Last weekend, a friend of mine posted on Facebook an informative infographic about AD/HD (attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity) symptoms. An iceberg illustration showed the multi-level ways that the disorder can affect an individual’s life.
A friend replied with the comment: “Most people possess at least one of these attributes! Does this therefore mean everyone is ADHD?”
Valid question, indeed. And one that merits a detailed answer.
However, I can only speak from my experience. I was diagnosed with ADD about ten years ago now.
ADD (I’ll be using this form, since it is the type I experience) is hurrying through your shower to answer this question in a blog before you lose your train of thought. Don’t look at anything. Switch off your hearing, you may get side-tracked.
ADD is explaining an activity to your students, and noticing a car get stopped by the police for speeding on the high way directly outside the window of your conference room classroom.
ADD is stopping mid-sentence as you participate in a discussion because a beautiful snowy owl just paused to land on the lamppost of the company parking lot beneath your classroom window.
ADD is feeling embarrassed when a student asks the difference between the words themselves and theirselves, and suddenly having a blank for no apparent reason, even though English is your mother tongue.
ADD is meeting a former student’s little sister that you used to say hi to nearly every day of the school year, getting her confused with her younger sister you just spoke to, and then realizing you have forgotten her name.
ADD is preparing a class, objectives, explanations, examples, video, exercises and game based on a learning difficulty you noticed a student had, and getting to class, and being on the point of presenting the class, when you suddenly realize that you made a mistake It wasn’t that student, it was another that had that difficulty.
ADD is the anxiety that seizes you as you cruise along the high way on the way to work when you suddenly realize you forgot to take your medication.
ADD is mulling over the day when you get home and recalling the fun moments, and suddenly feel ashamed at the way you blurted out a negative comment about a situation, unprofessional and totally uncalled for, and wishing with all your heart you could just delete it – and hoping the person forgot.
The key words: suddenly realize… anxiety…embarrassment…distraction forgetfulness…impulsivity…blurt…
This is ADD. Though many people may experience the occasional bouts of forgetfulness or distraction, for a person with ADD it is a normal part of life. You want to get rid of it to just be like ‘everyone else’.
The main take-aways I got from attending a CHADD (Children & Adults with Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactive Disorder) multidisciplinary conference in Orlando, Florida in 2011, was that ADD/HD:
- a) is a real disorder, that usual comes with other disorders;
- b) affects all areas of an individual’s life: personal, professional, school, legal etc.
- c) treatment is multimodal (and no guarantee of a cure for all the unwanted symptoms!)
ADD affects various parts of the brain, such as the frontal cortex (which controls emotional expression, problem-solving, memory, and judgment) and the cerebellum (which controls sensory input and our movement, whether it be speech, posture or balance). That means a person with ADD will tend to be forgetful, easily distracted, impulsive, somewhat disorganized… and a lot of fun – since you never know what links their mind will make or what unexpected thing they will say!
Although I take medication, meditate, exercise, practice mindfulness and adopt strategies, being a teacher with ADD is a challenge. Over the years, I have learned to accept the diagnosis; I am not ADD. I deal with it and go beyond the label. It’s just a condition that adds some unexpected spice to my classroom and daily occupations.
Therefore, to go back to the question with which this post began: Does everyone have ADHD? No, definitely not. After all, people forget things, and they are impulsive on occasion. But for someone with AD/HD, life is a constant challenge as they try to cover all the eventualities of a forgetful and distracted mind. A day without medication, is a day without order. Neglecting proper nutrition and regular exercise and meditation can cause a lack of focus.
But is lack of focus always that bad? In my books, lack of focus is often the prerequisite to fun, discovery and wonder.
Have a fun day!