ADHD and Me, Part 2
Japanese has been easier for me to learn because when you write in Japan, it’s art, and I love to draw. Japanese writing is full of precision, and I like taking a long, long time on something and making it exact. But slowness is another problem I have that frustrates other people. And my tutor says that I sometimes have a hard time deciding when getting into details makes my work better or when it actually hurts my work because “I can’t see the forest for the trees.” There is one part of Japanese that has been very hard for me. I’m way behind the rest of my class when it comes to memorizing Japanese characters and character blends.
In third grade I went to a special school for kids with learning disabilities, where we learned the Slingerland method for reading. That was really good for me. Now I read books that are really hard, like The Golden Compass and The Amber Spyglass.
Visualization-verbalization was really helpful, too, for figuring out spelling. I’m still a bad speller, but I’m better than I was! But the other parts of school were too easy for me, and I got bored because I already knew the science and stuff. When I returned to my public school, kids asked me, “Dana, did you go to a special-ed school in third grade?” Special education is not a popular thing. You have to be normal to be cool.
Some people idealize gifted students because they think they’re good in every subject, but that’s not true. We’re not super smart in everything, like a computer. I’m gifted in certain ways. My tutor told me that I’m a visual learner. For example, in history when my teacher was telling us about World War II, she showed us pictures of the ditches that they fought in. I’ve always remembered that scene.
Being gifted is a bad thing at some of the schools I’ve been to. In movies, “smart alecs” aren’t usually fit and good at sports. People think if you’re super smart, then you’re probably weak. It’s pretty cool to be a whiz at math, but it’s a lot cooler if you’re really athletic. That’s what I found at my old public school.
Now I go to a school for gifted kids, and we’re plenty athletic there. We do movement and dance and martial arts almost every day. I’m glad that the kids at my school aren’t as much into style and how cool your clothes are. It’s a lot more comfortable for me that way.
We’re in it together
What’s the best way to help kids like me? We need lots of parent support and not to be yelled at for getting bad grades. The best thing parents can do is help their kids overcome their difficulties. It’s helped me when my mom shows me new ways to study for a test. It’s helped me to find friends who are honest and don’t talk behind my back. It’s helped to find a school where the teachers see that I have things I’m very good at. Once my mom told me a story about computer nerds who ended up taking over the world, and sometimes I think of that story and it makes me feel better too.
I hope other kids who are gifted and have ADHD know they’re not alone. I hope this helps kids to talk to their parents and teachers about things that bother them and makes them feel less weird and alone. Talking with them about what things you’re good at and what things are hard for you — and why they’re hard for you — can help kids figure out how to make school a little easier. Most of all, talking about things can also help kids feel better about themselves.