EARLY YEARS: Roanoke counselor says kids with ADHD should see it as a "super power"

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Studies show anywhere from five to 11% of children in the U.S. struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.

Gabriel Villarreal uses his own experience as a child with ADHD to help others

Roanoke ADHD counselor Gabriel Villarreal understands their struggles, because he has ADHD himself.

I' operate from a strength- based approach. I think that, per my story, that ADHD is a super power and there are some things that I can do as an ADHD'er that other people can't do..like juggle two businesses and a podcast and a marriage," says Villarreal.

Villarreal opened ADHD Counseling in the Roanoke Valley two years ago, and started exercises classes for kids with ADHD last year.
As a child, he says he was drowning in academics.

"I had struggled a lot. I had a tutor, on and off medication until probably eighth grade and a lot of learning what worked, what didn't work. It's pretty common when parents come and share things with me that I hear something of myself," he says.

Villarreal says the "super power" in kids with ADHD is their creativity and problem-solving skills, which don't always translate well in school settings.
What helped him turn the corner, was figuring out that he could do things his own way.

In college, he found his passion in counseling.

"One of the things that I like to help my parents recognize is that once their child finds that one thing that interests them that they can start a career around it or make a career around it and be successful."

In his classes for kids after school, participants work out and play games, then they have a time of mindfulness to help them calm down before they tackle homework.

"Exercise really is medicine for ADHDers. All the neurochemicals that are targeted by medication are actually produced with exercise."

To help illustrate to kids what he means by ADHD being a superpower, he refers to Superman.

"He was on Krypton, he was under a red sun and doesn't have any super powers. But when he's on earth, he's under a yellow sun and he has super powers. So, I tell my kids, if we can find where their yellow sun is, that they can be superman."