Living Amongst Squirrels: ADHD and Me

I should start out by saying that I hate the squirrel reference and I knew that I would hate it the moment that I saw it in the movie, Up. Yet, squirrels are what most people equate to ADHD…so there you go.

Yesterday, I read an article posted by Edsurge about some “new age” school doing “transformative” things or something like that. Those articles tend to blend into each other after a while. This particular articular listed out its “surprises” concerning learning in their “student driven” environment and what caught me was their surprise #8….

 “While there are real and serious learning disabilities, ADD and ADHD are mostly nonsense.”



Life with Me

There are moments in life for me that are a blur. It’s not the kind of blur of a person that blacks out but more of one where I speed through situations without realizing what others see. I forget…a lot. Yet, I remember so much. It sounds odd but it’s the truth. My close friends and family will tell you these things about me…

  1. I rarely finish a complete thought without switching a few times to other things.
  2. I can talk on the phone, text, tweet and talk in person…simultaneously.
  3. If something hits me mid-conversation, I will completely walk away mid-sentence to do “the thing” that hit me.
  4. When I’m medicated, everyone knows. When I’m not medicated, everyone knows. I don’t have to say a single word.

Have I always been this way? Probably. I’ve always been “stuck in my head” according to my family but to me, it wasn’t just a matter of being stuck. I had ideas that circulate…lots of them….all at once.

My Life as a Student

As a student, learning was stressful. I always felt as if I wasn’t quite as smart as everyone else because I could not focus and retain in the same way. As a matter of fact, I was booted from my Honors English class because my instructor felt that I could not handle the requirements. That moment still hurts because I could do it, I just could not make it happen. Any course that required a great deal of reading & writing was tough. That, for me, was every course except math, computer science and band. I excelled at those things.

The Medicated Me

I chose to see a doctor and start medication and I have to say that doing that saved my career. Heck, it’s the reason that I was even able to get through college because prior to my “new awakening”, I literally had to take off from my day job in order to sit in total seclusion just to finish reading a chapter of no more than 10 pages…and understand it. After many…many nights ending in tears, it was great to NOT go through that.

In case you’re wondering…please do click play on the video below to understand what starting medication was like for me…

That doesn’t mean that the medication “cures” my ADHD. It just means that I can process information in a much more organized manner and that is huge.

About Social Learning

At night, my medication is out of my system and that’s when I am most active on twitter. The multiple columns of tweetdeck are like stimulus to my brain. I like the movement and can manage multiple conversations because finishing isn’t an issue. They’re always right in front of me.

Blogging helps to rid my mind of the ideas that float in my head.  When ideas come, it helps to have this medium to get them out.

My Struggles With or Without Medication….Oh and Technology

I still find organizing information difficult but certain productivity tools help. My gmail task list and google calendar pretty much run my life…as long as I place the information into the calendar. Saving to cloud spaces like Drive and Dropbox eliminated my loss of thumb drives. I keep everything in my phone and having it handy to record, with permission, helps me to process later. Books are read digitally and I do still struggle with retention but there is something about being able to highlight, save and share from one device that is really helpful.

About the Classroom

To be clear, I do not believe that I learn differently because of my ADHD. I believe that I learn differently because we all do. As a matter of fact, I learn quite normally. I just need quiet space sometimes to process new knowledge. Yes, we love a “noisy” classroom, but sometimes many of us need spaces void of noise. That is why I work at night. Everyone is asleep. Televisions are off. It’s just me and the silence of a room. I get so much done when there are no distractions.

People often ask me for tips on helping kids with ADHD in the classroom. Here are mine…

  1. Stay away from your own perceptions of ADHD when it comes to kids. I agree that there are too many kids misdiagnosed and over-medicated but if you teach all kids individually and cater to those needs…the diagnosis won’t matter.
  2. Kids need to get up and move…with or without ADHD. They also may need to stand at times to learn. Let them and be okay with it.
  3. Work with another teacher on noisy days and have a designated quiet place because some kids need that.
  4. Your organization will help your students. I struggled with this but having consistent designated ways that materials were handled in class was necessary for all of us.
  5. If you have access to technology, an LMS or even the ability to create digital task list with alerts is so helpful.
  6. A tool like Remind101 is especially great because you can communicate and “remind” both parents and students about what’s happening in class.

One more thing…to say that a kid will just grow out of ADHD is a myth. You don’t grow out of it. You learn to adapt to it. Medication isn’t for everyone but it was right for me and is easily one of the best decisions that I made concerning my own mental well being.

We’re all different. Some of us get to have a bit of a super power.

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