ADHD and Me

A 12-year-old muses about balancing ADHD with her special abilities.


Filed Under: School Behavior, ADHD Medication and Children,
A 12-year-old muses about balancing ADHD with her special abilities. ADDitude Magazine

Special education is not a popular thing. You have to be normal to be cool.

Dana Olney-Bell, sixth-grader

I’m 12 years old and for as long as I can remember, I’ve had opposite sides to myself. I’m told that I’m “gifted” — very smart and creative. But I also have to work really, really hard at things that seem much easier for other kids, like memorizing and paying attention.

Here’s an example: In math, science, and art, I’m quicker at figuring things out than other kids. Like when my teacher tells us a new way to subtract fractions, it seems obvious to me and not to other kids. But when I’m trying to listen to someone talking or lecturing, my mind starts to wander.

Once when we were talking about plants in science, it made me think about my garden and what I was going to plant next year. And that made me think about a new kind of chili pepper that I’m going to try to plant for my dad because he likes spicy things. And that made me think about the hot dishes he used to eat when we lived in Singapore.

It feels sort of like branches on a tree, and pretty soon I don’t know what the discussion is about any more. Sometimes this is good when I’m talking to someone, because it helps me branch out on our conversation. If I’m in class, it helps me bring up new ideas that no one else has thought of. But it also hurts me in class because I don’t always fully get what the teacher is saying.

Sometimes I have complicated ideas that I can’t explain to others. That really frustrates me, and I get upset with the person for not getting it! I guess you could say I cry pretty easily. This really bugs my mom. Sometimes I have the same sort of problem when I need to ask a question. I get stuck on a question because I can’t formulate it. And I have the same problems when I’m trying to write down my ideas for a paper.

When I’m doing something that’s hard for me, like writing, I drift off easily and end up doing a quick job so I can do something else that I’m better at. But then I don’t get a very good grade on my essay, and I feel bad. The problem is, there are so many interesting things to do in my house; things that I think are just as educational as writing. I’d rather do chemistry and cooking experiments in the kitchen, or try out new kinds of seeds or soil mixtures in my garden, or watch the History Channel or Popular Mechanics for Kids, or solve logic puzzles and games. I’d rather study bird behavior (with my birds, of course!), work on my Web site with my dad, and engineer new contraptions with wood or whatever else is lying around. I love my school, but I hate it that homework takes away time from doing these things. That’s what it’s like to be gifted and have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Life lessons

I’ve tried some medicine to help me with attention. It’s so weird that they make medicine for that! One helped me concentrate and be more energetic about school. Now, another helps make me more optimistic, but when it wears off, I feel less cheerful and drift more. My medicine helps some, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem of attention. I still have to work at paying attention, and sometimes I still drift off even with the medicine.

Medicine doesn’t help the problems I have memorizing and studying for tests. My tutor suggested that I draw pictures when I’m memorizing facts for my history test. For example, when we were studying the Renaissance, I drew a picture of a harp for the rebirth of music and a cross for the rebirth of culture. That helped me remember those things for an exam. But it takes too long to study like that, so I wasn’t able to study everything and I got a bad grade because there were lots of parts that I didn’t get to. Sometimes it makes me want to give up when I realize how much harder I have to work at things that are not that hard for other kids.

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