ADHD” label because it stands for “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” and the terms “deficit” and “disorder” absolutely reek of the pathology paradigm. I’ve frequently suggested replacing it with the term Kinetic Cognitive Style, or KCS; whether that particular suggestion ever catches on or not, I certainly hope that the ADHD label ends up getting replaced with something less pathologizing.

Toward a Neuroqueer Future: An Interview with Nick Walker | Autism in Adulthood

We here at Stimpunks long for an alternative label for ADHD to catch on. Kinetic Cognitive Style is a good and needed reframing.

Reframe these states of being that have been labelled deficiencies or pathologies as human differences.

Normal Sucks: Author Jonathan Mooney on How Schools Fail Kids with Learning Differences

The “Kinetic” in “Kinetic Cognitive Style” is about more than hyperactivity.

“Kinetic” makes a good descriptor for the “ADHD” cognitive style for a few important reasons:

  • Kinetic captures the energy of a cognitive style driven by attention, interest, fascination, novelty, challenge, and urgency.
  • Kinetic captures the inertia and omnipotential of hyperfocus and flow states.
  • Kinetic captures the need for plenty of large muscle movement and fidgeting.

KCS reconceptualizes cognitive difference in a manner that allows Kinetics to live authentically.

I seek a reconceptualization of cognitive difference, to the end that those who bear now-stigmatizing labels of “deviance,” “disorder” and “syndrome,” may live and manifest their individuality, distinctive interests, gifts and capacities with integrity, in a manner that comes naturally to them, free of pressure to become people they are not, free of the automatic assignation of inferior status; and that they may enjoy the respect of their fellow citizens, rather than disdain and exclusion. | the autistic distinction

“Kinetic Cognitive Style” is a new way of thinking about ADHD. This guide will help you understand Kinetic/ADHD ways of being.

Attention and Interest

KCS recognizes and celebrates that “attention and its partner, interest, operate differently according to the type of brain one has.”

Whether we align our interests with others as in polytropism or follow the dictation of our dominant interest, as in monotropism, it’s all about ‘interest’.

The most important discovery I have made is that attention and its partner, interest, operate differently according to the type of brain one has. By ‘type’ of brain I mean whether you are AS or NT. Murray’s work on monotropism (tightly focused interest) and polytropism (diffused interests) (Murray 1986, 1992, 1995, 1996) is foundational to this thinking.

The Passionate Mind: How People with Autism Learn

The textbook symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) — inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity — are inadequate; they fail to reflect the complexity of the condition, and several of its most prevalent and powerful attributes.

Patients and clinicians who rely on the DSM-5 alone tend to overlook these defining features of ADHD:

1. an interest-based nervous system

2. rejection sensitive dysphoria

3. intense emotional responsiveness

In this hour-long webinar replay, leading ADHD expert William Dodson, M.D., explains how these core features affect the daily life of individuals with ADHD, and how they often complicate diagnoses and treatment plans.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson) – YouTube

First thing and this really is probably the most important thing that defines the syndrome is the cognitive component of ADHD: an interest-based nervous system.

So ADHD is a genetic neurological brain based difficulty with getting engaged as the situation demands.

People with ADHD are able to get engaged and have their performance, their mood, their energy level, determined by the momentary sense of four things:

  • Interest (Fascination)
  • Challenge or Competitiveness
  • Novelty (Creativity)
  • Urgency (Usually a deadline)
Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

Hyperfocus, Omnipotential, and Flow States

Behind the waterfall - Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Iceland

Waterfall, Iceland, Springtime, Spring - Flowing Water, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Entering flow states – or attention tunnels – is a necessary coping strategy for many of us.

Fergus Murray

Glickman & Dodd (1998) found that adults with self-reported ADHD scored higher than other adults on self-reported ability to hyper-focus on “urgent tasks”, such as last-minute projects or preparations. Adults in the ADHD group were uniquely able to postpone eating, sleeping and other personal needs and stay absorbed in the “urgent task” for an extended time.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, “hyperfocus” was advantageous, conferring superb hunting skills and a prompt response to predators. Also, hominins have been hunter gatherers throughout 90% of human history from the beginning, before evolutionary changes, fire-making, and countless breakthroughs in stone-age societies.

Hunter versus farmer hypothesis – Wikipedia
Hard toy of Squigger, a Randimal that combines a Tiger and a Squirrel
Squigger, a Randimal that combines a Tiger and a Squirrel, is passionate and has intense focusing power. Squigger has become our community mascot for KCS.

The most important feature is that attention is not deficit, it is inconsistent.

“Look back over your entire life; if you have been able to get engaged and stay engaged with literally any task of your life, have you ever found something you couldn’t do?”

A person with ADHD will answer, “No. If I can get started and stay in the flow, I can do anything.


People with ADHD are omnipotential. It’s not an exaggeration, it’s true. They really can do anything.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

Performance, Mood, and Energy

People with ADHD live right now.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)
  • Performance is usually the only aspect that most people look for.
  • Boredom and lack of engagement is almost physically painful to people with an ADHD nervous system.
  • When bored, ADHDers are irritable, negativistic, tense,
    argumentative, and have no energy to do anything.
  • ADDers will do almost anything to relieve this dysphoria. Self-medication. Stimulus seeking. “Pick a fight.”
  • When engaged, ADHDers are instantly energetic, positive, and social.
  • This shifting of mood and energy is often misinterpreted as Bipolar Disorder.

Source: Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

People with ADHD live right now. They have to be personally interested, challenged, and find it novel or urgent right now, this instant, or nothing happens because they can’t get engaged with the task.

Passion. What is it about your life that gives your life meaning purpose? What is it that you’re eager to get up and go do in the morning? Unfortunately, only about one in four people ever discover what that is, but it is probably the most reliable way of staying in the zone that we know of.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

All the Feels

People who have ADHD nervous systems lead intense passionate lives. Their highs are higher, their lows are lower, all of their emotions are much more intense.

At all points in the life cycle, people who have an ADHD nervous system lead intense, passionate lives.

They feel more in every way than do Neurotypicals.

Consequently, everyone with ADHD but especially children are always at risk of being overwhelmed from within.

An ADHD Guide to Emotional Dysregulation and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (w/ William Dodson, M.D.)

School and Second-Hand Importance

People with ADHD do not fit in any school system.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

All schools are based on what we call second-hand importance. The ADHD nervous system doesn’t do importance when it’s in first hand. But schools are second hand importance. What does somebody else, your teacher, think is important enough to teach and important enough to put on the test because it’s important that you know it 10 years from now. This is utterly and completely useless to a kid with ADHD.

For a person with an ADHD style interest based nervous system, these motivations are utterly useless and just a frustration.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

Those schools and their teachers witnessed the slow disintegration of a young child, who had much potential – more than most – into deeper dysfunction and depression as each year passed.

The system made that emotional disintegration my fault. These people were not just teachers, they were perpetrators. Insulated from responsibility because they were the system.

How can you “snap out” of ADHD?. This is the barbarity of School. I never saw it before, the signs were there and I can now see why I have been a slave to depression and anxiety my entire life.

Autism + ADHD = Irrepressible Genius + Depression & Anxiety. | The Grinch Manifesto

Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short—failing to meet their own high standards or others’ expectations.

How ADHD Ignites Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria


Medications are the treatment of choice for ADHD.

None of the behavioral management techniques..have ever been able to show any benefit at all.

ADHD Medication Management: How to Use and Adjust Stimulants Safely (with William Dodson, MD)

It can not be treated with behavioral techniques any more than you can lower a fever with behavioral techniques.

Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks: RSD, Hyperarousal, More (w/ Dr. William Dodson)

Medication Access

How ADHD Treatment Is Not ADHD Friendly

ADHD treatment is not ADHD friendly at all.

How ADHD Treatment Is Not ADHD Friendly – YouTube

thank you to the gorgeous @Miz Cracker for having me on as the first guest of her new show Laugh It Off!! ✨ check out the full video on her insta 💕 #comedy #comedian #mizcraker #interview #comedyinterview #fyp #foryoupage #depression #prescriptions

♬ original sound – catherine cohen

Climbing Your Wall of Awful

The Wall of Awful is an emotional barrier between you and whatever it is you’re trying to do like, pay a past due parking ticket — built from past failures and all the negative emotions and outcomes that come with them.

How to Do Something That Should Be Easy (But…Is…Not)

Everyone fails. Some, like those with executive function challenges, fail more than others.

Each failure brings negative emotions – guilt, disappointment. These smaller emotions become stronger feelings of anxiety, shame and even loneliness if one is repeatedly rejected because of their errors. Each time these negative emotions are experienced, another brick is placed into that person’s Wall of Awful.

The Wall of Awful is the emotional barrier that prevents us from initiating tasks and taking the risks necessary to make reach our goals. It is the emotional consequence of having ADHD and it must be understood to be overcome.

The Wall of Awful™ – ADHD Essentials

What really puts bricks in our walls is judgement.

So if we can approach our challenges from a place of non-judgement, and a place of compassion and forgiveness and empathy, then we can avoid more bricks than we otherwise would.

Maybe not all of them, but lots of them.

How to Do Something That Should Be Easy (But…Is…Not)

I Spend, Protect My Energy, Currency

We have a couple of theme songs for KCS in our community: Guided by Angels by Amyl and the Sniffers and Monkey Mind by The Bobby Lees.

Guided by angels
But they're not heavenly
They're on my body
And they guide me heavenly
The angels guide me heavenly, heavenly
Energy, good energy and bad energy
I've got plenty of energy
It's my currency
I spend, protect my energy, currency

Guided by Angels by Amyl and the Sniffers
Monkey Mind
It's just my monkey mind
Monkey Mind
It's just my

I take him out, and then I sit him down
I look him in the eye, and say no more
monkeying around
Now you look-y here, you gonna leave me
Cause there's no room here for a little
monkey in my home

Monkey Mind
It's just my monkey mind
Monkey Mind
It's just my

That monkey mind, he likes to eat himself alive
Think he's done, and then he takes another bite
Now see, I gotta learn to be kind
To my monkey mind, cause he'll be with me till I die

Monkey Mind
It's just my monkey mind
Monkey Mind
It's just my

Monkey Mind by The Bobby Lees

Further reading,

Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they