In the early 1980s, in 2nd grade, I was diagnosed with a learning disability called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Now its called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). School work was a problem for me. I loved learning but struggled academically, except in art and music. Throughout my years in school, the refrain from my instructors, tutors, coaches and professors was always the same, “Lance would make a great student (or athlete), if he just applied himself.” The not-so-nice adults labeled me lazy, uncaring, or indifferent.
Weird Little Kids
In elementary school, I remember having to leave lunch with my friends to go to the nurse’s office to take my medication. I’d wait in line with a handful of other ‘weird’ little kids for a little yellow pill. By the time I would get back to the classroom, lunch was over. To make things worse, while my class was at recess, I was sent a tutor. From inside her tiny shoebox office with no windows, I could hear my classmates on the playground just outside the door. (This is just wrong in so many ways). After school, I was usually shuttled to more tutors.
I remember someone mentioning I may have a mild case of dyslexia as well. Knowing my struggles with reading and writing, I have a sneaking suspicion that I still struggle with it. I am a very slow reader and I write even slower.
Ms. Wizard’s plan to fix me
Here’s one that will bake your noodle. I have always been left-handed. My 2nd grade teacher (I’ll call her Ms. Wizard) had a plan to ‘fix’ me. So, Ms. Wizard forced me to write with my right hand. She would say things like, “Lance is really struggling to keep up with writing assignments.” I’m sorry Ms. Wizard, you are an idiot. What did you expect? You are making me write with the wrong hand! Luckily, I survived 2nd grade with my left hand intact. (I have forgiven her ignorance-based ‘help’). Thank you for letting me vent… I feel better.
The Power of ADHD
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. The power of ADHD can be harnessed. Over the years, I knew I loved to learn but rarely accomplished tasks on time or reached my goals. My biggest struggle has not been starting a task. I love starting new things, I have ADHD, duh. I struggle with completing tasks, particularly projects that require long periods of focused attention and detail.
This is what I’ve learned and if you have ADHD you must know. We have a special ability or super-power (for helping children understand). The intense focus within our limited attention span is extremely powerful. The key is learning to harness these bursts of super-human focus.
BTW, If you have ADHD and are still reading this, congrats because I’ve already taken two breaks.
How can you harness the power of ADHD?
- Recognize and admit that you are different (that is a good thing)
- Understand that outliers like you and me learn differently
- You have a gift. I have come to absolutely believe that ADD/ADHD and Dyslexia are gifts NOT disabilities
- Your approach to problem solving will be unique and effective
- Don’t listen to fools (experts) tell you that you need ‘fixing’
- Set bite-sized goals (measurable, time limit, specific, personalized and in writing)
- Keep a to-do list with the most important task on top (knock it out first)
- Buy a stop-watch with a timer
15 minute intervals can save you 15 hours per week
I work in 15 minute recurring intervals. When I begin a task, I set my watch timer for 15 minutes and get going. My watch beeps at the end of 15 minutes. If I’m not working on the same task I began 15 minutes ago, I get back on track. This keeps me from drifting into something else like debating people on Facebook, chasing squirrels, etc.
After two intervals (30 minutes), I try to get up and do something completely unrelated to the task. I may stretch, read, get some water, go outside to get some air or play with my children. My little break may take 5 to 10 minutes. But, never more than 15 minutes because my timer goes off telling my that it’s time to get back to the task.
I’ve learned that my attention span is about 15 minutes but my focus is extremely intense during that time. I just need some walls to bounce off of to keep things moving forward.
Experiment and have fun
All I can say is that this works for me. It may not work for you. But, its worth trying, right? Anything is better than that sinking feeling that you wasted time, failed at accomplishing something important or let someone down. Either way, trying this for a few days will teach you something about yourself and the value of time.
One size doesn’t fill all
If your child had been diagnosed with a ‘learning disability’ it simply means they do not learn the same as others in our massive institutionalized, one-size-fits-all education system. Outliers are the world-changers. Average people striving to be average in a below-average system never change anything. The greatest artists, scientists and entrepreneurs in history probably had ADD/ADHD or something else. When you learn differently, you see the world differently! Your solutions to problems will be different. Please see it as a gift. Harness it and encourage others to do the same.
God blessed me with ADHD. He allowed me to wrestle with it until I accepted it and learned to harness it.
Wait, there goes a squirrel…….!