The story of Dumbo has always been very dear to me, but the story means even more to me now that I have a young child with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). While watching the delightful new live action film, I couldn’t help but notice many similarities between Dumbo and my daughter.
I saw my daughter’s adorable charm and innocence in Dumbo, but most importantly, I saw her ADHD, which took the form of Dumbo’s abnormally large ears. At first, Dumbo and his mother were perfectly fine with Dumbo’s large ears. It wasn’t until society began pointing out that Dumbo wasn’t normal that Dumbo became self-conscious, embarrassed, and ashamed of his ears, much like children are with their ADHD.
When the ring master initially lays eyes on Dumbo’s big ears, he orders Holt, the elephant wrangler, to “fix that” and “make those ears disappear.” Holt tries to hide Dumbo’s ears altogether to prevent them from getting in the way, but that was an immediate fail. The same goes for ADHD. It is not something you can easily hide or ignore. It is something you are born with and must be managed.
Through the kindness of Holt’s children who keep Dumbo company by playing a game of blowing a feather to one another, they learn that Dumbo’s ears give him the ability to fly. The feather becomes an important tool for Dumbo, because he uses it to help him use his ears to fly and amaze the crowd with his talent. For children with ADHD, the feather represents many different tools and aids, such as medication, behavioral therapy, and fidgets.
Dumbo later realizes that he has the ability to fly without the feather and he is motivated by the main love in his life – his mother. (Remember, Dumbo is just a baby elephant after all, so his mother is his entire world – and visa-versa.) His real motivation to fly and show off for the crowd is to get back to his mother, who has been taken away from him and locked away.
The story of Dumbo teaches children to embrace their ADHD. With time, they will learn to manage their ADHD and soar to great heights because of it. People with ADHD are some of the most passionate and influential people I have ever met. All they need are people (and themselves) to believe in them, accept them as they are, and help them reach their full potential with their amazing capabilities and talents their ADHD has blessed them with.
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