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Karen O’Donnell, A Mind Like Mine (And, Possibly, Yours!), Part I

Author Zoë Kessler and Filmmaker, Karen O'Donnell, two ADHD women
Author Zoë Kessler and Filmmaker, Karen O'Donnell

Treat yourself to a copy of A Mind Like Mine for Christmas!

Just in time for Christmas, I’ve discovered a fantastic new documentary on adult ADHD, called A Mind Like Mine. You might find it’s a bit like yours, too. I did.

Toronto, Ontario-based Producer/Director/Writer Karen O’Donnell has produced two ADHD-focused films to date,  the first, Odd Kid Out, in 2002, and the second, A Mind Like Mine, which was released in 2009 and has aired internationally.

O’Donnell is a fount of knowledge and experience. She’s also a fierce advocate on behalf of not only her own son, Kail, (diagnosed with ADD since age 7), but for everyone who struggles with ADHD.

Her film, A Mind Like Mine, is compelling, touching, dramatic and informative, as she documents the lives of ADHDers and skilfully weaves interviews with various professionals throughout the story. You’ll learn a ton about adult ADHD while being entertained. I highly recommend this film for ADHD adults and young adults, and those who care about them.

O’Donnell explores ADHD in two young adults…and makes a powerful personal discovery

In O’Donnell’s Odd Kid Out, O’Donnell features the lives of three young ADHDers. She picks up the story in A Mind like Mine, as her son Kail, and Daniel, now young men, struggle with the transitional phase between high school and college.

She also makes a radical personal decision to become a subject herself in this film, as she explores the possibility of her son Kail’s ADHD having originated with her.

Here’s some of what O’Donnell had to say about her experience of making the film A Mind Like Mine.

Q: What were you hoping to accomplish with this film?

ADHD changes as you grow, and it affects your life in different ways. One thing it doesn’t normally do, is just go away. I wanted to be able to show visually how ADHD affects the person’s emotions and their process of how they work themselves through the world and how others perceive them when they say they’re an adult with ADHD.

Q: In Odd Kid Out, you were uncomfortable with the label ADHD; in A Mind Like Mine, you seem very comfortable using the terms ADD and ADHD. How and when did this change come about?

When I made the first film, I was very new to that world.  So, with Kail’s diagnosis, I was in a constant personal battle as to,  “Do I agree with this? Don’t I agree with this? What does this mean?”  I was still in a place of, “Ok, so my son is different. Yes, I agree with that. The fact that he has a disorder, I’m not so sure.”  So, I was very much railing against calling it a disorder, and having the stigma put upon him because of that.

Then, in the second film, I’d learned a lot more and became a lot more comfortable just living our lives and realizing that there are a lot of people out there that were shamed by saying ADHD. I looked at my position as, “Okay, I’m the communicator, so let’s try to help people and say, ‘If you don’t say it, if you don’t admit it, then help is not going to happen.'”

Q: You’ve never been the subject of your own films before. What was it like?

When I direct, I am in control. I ask the questions. I create the questions. I find the people to be in the films, I do all of that.

So, when we were making a Mind Like Mine, my team sat me down and said, “Ok, we’re doing your interview now.” I had to be interviewed, as Kail’s mom.  So, my team said, “Okay, well, we’ve got some questions for you.”

And I went, “No! Wait a minute! I gave you the questions.”

And they said, “No, we’ve come up with our own questions.”

Q:What was your emotional response?

I was terrified.

I’m forced into the position to be a true subject in the film, where I’m being absolutely honest.  The first things they ask me, you can see I started to cry.  I did not want to cry on camera. But I had no control, that’s exactly what happened. It was like, “Talk about how this is affecting your son,” and I immediately just started to cry. It was terrible.

I’m fortunate in a way, that I can tell these stories, and help other people. But in order to help other people, you have to put yourself on the front line, right?

Q:  In the two films, it looks like you’re acting as an ad hoc coach for Kail. Do you worry about who will provide this coaching when he’s at university?

The word is terrified, because nobody else is going to be able to look after this issue like I have. But I have to let him take the torch.

It’s so important to really research the universities, because there are universities out there that will help. And there are universities out there that don’t care whatsoever.

My worry is he wants to go where he wants to go, and up until now, he hasn’t really been concerned about whether they’re open to working with him or not. And my fear is that he will experience failure, and then he will drop out, and then he will say, “I can’t do it.” And that is terrible for me.

But, by allowing him to have the time to mature a bit and find himself a little bit more, he’s now coming to the fact himself that, “You know what? It is going to be important that I find a University that will work with me to help me achieve my goals.”

So that is very, very important. And I would think, if a kid is not ready to accept that, I don’t think they should be going to school yet.


A Mind Like Mine and Odd Kid Out DVD’s are available from Wordshop Productions Inc.

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Karen O’Donnell, A Mind Like Mine (And, Possibly, Yours!), Part I

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2012). Karen O’Donnell, A Mind Like Mine (And, Possibly, Yours!), Part I. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 12, 2018, from


Last updated: 8 Jan 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Jan 2012
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