I was born with it, although I didn’t know it or understand it. It has been a constant companion all of my life. Once I thought it a curse, today I count it a blessing. Its name is Attention Deficit Disorder. I resent that label since I believe that it is not a disorder at all, but just a different way of thinking. People with A.D.D. process information quite differently than so called normal thinkers. I grew up in a time when A.D.D. had not yet been defined. Those of us who thought in a different way were simply considered lazy, non-workers, and given other unkind labels. Sometimes I was called stupid. I knew that wasn’t true, my I.Q. had been measured at 138. Often I was told that if I had character I would study more and my grades would improve. There are two difficulties here–first there was no way I could study more and the second was that no matter how I tried I could not concentrate. My mind was good for maybe thirty seconds then it was on to something else. The harder I tried the worse it got. I felt like an animal trapped in a cage. I was not hyperactive; in fact, I was extremely well behaved and very compliant, I simply couldn’t concentrate.
In my early elementary school years I was an excellent student, however as subjects lasted for longer periods of time and classes were extended I realized that I was having more and more difficulty. I couldn’t stay focused for very long and so I stayed lost and confused. By the 7th grade I was really struggling. I passed all of my courses but with increasing difficulty. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew something was. My Dad met with my 7th grade teacher, the meanest and most hateful teacher that I ever had, and suggested to her that I was bored and needed more work and a greater challenge and he was right. She refused his request go give me more to do with the argument that it wouldn’t be fair to me. I just needed to learn to concentrate. Try as hard as I could, concentration for periods longer than 5 or 10 minutes simply escaped me. I could think of many things almost simultaneously, but not one thing for long.
My 8th grade year was an academic disaster. Courses were 9 months long and classes lasted for one full hour. I lived in a dismal fog of failure. Dad stayed on my back constantly which started my resentment and anger toward him. He didn’t understand nor did I. I had to go to summer school that year where I excelled. Short classes and compressed time for courses, 8 weeks instead of 9 months made a great difference. My mind was in a state of swirling thought processes. I was multitasking before Bill Gates was born.
I went to A Military Academy starting in the 9th grade where I realized a new phenomenon. We were graded every two weeks in our course work. I did very poorly on my bi-weekly grades, but made near perfect scores on my semi-final and final exams. I learned material very quickly, but it took a longer period to process. I couldn’t recall in the short term, but seldom forgot what had been converted to long term memory. Even today I can recall much of what I learned in high school. It astounded my children that I could still show them how to work quadratic equations when they took algebra.
At the end of my senior year I had a high D average. Bi-weekly tests weighed 1/2 in grading while semi-finals and finals weighed 1/4 each. The big tests got me through and I graduated with a B+ average. I made in the high 500s in both parts of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, scored extremely high on the Academic Achievement Tests, and was in the 99th percentile on the Merit Scholarship exam.
The headmaster called me into his office and scolded me for not having applied myself saying that I could have graduated at the top of my class if I had the character to work consistently. His words, along with my Dad’s admonition to work harder and study more devastated my self-confidence.
Because of my outstanding performance in the military arts, average grades, but exceptional test scores I was offered an appointment to West Point if I would spend a year in a prep school. With my confidence shattered I decided there was no way I could survive the academic rigors of the Academy, so I refused. Only many years later did I realize that God was protecting me from the danger of war so he could use me in the tasks that I was created to perform.
Today I am thankful for the gift of a cluttered, unfocused mind. Because of that gift I have been able to achieve and accomplish far more than if I had been born normal. In all of my endeavors, I have been able to see the big picture. I am extremely creative and able to function and work outside of the box, which while often-causing distress to other more conventional thinkers, has proved to produce that which rigid thinking could never have construed.
My encouragement to those blessed with Attention Deficit Disorder is to embrace it then learn techniques to work with it and achieve success. I would say to parents with children with A.D.D. try to understand what life is like for your child. Don’t be ashamed and don’t be in denial. The sooner it is recognized and accepted the more quickly your child and you can learn to accommodate.
I claim absolutely no scientific authority from which I speak. I’m simply one who has lived with a constant companion for sixty seven years.