The Many Faces of ADHD

In celebration of 2014's ADHD Awareness Week, these 11 essays explore the perspectives and diversity of people with attention deficit.

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Evelyn Polk-Green

Education Administrator, Chicago, IL

I can multitask because of my ADHD. It helps me keep all of my projects straight. As a former president of ADDA, and a project director at an organization that provides training to parents and professionals in education, I know firsthand that there are advantages to having ADD. My mission is to help the world understand them.

In high school, I did well in a structured environment, but as a freshman at Duke University, I found it difficult to organize my days. I left without graduating. I got married and had a child and went back to school. I got my degree in early childhood education. It wasn’t until my oldest son was diagnosed with ADD, at age seven, that I began to recognize that I was coping with the disorder too. I thought, “Oh, my God, that’s me.” I finally understood why I was able to be successful at work, but couldn’t keep my house in order.

Figure out how the disorder affects you, and use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses. Choose a strategy — be it medication, therapy, or hiring a housekeeper — and stick with it. Your life will get better.

Dylan Thompson

Middle School Student, Lenexa, KS

A lot of successful people had ADHD. One of them is Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity. Another ADHD person was Benjamin Franklin, who invented bifocals. Another was the composer Beethoven. George Bush, Sr., and George Bush, Jr., have ADHD, and they were presidents of the United States.

In school, ADHD kids get distracted and squirm in their seats. ADHD kids are constantly in motion, and cannot complete a quiet task without making noise. Some kids talk nonstop and are very impatient. They sometimes act without thinking. It is hard for them to control themselves because their limbic system doesn’t function like other peoples’ brains. They need their teacher to understand that they have ADHD, so the teacher won’t think that they’re rude, disrespectful, or acting up on purpose.

Teachers also need to learn about ADHD, so they know that kids aren’t choosing to act this way. They need to speak to them without hurting their feelings, and let them learn in their own way. Homeschooling can be good for a kid with ADHD, because he will be with people who understand him and know how to talk to him. Kids in home school aren’t easily distracted, because they can take breaks, which calms their brain down to get more work done.

I know these things because I have ADHD, too. ADHD makes you seem like you are rude to other people, and that can make parents think that their kids shouldn’t be around you. I want kids to know that I am just a person with a different kind of brain, not a bad person. I think I am a good person because I care about others, I’m funny, and I’m smart.

Cossondra Howard

School Counselor, Uriah, AL

My son, Nathan, has ADHD. He wouldn’t be my Nathan without the energy of the “H.” He’s always been on the move. We’ve learned that together, through everyday situations and in everyday places, like the grocery store.

Grocery stores can be perilous when you’re traveling with an ADHD child. When Nathan was small, he wanted everything he could reach to be in the grocery cart with him. He was especially fond of the frozen foods section, with its wide aisles and few displays. He could rev up the grocery cart with a running start.

Nathan’s doctor took him off meds for two weeks. On the next visit, he asked how our weeks had gone. I looked at him and said, “Groceries.” He closed his eyes and nodded knowingly. He’d been down that aisle of adventure himself!

We have lots of good memories at the grocery store. Before Nathan could talk, I called him “Mr. Personality.” He would wave to anyone. As he got older, he started conversations with strangers — about the weather, sports teams, whatever. I got compliments on the nice, polite young man I was raising. They didn’t know how hard it was to get him to stand still. Even in his rambunctiousness, he is thoughtful. I watched him sidle up to an older lady once and help her push her heavy cart to the checkout lane.

Now, at 14, he runs for items I’ve forgotten, charms the cashiers, and bags my groceries. The adventure is still there, but I appreciate the journey more — even when I wind up paying for stuff I didn’t see him throw into the cart.

Peter Shankman

Founder, The Geek Factory, New York, NY

When I was a child, my mom would say, “You walk to the beat of a different drummer, Peter. You are different, and this is your strength.” But I didn’t consider it a strength back then. Classmates made fun of me, and my teachers constantly told me to calm down.

I knew I had ADHD, so I put off getting diagnosed for a long while. If you break your leg and there is a bone sticking out, you don’t say, “Maybe I should see whether I have a broken leg.”

I’ve considered taking medication, but I prefer to increase my dopamine levels by running, skydiving, and doing public speaking. ADHD boosted my career in many ways. It’s spurred me to try new things and create new companies. It has enabled me to push past my fear and attempt what others believe to be impossible.

My advice to you? Different is good, I swear. Don’t ever forget that.

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