'I Knew I Was Smart:' ADHD College Success Story

How a struggling student with ADHD earned three degrees and As in college - and in life.

The ADD Experience, Part 2

With my father's help, I made the transformation. He summoned me to the dining room table for tutoring, forced me to stay on top of the workload, gave me the structure I needed. His teaching methods counteracted all the ADHD tendencies that might have shattered my college career. When I graduated with a 3.0 GPA and a B.A. in education, I knew I was moving up in the world.

My first teaching job would have made most novice teachers run for the hills. I worked in the Miami-Dade public school district. My principal regularly announced Code Hornet over the P.A. system. This meant, Lock the kids in the classroom and drop to the floor to avoid gunfire. It was a sink-or-swim initiation, but I thrived because I was allowed to bring a hands-on, experiential learning approach to the school.

My do-whatever-it-takes attitude helped me to establish a strong rapport with parents and kids. I devised individual lesson plans, and even coped with severe behavior problems. During that time I attended an evening master's program at Florida International University. It was designed to help inner-city teachers develop the skills to survive in "the trenches." I eventually earned a master's degree in Urban Education and graduated with a 3.6 GPA.

In the classroom I was able to practice what I'd learned at night school. I implemented and refined techniques for learning-style-based instruction. I synthesized, adapted, and added to these theories to suit individual students' learning styles. I allowed introverted children to think quietly or write about their ideas before they respon-ded verbally during class discussions. Students who were rhythmic could present a song that summarized a history lesson.

Many of my students achieved academic success, so I shared my techniques with other teachers through professional development presentations - and went on to earn a third degree, Education Specialist in Supervision and Administration, at Gallaudet University for the Deaf. Gallaudet was the best match for my brain. I had always loved American Sign Language (ASL). It's dramatic, emotional, and expressive, and it fits my visual, kinesthetic, global learning style. I earned straight A's in class.

In deaf culture, asking questions is a sign of respect. When you want a point clarified, it shows that you're paying attention. Finally, in a classroom, I was able to say, "I don't know, can you explain it?" without feeling stupid.

That was only one of many firsts I experienced at Gallaudet. I also discovered that I had severe learning disabilities, but had a superior IQ.

In the public school system, I was carrying a 400-pound bag of bricks on my back, struggling with information presented in ways that my brain couldn't process. Nothing I did helped me pass tests or please my teachers. Student comments like, "I don't want her to be my reading partner," made me feel inferior. My academic failures weren't a reflection of my intelligence, but of a mismatch with my learning style.

No one should have to wait 33 years, or until she completes her third degree, with honors, to find out that she's smart.

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TAGS: Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, ADHD and College,

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