gratitude-a-thon day 36: attention deficit disorder (squirrel!)


I could never shut up as a kid in school. I talked incessantly, being told to be quiet, several times a day, only to start talking again moments after being reprimanded. I was smart, but social, my teachers would say. And I don’t think I ever got a report card that did not state in loopy penmanship, “talks too much,” and “does not work up to her potential.” In kindergarten I had to sit in the corner by myself one day because I was talking. I came home sobbing, and told my older sister about my misery, who replied, “Welcome to the Friedman motormouths.” As young as I was, I somehow knew that I was following in a less than desirable family tradition. When I had my son, it didn’t take long for the letters A.D.D. to be bantered around. (SQUIRREL!) He was a tornado of activity from his earliest moments. And while he was clearly super bright and engaging, his activity level and curiosity dogged us from his earliest school experiences. I won’t go into the whole, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY LONG story in detail, but after having him tested in 2nd grade, we found he did indeed have A.D.D., and the school thought he should be put on medication, but we resisted, feeling adamantly opposed to the idea of medicating a 7 year old. By third grade, with the help of an exceptional therapist, who was acting as a sort of parent coach to us, supporting us to make the right decisions with Jake, and a highly experienced, and extraordinary 3rd grade teacher, it became obvious that it was time to seriously consider medication. My husband took a month off from work, and the two of us immersed ourselves in making this decision. We read everything we could, and even visited the renowned Edward Hallowell, the author of “Driven to Distraction.” It wasn’t easy, but drowning in research and exhausted from thinking, we decided to try it. And within three weeks, his teacher called him an “ideal student.” Jake was feeling good about himself, because, what his medication did for him is the same thing as glasses do for a person with nearsightedness. As my husband and I learned about A.D.D., we realized that we both had it, but had learned strategies to cope with it. There was no such moniker as A.D.D. when we were kids, so therefore there was no help for it (the truth is there was no drug for it, so there was no name for it). My daughter, a chatter box like her mom, wasn’t diagnosed until fifth grade, but of course, when the symptoms appeared, we knew exactly who to see, and how to test. But don’t cry for us, Argentina!  Yes, we are the A.D.D. family, but  I’ve got to tell you, I’ve found that A.D.D. people are some of the most creative and interesting I have met. Those three letters may make it more difficult to focus, but they also seem to make it more possible to take in lots of information, and tap into creativity in fascinating and off-beat ways. And more than not, A.D.D. people are often quite social and have an insatiable curiosity for life. We think of it as a positive in our family. And we treat it like that. I’m not saying, it doesn’t require more work to live with A.D.D, but I am saying I’m grateful for it. Yup, I actually am. It’s kind of a cool sort of malady, once you get the hang of it. It’s thought that Einstein, Mozart, da Vinci,  Churchill, Walt Disney, Alexander Graham Bell, and John Lennon, among other creative and high-achieving people had it, too. And while I may not contribute anything nearly as monumental, or significant as those examples, I’m pretty darn happy to be in their company.

9 thoughts on “gratitude-a-thon day 36: attention deficit disorder (squirrel!)

  1. I spent all of first grade sitting in the library corner because I talked to my neighbors and they couldn’t do their work…..and after I read all the books, they called my parents in…..

  2. Not working up to her potential. That sentence followed me as well – all through school! Not because of A.D.D. but because I was BORED and unreachable (and had/have fear of math) – the teaching methods were so different back then – and I was/am a kid who needs to understand the ‘story’ of how things work and happen. That’s when things stick. Rote memorization never worked for me. As always – your stories strike a chord…

  3. 151 Positive Characteristics of People with Attention Deficit Disorder.

    Ability to find alternate paths to overcome obstacles
    Able to take on large situations
    Adventurous, courageous, lives outside of boundaries
    Always finding alternate routes to any given location.
    Always willing to help others
    Ambitious – you want to be everything when “you grow up”
    Attractive personality – magnetic due to high energy
    Being able to see the big picture
    Being able to see the patterns in the chaos.
    Being intuitive towards others’ difficulties
    Broad focus – can see more, notice things more
    Can create order from chaos
    Can do many projects at once
    Can make people feel they are heard
    Can see the big picture
    Can talk about several things at one time
    Can think on my feet
    Career variety
    Centre of attention
    Comfortable talking in front of groups
    Comfortable with change and chaos
    Compassion for others and for themselves
    Conceptualizes well
    Constantly evolving
    Creates connections easily
    Creative writing
    Creative – musical, artistic, “dramatic”
    Good in a crisis
    Good at customer relations
    Determined to gain more control
    Eager to make friends
    Eager to try new things
    Empathetic, sensitive
    Excellent organizers using journals and reminders (notes etc.)
    Flexible – changes as the situation requires
    Fun guy to be around
    Good at conceptualizing
    Good at motivating self and others
    Good at multitasking
    Good at problem solving
    Good at public speaking
    Good at understanding others/mind reading – empathetic
    Good conversationalist
    Good delegator and good at organizing others
    Good in emergency situations
    Good listener
    Good looking and aware of it
    Good people skills
    Good self esteem, energetic
    Great brain-stormer
    Great multitasker
    Great self-company
    Great sense of humour
    Great storyteller
    Great with kids (central figure around kids)
    Hands-on workers
    Hard worker
    Has friendly relations with their family
    Has the gift of gab
    Helps others who are also in trouble
    High energy – go, go, go
    Humour, very healthy, quick picking up ideas
    Hyper focus !!
    Hypersensitive – very empathetic and good at non-verbal communications
    Idea generator
    Impulsive (in a good way) not afraid to act
    It’s ok to not finish everything
    Learning as much as I can to help children and others with adhd
    Less sleep is good (midnight to 6 am)
    Like to talk a lot
    Likes learning new things
    Look at multidimensional sides to a situation
    Lots of interests
    Loves to cook and be creative
    Master idea generator
    Mentoring others/helpful
    Mentoring people with low self esteem
    Move on fast – never hold a grudge
    Multitasks well
    Never bored and rarely boring
    Never intimidated to try new things
    Non-linear, multi-dimensional/edge of chaos
    Not afraid to speak mind
    Not contained by boundaries.
    On stage and ready
    Holistic thinking
    Problem solver
    Quick thinking
    Quick witted
    Relates to people easily
    Saves money in the short term by forgetting to file tax returns
    See and remember details – recount them later
    Sees the big picture
    Socially adaptive and flexible.
    Stabilizer during difficult situations
    Takes initiative
    Think outside the box
    Thinks 2 meters ahead of the world
    Thinks big, dreams big
    Unlimited energy
    Very creative, able to generate a lot of ideas
    Very hard working to compensate – workaholic
    Very intuitive
    Very resourceful
    Very successful
    Visual learner
    Willing to explore
    Willing to take risks
    Willingness to help others
    Won’t tolerate boredom
    Works well under pressure

  4. Admire your ability to tell this to the world.. As an adult who has ADD I find it hard to admit it to people. Like you I think that it is one of my better traits but I still do not like the looks people give when I admit I have it. As yuo mentioned years ago they didn’t have the diagnosis, when they finally gave it a name they thought that only boys could have it. (I remember reading a book about ADD in my late teens and saying this is me, I have this and I am a girl) When my daughter was very young I noticed that she was the little girl who couldn’t sit and string beads or play tea party. She was the girl who needed to have her body move. I knew that more than likely she would be diagnosed and she was in first grade. Medicating her was very very difficult, I still remember the first time I gave it to her. We tend to keep this part to ourselves as people, actually some friends have reacted so harshly to our choice. It hasn’t always been easy just thankful that we could get her the help she needs so she doesn’t struggle as I did in school.

    Just this week I as talking to a colleague who lives in Brookline. He knows my daughter goes to a private school and was asking about it. I asked him why he was thinking of sending his son to private school. He said that Brookline schools have a lot of students with disabilites like ADD and that his son is picking up bad habits from these kids. I was about to explode but didn’t. I immediately told him that on our floor there are at least 4 parents who have ADD children, me included, and that I can say with certainty that it isn’t contagious. I asked further what bad habits his son had picked up from his supposed ADD friends and he said that he was pulling his hair our and now has a bald spot. (I was holding my tongue as I really do like this guy). I told him that ADD children did not pull their hair out. Anyway this is the type of attitude we sometimes encounter.

    Thanks for writing about this

    1. i guess i’m fine with telling the world this, because i don’t think it’s a terrible thing. it just is, like being born with bad eyesight. i definitely subscribe to the “you’re only as sick as your secrets” idea. for anybody who wants to judge my husband and i for putting our kids on medication, i say, “put our shoes on, do the amount of research we’ve done, and get back to us.” i honestly believe A.D.D. comes with a huge number of positives. I choose to celebrate them til the cows come home!

  5. Well said as always Toni. Let’s all celebrate! Sounds like an excuse for a party.
    I always thought it made me good at multi tasking :-). And I can’t believe what Linda said about that guy. She handled it well.

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