Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A.D.D. Doesn't Exist!

As someone who was diagnosed with ADD in 1996 and prescribed Ritalin, then Dexedrine, then Adderall for nearly 10 years I can confidently tell you that ADD doesn't exist.

Whoever came up with the name Attention Deficit Disorder didn't have it and obviously wasn't thinking.  Most of the people treated for ADD are children and teenagers.  What is the message we send?  I know it affected me.  Caleb, there is something wrong with you, you have a deficit, you are lacking, you have a disorder. You need to take this medicine so you can be normal.  It wasn't good for me.  What was wrong with who I was and why did I need to change?  I still don't get that whole idea.

What is "NORMAL"?  Who determined that ADD wasn't the norm and it was everyone else that was off?  I'm going to come up with a term and flip it on everyone.

Let me first address the medicine.  The drugs listed above don't cure or fix ADD.  Sure they may help you concentrate and focus but they don't help you make the right decision. You could take a pill and just hyper-focus you on what ever it was you decided to do.  For me, sometimes it was cleaning, or video games, or occasionally homework.  I learned, especially in college, that I had to schedule my classes a certain way so that I could utilize the pill's effectiveness while I had the chance. Let's be honest, I wasn't going to go home and do homework. So to fix that I would schedule a math class or a class I knew would have lots of homework and then an hour or two hour break before my next class. I knew that if I was on that pill I needed to do the homework while I had Superman focus. I learned to harness the pill's power and channel that into the things I didn't want to do while I was on it.

It was tough though. I remember sitting in the hall doing my homework and my body would be freaking out on the inside.  I had stand up from my chair and physically calm my body down. These drugs are stimulants and they can mess you up.

Speaking of school, I am notoriously bad at math, algebra mostly.  (It was actually a math teacher that suggested to my parents that maybe I had ADD.)  When I got to college I took math 1010, Intro to Algebra, FIVE times before I passed it.  Not because I was terrible at it but because I didn't put myself in a position to succeed.  Also because algebra doesn't interest me, at all

First time I took it I didn't have a teacher.  We sat in little cubicle desks and had a work book and the work book was supposed to teach me hot to math.  There was a TA that would walk around an answer questions if you had one.  It didn't help that I had a snowboarding class on Thursdays that didn't technically overlap with my math class but the first bus up to the mountain left when I was supposed to be in class.  Snowboarding...now that interests me.

Next, I took an online course. Fail. You can't expect me to do something I don't enjoy because it is the right thing to do.  You can call that ADD if you want to but I call it normal.

Finally after a few more attempts I passed math 1010. Next up was Math 1050 and I failed it. Took it the next semester and got a teacher that spoke my math language.  I don't know what it was specifically but the guy helped me understand it.  I passed it easily.  Then calculus. I took it from the same teacher and passed it again first try.

While I am not naturally gifted in math per se, it just took the right teacher to help me understand the concepts in a way that made sense to me.  Because look, I think it is stupid to have an imaginary number 'i.' Also when you ask stupid questions like, if a turkey comes out of the oven at 250 degrees how long does it have to cool before it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees given that room temp is 71 degrees and it cools at (X) rate.

That is a stupid question on several levels. The answer is: IRRELEVANT. No sane person would wait the hour it takes for it to cool to that temperature. You have to wait at least 10-15 minutes because if you cut into a turkey without letting it rest the juices will will bleed out and ruin it.  That's a cook talking not a math wizard.  But also you have to take into account when you carve the turkey it will cool off at a much faster rate.  I'm not going to do math to determine when it is safe to eat a turkey once it has been cooked.  My mouth has the ability to sense heat.  If it is too hot I won't put it in my mouth.

Tangent. Sorry.

My point is that there is a lot to be said about teaching methods.  Not everyone learns like you do.  Some are visual, some prefer lectures, some need hands on real life experience with it before they understand it.  I wasn't great at physics in high school but I did build an award winning catapult in that class.  My ability to build out the concept was better than my ability to prove or explain it on a piece of paper.

If you took a look at my college transcripts you would see that in the classes that involved my major (marketing) I got really good grades.  Those classes: Principles in Marketing, Sales and Sales Management, Promotional Marketing, Marketing Research, Internet Marketing, Strategic Management, ect., were all classes that I was interested in.  These concepts and subjects captured my attention. Where economics, finance, geology, accounting didn't float my boat and my grades suffered.

I don't have trouble paying attention to the things I like paying attention to.  I find it strange that people find that strange. Your ability to focus on certain things, different things, doesn't mean I have a disorder.  It means I like to do what I like to do.  That shouldn't be strange or weird or wrong or diagnosable. If we don't think the same way or learn the same way doesn't mean your way is better than my way.  Your ability to determine when to mathematically eat a turkey doesn't mean you can cook one.

People are different and have different brains that see things differently.  I've used this example in the past.  Take a drinking fountain.  When you see one, what goes through your brain if you were to really stop and think about it?

A biologist may think of the germs on the handle and spout.  An engineer may think about the mechanics of how the water is pumped out.  A physicist may see the effects of gravity on the water as it is pulled down the drain. A plumber may see the inner workings of pipes and drains. A personal trainer may be reminded that people need to drink more water every day. A mathematician  may see it and think about how to calculate the parabola the water forms. A marketing person may look at it and think, how can I improve this so I can sell more drinking fountains?  That is the beauty of life and humanity.  There are people who like different things and who are good at different things. 

You can try to blame ADD for your child's misbehavior but it isn't ADD.  In all honesty, your child is probably bored.  Your child is not interested in certain things.  That is a fact of life.  You know what happens when kids become bored and disinterested?  They start looking for things that interest them and it usually causes some kind of disturbance. 

If you think your child is "suffering" from ADD maybe it is because they are not being stimulated by the right things.  What is it they like?  Find out and steer them in that direction.  Be careful not to judge their interests as worthless or dumb.  If the kid likes to work on cars or build things or solve puzzles, GO WITH IT!  If they like to organize, clean, cook, play sports, teach, or dance; feed that passion and desire.  You will find that suddenly there is far less deficit than you thought.  Don't make them grow up into something you think they should become.  Let them become them.

My dad told me that when he was young he would get in trouble in grade school because he would act out and disrupt the class.  It wasn't because he was stupid or wasn't learning the material, it was the exact opposite.  He was really smart.  He learned more quickly than the other kids.  So while they caught up to him he became something of a trouble maker in the teacher's eyes.  They thought he may have had a learning disability.  Turns out they were exactly wrong.

You can say ADD exists if it makes you feel better about yourself or works as an excuse for your child and their behavior but you are just selling yourself short.  The fact is, ADD doesn't exist.  Some people just do things differently than you and you don't understand it.  I have come to terms with it and it is time you do too.


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