Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with a group of special education teacher candidates at the college where Ethan works. As part of my M.Ed, I've done a bit of research on girls with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - a topic that is near and dear to my heart, as I WAS a girl with (undiagnosed) ADHD. My research and my personal experience afforded me the opportunity to share with these students the challenges in identifying and helping these girls.
When we think of ADHD, we tend to think of little rambunctious boys who are disruptive and uncontrollable. These students exhibit signs of the predominantly hyperactive/impulsive subtype of ADHD. The other subtype is predominantly inattentive, and its symptoms can be more subtle. Girls with ADHD almost always have this subtype, and so are considered spacey, disorganized or even just lazy... instead of being identified and helped.
I wasn't diagnosed until I was 21, and even then, various doctors have gone back and forth about whether I truly have ADHD or if the symptoms are due to my depression. (ADHD often leads to depression. Depression leads to attention problems. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?) I was lucky to have a knack for test-taking and the ability to process information quickly, so the fact that I rarely completed homework did not hinder my academic success like it does for most undiagnosed girls. But, I know the frustration and self-esteem issues that come from not being able to focus and not knowing why. I'm burdened to teach future teachers to recognize the more subtle signs of predominantly inattentive ADHD so that they may notice what their colleagues may miss... and work with the students to develop strategies for coping. Girls with ADHD are significantly more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and eating disorders, and more prone to substance abuse, promiscuity and teen pregnancy. It's a big deal!
(That's my soapbox, I'm climbing down now.)
Anyway, I prepared a powerpoint presentation (at 1AM the morning it was "due" - have I mentioned I have ADHD?)... I rehearsed transitions in my head, associated anecdotes and additional facts with certain slides... put the flash drive containing the powerpoint presentation in my purse... baked snickerdoodles to leave in the faculty lounge... double-checked that I had my flash drive... got dressed, aiming for casual professional... triple-checked my purse for the flash drive... took a few deep breaths and headed out the door, determined to show that a girl with super-late diagnosed ADHD could be put-together, confident, competent... started the car, put on some "you can do this" music... pulled out of the apartment complex (jubilant that I hadn't forgotten anything)... got stuck at a red light... sighed...
SMACKED self in head for forgetting the husband's Tylenol, turned around went back.
Grabbed the Tylenol (took one, that head smack HURT!), checked my purse for my flash drive, and drove to the university.
Received a very nice introduction from the professor, and a warm welcome from the students... popped my flash drive into the computer (take THAT, ADHD! I did NOT forget my flash drive!)...
The presentation refused to open with that particular version of powerpoint. DANGIT!!
So instead of an example of coping strategies working for a successful young woman with ADHD, these poor kids got to listen to, and even help me through, a fairly rambling narrative that included some facts from my research, some personal experiences and a pretty good-sized dose of "umm... where was I?" Which is totally consistent with how a person with ADHD reacts to stress - the symptoms kick into HIGH gear! At least the kids (and by kids, I mean people like 3 years younger than I am, eek!) were gracious and encouraging! And I did manage to cover the high points... just not as polished-ly as I would have liked :-)
And, they got to watch adult ADHD in action! Hopefully, it was a valuable learning experience for them, even if it wasn't the experience I had planned :-)
For making it through that ridiculously long blog post, I leave you with this: