FOR YEARS I WONDERED why walking through a busy shopping mall was unpleasant and disorienting. There was too much visual stimulation. Too much input felt overwhelming. It made me feel uneasy or queasy like I had mild motion sickness. I thought everyone was like this but I thought that I had poorer self-control.
So I would walk through a busy mall with my eyes cast down and try to avoid scanning all the attractive images and pretty colors. That way, I could keep my mind focused on why I was there and remember to search only for what I had come to purchase. This was a feature of my life until I was nearly fifty years old.
In elementary school, if my seat was in the back of the class, I was out of luck. The visual sea of moving, murmuring, wiggling, noisy students within my field of vision was like a waving curtain standing between me and the teacher or the chalkboard. It was hopelessly distracting.
Fortunately, I was soon diagnosed as being nearsighted. As a result of understanding my condition, the teachers began to keep me closer to the front so I could see better until I got glasses. This was an accidental blessing. From the front row, I realized that I could pay attention much easier. I needed to be in the front row so I could learn and not be distracted. My Attention Deficit Disorder was moderated.
Now that I’m an older adult, I have served as a substitute teacher in several public and private schools. I can readily see the harm that undiagnosed ADD is causing many younger students. Bright boys and girls (more boys are afflicted than girls) begin to experience poor grades. Often due to ADD – let alone childish immaturity – they lack the ability to be still, to focus or to finish tasks. This takes a real toll on their grades. If it is ADD or ADHD, their poor grades have very little to do with their intelligence. Nor does frequently misbehaving mean they are not respecting their teacher, at least not on purpose. They are not dumb. They are not bad kids. They are not rebels. They don’t deserve to be punished. They simply may suffer from undiagnosed or untreated ADD.
With ADD in children, associated behavioral issues may show up. To the parents, the signs seem to point to bad character, willful rebellion, or disrespect toward the teacher. But the issue is actually something they are not able to control without help just like I couldn’t read the writing on the chalkboard unless I moved closer or could put on corrective eyeglasses.
Can you imagine the harm that this disability causes to a child, to his or her identity? It can affect their confidence. It begins to affect their perception of their self as a competent human able to learn. Self-esteem and confidence in their ability begin to plummet.
For me, as a child and as a teenager, I loved to learn. I had been gifted with a brilliant mind. I was able to learn quickly and had excellent comprehension. In a classroom environment, I could thrive because I was able to hyper-focus. I learned how to memorize answers. Many ADD’ers can do this. I’ll say more on this topic later. I was able to make an “A” on any test that I chose to study for… if I was interested and not bored.
High School was usually interesting because I caught a wave of advanced classes in junior and senior high right after Russia launched Sputnik and America worked hard to catch up. I had Advanced Math I and II, Geometry, Trigonometry, English, Speech, Chemistry, Science, and Physics. I even had four years of Latin. I was fortunate in that I received one of the best public school educations ever offered.
Looking back, ADD was not a minor thing. All through my life the fact of ADD – even though no one knew about it or called it by that name back then – was always with me, always plaguing me and blessing me. But the problems being caused by ADD increased as I grew older. Mistakes now had consequences. When I first began to earn a living, I had to be careful with any work that required monitoring a lot of details.
Another area I noticed later on in my role as a pastor. I had to meet new people frequently. I was expected to know their names after the first introduction. For me, this was very challenging since busy settings and lots of new faces didn’t give me the chance to lock in on their identity easily. I would avoid contact with folks if their name eluded me. This was embarrassing.
When I became married, the inability to handle multiple items without being distracted caused me to begin doubting myself. Frustrations due to being distracted or dropping the ball began to affect my marriage. Anger began to invade my self-talk, but I couldn’t identify the cause.
Twenty years into starting my family I realized that I had all of the symptoms of Adult ADD… all of them! I actually learned about my own ADD by watching my two very bright children struggle in high school. Both were diagnosed with some degree of ADD. Both are now very successful adults.
I joked about my discovery and said, “I caught ADD from my kids!” But ADD is no joke, I assure you. This book is my story.
Excerpt from Damaged by Adult ADD? copyright 2016 by Ron Wood. The book is available at Amazon.com or other online retailers or as an ebook for Kindle or other e-reader devices.