It’s remarkable that a college professor had discerned what I had successfully ignored for approximately 20 years! Sure, all the signs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had been apparent since Danielle was a toddler. But my husband, a mathematics professor, and I had preconceived ideas about “those kids and parents out there who use ADHD as the excuse to end all excuses.” And so we dismissed the behaviors our daughter exhibited early on as being her unique way of relating to us and the world.
Danielle had an overabundance of energy, so we placed her in every sports program in town to wear her out. We were told she asked too many questions in school about her assignments, but was that her problem or the teacher’s? After all, teachers were paid to give clear explanations in class and to respond to questions, weren’t they? We knew she lacked the attentiveness to complete the chores we asked her to do around the house, but her big sister always chipped in to help her, so everything eventually got done. We never really understood her personal struggles until she confided in us about them during her college years.
In so many ways, Danielle and others with ADHD have a very difficult time adjusting to our world, and school is the ultimate challenge. The “odd” child sticks out like a sore thumb because a classroom filled with 20-plus children works best when there is conformity of behavior. A youngster with ADHD finds it tough to absorb information in the same way as her “normal” peers. It’s even more of a strain to sit still long enough to complete an assignment.
A mind-set among many parents and educators is that ADHD is a “curse without a cure” (other than medication) and that children with this disorder are somehow less intelligent than other kids because of their poor classroom performance. However, individuals with ADHD possess a unique way of processing information and looking at the world. When the challenge of educating them is met effectively, there is really no limit to what they can accomplish as adults.
Despite her learning difficulties, Danielle was a high school valedictorian and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College, an Ivy League institution. And yet it was never easy for her. One professor in the education department at Dartmouth even verbalized that a young adult with ADHD didn’t belong in the Ivy League!
Individuals with ADHD are the ones who give “pizzazz” to the world. A learning disability has nothing to do with one’s intelligence. Some of the brightest, most successful entrepreneurs and businessmen and women today have been diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD is a disability that can pay remarkable dividends—if we give our children a message of hope for their future, rather than an expectation of failure because they aren’t making it in school.