I don't consider ADHD a disability — in fact, my turbo-charged mind gives me the power of problem-solving.
by Jeff Stickler
In my middle school classroom, I always reserved a bulletin board for holidays and special months. I referred to it every day and worked in connections between the season and the Social Studies content I was teaching. I went beyond the typical seasons and holidays rotation and included cultural celebrations like Black History Month. I made sure to add little known facts and funny things on it, which my students loved. At least several times a year, I came back from making copies during my prep period to find the principal or other teachers looking at the boards, too.
I thought about this the other day when I was reminded of Disabilities Awareness Month. I remembered the bulletin boards I created and tried to remember why I never made one for that. Was it because my theme for the month focused on literacy and reminding students to visit the spring book fair? Or was it because state standardized testing takes place then and we had a school-wide theme related to that? After all, I’m an ADHDer and you’d think I’d want to raise awareness and share my story with my students.
The truth is that I’ve encountered a fair share of adults with negative opinions about people living with ADHD. I’ve written about the mixed reactions I’ve seen when I chose to reveal my ADHD to co-workers and supervisors. Some didn’t change their opinion of me or my work at all. But, there were others who — consciously or unconsciously — changed the way they acted toward me after I revealed it to them.
I thought I was imaging things. Maybe they were a little shocked, so I gave it a week or two. I greeted them in the morning and chatted with them at lunch like usual. Unfortunately, my suspicions were true in some cases. Some co-workers who used to come and ask me for lesson plan advice or to discuss a planned activity didn’t come by anymore. After that, I started waiting to see how they talked about students living with ADHD and other learning difficulties. That told me all I needed to know.
Personally, I don’t consider my ADHD symptoms a disability! In my first post I described the way I see the world and you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty fun world! Instead of a boring drive around town running errands, I see a world full of color, light, and motion. True, I have to use the timer and alarm on my cell phone so I don’t lose track of time. But, that just doesn’t seem like a disability to me.
In fact, I think of my ADHD symptoms almost like super powers! When I let my mind run free with an idea, it’s like switching on the turbo boost. I can think of 100 different creative ways to do or say something in two minutes! Like many ADHDers, I can go into hyperfocus mode, too. The rest of the world fades into the background. A few minutes in a quiet room with some paper, pens, and pencils and I come out with a couple of solutions to any problem I’m facing.
That’s why I always say a person is “living with ADHD (or ADD)” instead of “has ADHD." The second one has a negative feeling to it that I don’t like. I think that saying you’re “living with ADHD” sends the message that you’re doing fine. Yes, you have a certain symptom set, but you’re not suffering. The key word for me is living!
Ultimately, I think that Disabilities Awareness Month is a great idea. I think we should go to “stage 2” awareness though. We do a good job educating people about the various types of disabilities people are living with. I think we need to let people know that living with a disability isn’t a bad thing. We might even be a little better at some things than a lot of people. You never know, we might just have a Superman suit underneath our clothes!