Tuesday, August 17, 2010

One man's experience with Attention Deficit Disorder - a blessing in disguse?

The article below originally found on "Like the Dew, a Journal of Southern Culture and Politics", touched me in many ways and I thought I would share it with you.  Thoughts??

My Companion for 67 Years
by Jack deJarnette

I was born with it, although I didn’t know it or understand it. It has been a constant companion all of my life. Once I thought it a curse, today I count it a blessing. Its name is Attention Deficit Disorder. I resent that label since I believe that it is not a disorder at all, but just a different way of thinking. People with A.D.D. process information quite differently than so called normal thinkers. I grew up in a time when A.D.D. had not yet been defined. Those of us who thought in a different way were simply considered lazy, non-workers, and given other unkind labels. Sometimes I was called stupid. I knew that wasn’t true, my I.Q. had been measured at 138. Often I was told that if I had character I would study more and my grades would improve. There are two difficulties here–first there was no way I could study more and the second was that no matter how I tried I could not concentrate. My mind was good for maybe thirty seconds then it was on to something else. The harder I tried the worse it got. I felt like an animal trapped in a cage. I was not hyperactive; in fact, I was extremely well behaved and very compliant, I simply couldn’t concentrate.

In my early elementary school years I was an excellent student, however as subjects lasted for longer periods of time and classes were extended I realized that I was having more and more difficulty. I couldn’t stay focused for very long and so I stayed lost and confused. By the 7th grade I was really struggling. I passed all of my courses but with increasing difficulty. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew something was. My Dad met with my 7th grade teacher, the meanest and most hateful teacher that I ever had, and suggested to her that I was bored and needed more work and a greater challenge and he was right. She refused his request go give me more to do with the argument that it wouldn’t be fair to me. I just needed to learn to concentrate. Try as hard as I could, concentration for periods longer than 5 or 10 minutes simply escaped me. I could think of many things almost simultaneously, but not one thing for long.

My 8th grade year was an academic disaster. Courses were 9 months long and classes lasted for one full hour. I lived in a dismal fog of failure. Dad stayed on my back constantly which started my resentment and anger toward him. He didn’t understand nor did I. I had to go to summer school that year where I excelled. Short classes and compressed time for courses, 8 weeks instead of 9 months made a great difference. My mind was in a state of swirling thought processes. I was multitasking before Bill Gates was born.

I went to A Military Academy starting in the 9th grade where I realized a new phenomenon. We were graded every two weeks in our course work. I did very poorly on my bi-weekly grades, but made near perfect scores on my semi-final and final exams. I learned material very quickly, but it took a longer period to process. I couldn’t recall in the short term, but seldom forgot what had been converted to long term memory. Even today I can recall much of what I learned in high school. It astounded my children that I could still show them how to work quadratic equations when they took algebra.

At the end of my senior year I had a high D average. Bi-weekly tests weighed 1/2 in grading while semi-finals and finals weighed 1/4 each. The big tests got me through and I graduated with a B+ average. I made in the high 500s in both parts of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, scored extremely high on the Academic Achievement Tests, and was in the 99th percentile on the Merit Scholarship exam.

The headmaster called me into his office and scolded me for not having applied myself saying that I could have graduated at the top of my class if I had the character to work consistently. His words, along with my Dad’s admonition to work harder and study more devastated my self-confidence.

Because of my outstanding performance in the military arts, average grades, but exceptional test scores I was offered an appointment to West Point if I would spend a year in a prep school. With my confidence shattered I decided there was no way I could survive the academic rigors of the Academy, so I refused. Only many years later did I realize that God was protecting me from the danger of war so he could use me in the tasks that I was created to perform.

Today I am thankful for the gift of a cluttered, unfocused mind. Because of that gift I have been able to achieve and accomplish far more than if I had been born normal. In all of my endeavors, I have been able to see the big picture. I am extremely creative and able to function and work outside of the box, which while often-causing distress to other more conventional thinkers, has proved to produce that which rigid thinking could never have construed.

My encouragement to those blessed with Attention Deficit Disorder is to embrace it then learn techniques to work with it and achieve success. I would say to parents with children with A.D.D. try to understand what life is like for your child. Don’t be ashamed and don’t be in denial. The sooner it is recognized and accepted the more quickly your child and you can learn to accommodate.

I claim absolutely no scientific authority from which I speak. I’m simply one who has lived with a constant companion for sixty seven years.


silverlining said...

Nice post. I too have grown up and become quite successful in spite of or probably because of ADD. However, I have come to believe that ADD is a catchall for what is really "deviation from the mean". My case was mild even though it didn't seem like it to me. I have met others with severe cases. This leads several individuals to be lumped into the same category and treated the same. The results are similar to if you treated all cancers the same, or even all illnesses. Good for some, horrendous for others. I work with a lot of kids and see it all the time. Well intentioned adults take the approach of it worked for me, so this is what the child needs. Reality is more complex, as complex as the human brain. Some children's ADD can be outside the "normal" levels and reach disability status and tremendous patience and caring are required to help. Eventually, we must all take responsibility for ourselves, but a child's success in dealing with their own issues depends greatly on how well we as adults patiently help them adapt. A blind adult must take responsibility for himself and not walk into traffic. How well will he learn this skill, however, if he grows up with everyone telling him to watch where he is going? In the end, there is no such thing as "normal" and the answer is patience and caring enough to put forth the effort to help.

silverlining said...

I thought I would take this chance to also comment on the issue of on-line anonymity since I have seen it come up here before. Some people (JH, BL, etc.) live their lives on the record. My business causes me to deal with lots of lawyers. Recently in a deposition, I was asked under oath if I had a Facebook page or if I blogged. The attorney then asked for all of my blogging aliases. I was able to claim privacy and avoid divulging. No big deal, I am just saying that with the internet, anything ever said in the public domain can be open to viewing at any time in the future, especially if you use your original name and even more so if your name is unique. Soooo, I choose to remain anonymous for most posts while still trying to act as if everything had my name on it.

Kristin said...

Watch it, Honey!..... I have a underlining feeling you are talking about me, and.... oh, look, a shiny penny!!!!.... what was I saying again??!!

Karen Bass said...

I love the post. My husband and two of my three children have ADD. People will scoff and say it is over diagnosed but it is very real and the gentleman in this post explained it very well. My husband's experience was very similar to his and I am grateful that my children will not have the same struggles. They are brilliant and creative and we try very hard to celebrate it and put them situations that allow them to shine (Odyssey of the Mind World Finals!!) But I will not lie- as a wife and mother it is incredibly frustrating at times. We have chosen not to go the medication route. We have excellent support in the local public schools and I take medication. So there you have it -the real solution is to medicate those around the ones with ADD!

knitternall said...

I shared this post with my son, who said, "you see? that's what I live with." ADD can be very isolating, both for the person with a left-turn thinking style and a family of square pegs. I agree with silverlining - it's hard to be different. We keep telling our kid that he'll find his niche and his passion once he gets out of high school, with all its pigeon holes and conformities!