I was one of the luckier ADHD children of my generation because my mom was a Special Ed teacher and was always getting continuing Education hours, sometimes on ADHD. My mother suspected long before she ever indicated this possibility to me. My mom tried several different more natural remedies before seeking a diagnosis around 14 (My freshman year of high school). I tried Strattera for the first time, but only for a few months as it made me feel tired at the time.
Once diagnosed and medication started, my mom sent a letter with me to school to let all my teachers know of my diagnosis and explain any differences they may notice since I began medicine. I distinctly remember my Algebra teacher telling
me there was no way I had ADHD because I was such a good kid and so quiet all the time. This was not helpful for me to hear, as it played into the narrative I had already begun to believe about me, that I was somehow just wrong, and there wasn’t a reason other than my laziness.
The thing my teacher didn’t realize was that I was usually not paying attention in her class. You can forget about completing most of the homework assignments before the period ends like my other classmates. I was busy making up very dramatic scenarios in my head and playing them out. I was always the hero or at least the damsel in distress (I was a hormonal teenager and boys, boys, boys were always on my mind) in my stories and I was not at all in the classroom. My teacher didn’t know about the time I jumped into the lake at a family reunion over the summer with my glasses still on my face. I had to spend the rest of the day and the 6-ish hour ride home without being able to see very well because I am nearsighted. She
also didn’t know about the time I walked my pigs for maybe an hour at most (I was in 4-H and we had show pigs) and came in without my glasses on my face never to be seen again. She didn’t see the hours my parents were putting in at home to try to help me understand word problems (which I still struggle with today). She didn’t see the messy room or the number of times my parents had to find someone to open the school because I forgot something in my locker. She didn’t see the money wasted on the very nice coat I got that same year for Christmas and lost (I think in the Gym?) never to be seen again.
ADHD was a fight within myself. I was constantly letting people down, especially my parents. I may have still graduated 3rd in my class of 90 and gotten a college degree without meds, but I could have done better. If I had found a medication that worked better for me at that age instead of giving up on just the one I could have been Valedictorian, there was not even 1 whole point separating me from the top 2 classmates. I could have graduated college summa cum laude and received scholarships to go on and get my doctorate in Psychology instead of having to stop with a bachelor’s degree because I couldn’t afford to continue.
That teacher will never know how she impacted me with her words. She was a great teacher and I actually really liked her. The problem was she couldn’t see inside my brain, she couldn’t grasp the inner turmoil of feeling like a failure all the time because I couldn’t remember simple things, for wasting my parents' money when I inevitably lost something, and for being “lazy” for not trying harder to remember things. The important thing to remember as a parent and a teacher is that ADHD presents differently in everyone, just the same as all persona
lities are different. Take the time to learn your child/student’s struggles so your advice and words help that individual more than hurt. Also, and most importantly, remember that ADHD doesn’t make a good kid bad. It actually makes them pretty incredible because they are fighting way harder than most students and children to succeed in this world. Make a really big deal out of the wins. It is important for self-esteem and development.
What are some of your experiences with childhood ADHD in yourself or your children? I would love to hear your story in the comments.