The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that 5% of American children have ADHD.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the number at more than double that. Since that last report eight years ago, there has been a 42% increase. Also, there are many adults that have not been diagnosed, because it wasn’t looked at the same way when they were young as it is now. When the Baby Boomer Generation were children, our parents were told we didn’t pay attention in class and maybe needed glasses to see the board better.
I am one of the Adults that was not diagnosed when I was in school as a child.
I was a good kid, but my teacher referred to me as the “class clown” to my aunt (she was also a teacher) when she attended my parent/teacher conferences. They said the same thing every year. I had potential, but didn’t pay attention.
However, my problem was with my brain, but I just didn’t know it. I just seemed never to be able to concentrate on the daily lessons. My mind would wander all over the place and zone out the teacher.
Scanned Drawing by a nine-year-old artist
I loved to draw. My specialty was drawing Snoopy sleeping on his house and little hairy characters holding signs that said Peace or Love on them. The teacher, Mrs. Harris would hover like a dark cloud around the room while she talked and I was in deep thought…lost in my drawings. I would be awakened by a hand either ripping my ear off my head or pulling my hair violently. Then, I would have to stand off to the side of the class in front and do toe touches…50 was usually the number doled out as punishment. If I wasn’t going to exercise my mind, I would exercise my body.
Sometimes in school, I felt like Dug the dog, in the movie "Up…"
One of my other traits was to put off doing homework until the last possible moment. Book reports were the worst. I had to read a book. A whole book would take forever. Then, I would have to write a report about it. I loved to hear the teacher say, “one page one side.” I would copy the dust jacket as my report. I got away with it a couple of times, but not for long. I guess the way my reports looked did not represent my ability in class. Even to this day, I have trouble reading anything of any length, so I stick with short stories.
I wasn’t really a hyperactive kid that I know of. Everyone played outside every day except in rain or bitter cold. We didn’t sit around much. We played all kinds of outdoor games. It’s not like now, where kids sit in front of a TV or a computer playing games and if they show any sign of wanting to be active they are looked at as being hyperactive…instead of hypoactive.
As I progressed through school, the same pattern emerged. I would be really good at a subject, but then get bored with it. Teachers didn’t understand my change in attitude. I failed or barely passed my classes. I failed English every year and had to take summer school. The books I was turned on to in summer school were actually interesting…Fahrenheit 451 and Dandelion Wine, both written by Ray Bradbury, and The Jungle by Upton Sinclair…nice short books.
At twenty-one, I started an apprenticeship at a printing company as a lithographer. My job was creating film work for the mass production of printed material. When I was working, I would get so frustrated because my boss would go over a project with me and I would shake my head “yes,” and really what he was saying just went through me.
In the beginning, it was difficult because I had to be told what to do. But after a few years, I became skilled enough to do the work without any instruction other than what was on the artboard. I eventually was able to adapt to that because it was a type of job that only required me to do the work in a quiet environment.
I didn’t really understand what was going on with me until I enrolled in a massage therapy program. I was having trouble following the lecturer. I would try to take notes, but could not keep up with what they were saying, so I started taping the lessons. I found the noise from the other students, even clicking their pens would distract me. What was particularly difficult was being in the lab trying to study while people were talking. I could not concentrate. So to alleviate that, I spent a lot of alone time studying in the lab outside of class hours. I had to work extra hard to pass the classes. It was a fight, because I had to study medical books to learn my materials which took a lot of concentration. It was at this point that I decided to talk to my doctor.
I talked to my doctor and explained to her my issues that I’d been dealing with since I was a kid. I told her about my troubles in the school that I was currently attending. She asked some questions and listened to my answers. She said I had the symptoms of ADHD, and with proper medication, it could be helped. I felt kind of weird. All these years of struggling in class, my mind wandering, being easily being distracted, wanting to start new projects, but not finishing them only to start new ones, getting bored with other college classes I attempted in the past, getting bored with jobs and leaving them…here was an answer.
I started the medication, and while it wasn’t a cure, it helped.
Now, I am older and doing something I never thought I would be able to do- I write. I write articles for MadisonsCPC. I’ve written a children’s story. I complete thoughts and most projects, and while I still get distracted and have issues in public places with background noise, I’m doing better. I feel I have found my niche. From a kid that barely passed any type of structured class to a person who can write a lengthy article that some people may find interesting.
For those Baby Boomers that have symptoms similar to what I’ve described, it’s not too late to ask your doctor. Don’t be one of the uncounted statistics. There is hope.