Paris Hilton, will.i.am among celebrities in Greenwich mom’s doc on ADHD – Stamford Advocate

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Nancy Armstrong, the producer of
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Nancy Armstrong, the producer of “The Disruptors.”

Contributed by Shauna Brook

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that 9.4 percent of children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The chronic condition, most commonly known as ADHD, is often characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

While an ADHD diagnosis may be perceived negatively by some families, one Greenwich parent is hoping to change the perception of ADHD with a star-studded documentary. 

“The Disruptors,” which debuts today on Apple TV, Vudu TVOD and Google Play, follows around five families living with ADHD and also spotlights a number of celebrities that have been diagnosed with ADHD. Some of those familiar faces include Paris Hilton, Steve Madden, will.i.am, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Mandel and Jillian Michaels.  

The documentary, which was recognized as an official winner at the San Diego International Film Festival and was an ​​official nominee at the Greenwich International Film Festival, is directed by Stephanie Soechtig (“Fed Up,” “Under the Gun”) and is produced by Greenwich’s Nancy Armstrong, an Emmy-nominated producer, philanthropist and wife of Google and AOL executive Tim Armstrong — who has been diagnosed with ADHD. 

A poster for

A poster for “The Disruptors” documentary.

Contributed by Shauna Brook

“I made this film to illuminate a path forward for people with ADHD where there was no path,” Armstrong said. “This is the film I desperately needed as a parent of three children with ADHD.”

The goal of the documentary is to shed light on the stigma placed on those diagnosed with ADHD and how their diagnosis can actually be seen as a benefit. While the documentary spotlights celebrities and what their ADHD diagnoses have meant for them, the true emphasis is on the families that have experienced the negative stigma associated with the condition. In some cases, the misunderstanding of ADHD diagnoses has resulted in disciplinary action at school and difficulty making friends for some of the children in the documentary.

“I want to plant a flag in the ground to finally upend the misinformation and myths surrounding this diagnosis. This film debunks every one of them,” Armstrong said. “There is a gross disconnection between what the public thinks about ADHD, and what the scientists know from decades of research and hundreds of studies.”

After a meeting with Ned Hallowell, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist and nationally recognized expert on ADHD, Armstrong was inspired by his “strength-based” approach to understanding ADHD, and knew that the documentary was the way to break the stigma of ADHD.

“During the filming, I got to speak for hours with some of the top experts in the country, so I certainly have a deeper understanding about ADHD including the science and the research, which is all fascinating. But the thing that surprised me was just how universal everyone’s experience is,” Armstrong said. “The parent’s [sic] experiences in the film directly paralleled my own as a parent of kids with ADHD, and the childhood stories from the public personalities in the film were also so closely tied to the real-time experiences of the kids in the film. So there’s a universality of experience that can reframe this in the minds of children with ADHD and build a sense of community.”

TheDisruptors_Trailer from Nancy Armstrong on Vimeo.

In her own home, Armstrong has noticed the positive aspects of a “strength-based” view on ADHD evident in her husband and her children. Some of what she calls “superskills” include creativity, increased curiosity and a “lack of risk aversion.”

“With my husband, Tim, it’s definitely his creativity, his ability to see opportunities where others do not, and his willingness to take big risks to act on those opportunities. He is fearless and a risk-taker which are all indicative of the strengths of the ADHD brain,” Armstrong said. “My three children are all super creative.”

Armstrong’s son, who she said struggled growing up with ADHD, has started his own business and works with her husband at his business, Flowcode. Meanwhile, her daughters, who also have been diagnosed with ADHD, are both in high school and are active in the performance arts.

In the documentary, celebrities from every corner of pop culture also offer their takes on their own ADHD diagnoses. Some celebrities like Mandel explain in the documentary that they felt like they were “quirky,” which made it hard to keep friends. Others like Bradshaw stated that their ADHD made the full picture of daily life not “clear.”

However, musician will.i.am, of Black Eyed Peas fame, reiterated Armstrong’s emphasis on “superskills” — something that he has learned to become proud of.

One of the families spotlighted in

One of the families spotlighted in “The Disruptors” documentary.

Contributed by Shauna Brook

“Teachers were like ‘you need to focus better’ because of my hyperactivity,” said will.i.am in the documentary. “It’s a super skill set.”

In watching the documentary, Armstrong hopes that families that have been impacted by ADHD will take the information and inspiration presented and start “a proper diagnosis and treatment plan” in order to “successfully manage ADHD.”

“I want parents to know that they’re not alone, and that every child who grew up and learned to successfully leverage their ADHD brain had great parents (or a parent) who were in their corner, on their team and advocating for them along their journey to adulthood,” Armstrong said. “I wish I had this film to educate myself and teachers when my kids were younger. Managed properly, ADHD can be a big asset and not a liability, but first you have to shepard [sic] your children to adulthood intact.”

Scan the code below to gain access to the documentary’s website with the film link as well as more information and resources on ADHD.

Flowcode to access

Flowcode to access “The Disruptors.”

Courtesy of Shauna Brook

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