For those who don’t know what ADHD is. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It also exists without the “H” but that’s a bit rarer than the full version of this disorder.
Yesterday I watched a video by a youtuber who tried to explain what it is like to have ADHD and he didn’t like that it is called a “disorder” because he didn’t experience it that way. (I will link that video below)
While I was perfectly able to relate to every other aspect of that video, because I have ADHD, I had to disagree with the part that it’s not a disorder.
Things are called “disorder” because the person having that disorder functions differently, not because there is something wrong with them. Maybe this misunderstanding was the reason for him to disagree with it.
Like the guy in the video, I have never been medicated for it and I am happy about that. Why? Because medication against ADHD usually numbs your brain down but I would like to keep my thoughts because they make me who I am. This type of medication is designed to stop that seemingly randomness in ones brain. The brain of an ADHD person is unable to filter information the way a “normal” brain would. It is not laziness or carelessness of the person. It the brain and the person can’t change that.
Let me give you a few examples from my own life (a bit like in my post about introverts) so you can understand a little better:
When I am supposed to learn something new I usually have a big problem to read and understand because I can’t focus on boring things for extended periods of time. While a “normal” person can usually force themselves to concentrate, my brain can’t do it. Believe me I tried! What works much better for me is everything hands on. Being told (I have a very good memory actually) what I need to know and then seeing it and trying it will teach me faster and I will remember it more reliably.
I have a million hobbies. As a child I would take about every extra class that was even remotely interesting to me. I would be in the school choir, in the band, in the school newspapers, the theater group, acrobatics, soccer, circus group, and musical. When I left that school and joined a different school I joined everything there: HipHop dance, basket ball, theater, French course. Outside school I would find everything that was for free and I would join it. In addition I taught myself to play the guitar. In the band I learnt how to play the e-bass. At my grandparent’s house I taught myself to play the synthesizer and later on I learnt the piano. I tried the violin and the accordeon. I learnt to play tinwhistle and the recorder. I play the drums and most other percussion instruments including the whole orff set. I can also sing, love photography, and filming things. Apart from that my greatest hobbies are baking, cooking, riding the bike, inline skating, and online gaming.
Yes, all of that. And this huge list is missing all the things that were a hobby for only a short time like astronomy or quantum physics.
It took a long time for me to learn to stick with one project and make that one a success before starting something else. I am 30 now. Can you believe that only a year ago I figured out how to stick with one or two projects instead of starting 20 and keeping everything unfinished?
Why start so many projects, you may ask. Well something appeals to me and I want to do it *NOW” but you know how every project has its boring parts. Once that part starts I will lose interest. I will try to get through it but something else will distract me and I will forget about my project.
No attention-span whatsoever:
You know those jokes? “Oh look! A squirrel!” the randomness, and inability to stay focused in a conversation, might be funny and in jokes a bit overdone, but they are actually true. The guy in the video explains this part perfectly.
Basically while you say something your head fills up with 10 more ideas, you think about those ideas while you talk and suddenly you forget what you were about to say. That is annoying for the person you are talking to but it happens. While this doesn’t happen as much to me, other people with ADHD have that problem a lot. For me it is more when people talk to me. They tell me something and my mind wanders off for no good reason and even when I find the story interesting. I randomly giggle because a thought crosses my mind.
Let me try to explain that. Say my husband explains to me how an engine works, and while he is talking I see a man crossing the street who has a monkey on his shirt, and I in return have to think about a monkey sitting in the car eating a banana, and when the banana is eaten, the monkey throws the banana out of the window, and the next person is stepping on it and falling like in slapstick comedy. At this point I have a stupid grin on my face while my husband explains about how to exchange oil but I missed how he got there and he will get annoyed because he has to find out where he lost me and explain again. – Yes, that happens a lot.
You know how we seem kind of restless at times? It is one of the side-effects our brain activity has on our bodies. It is not something we are doing consciously. We are venting the hyper activity in our brain by moving our leg or hands constantly. This can be stronger or lighter. I have a very light form of that. I can deal with not moving a lot – not for very long, but I can. And when I move, it is not as much as others. I will either play with something in my hands or move a foot a bit. But usually in a very un-annoying way for the people that are with me at the time.
While all of these things seem like huge problems, there is a good side to it. The fact that you are interested in so many things and you try them all out, makes you know what you are good at. You get to understand a lot of things better because you tried them all. I always thought I would like to become a programmer, but when I tried to learn programming, I found out that it is not my thing really. I love to work on the computer though and that is how I got the job I have right now.
The job I have right now is also a good example for a great work athmosphere that works with people who have ADHD. It should be implemented in normal schools, but that is just my opinion.
What makes my job so special? My employer does have targets and you need to work to a very high quality. This means a certain workload has to be completed at the end of the day and things must be done correctly in 99% of the cases. There is a strict quality review that includes feedback when a mistake has been made so you don’t do it again.
Of course we need to be at work at a certain time and we need to stay for a certain time. All the normal work stuff that everybody knows.
We can have breaks whenever we need them unless there is a meeting of course. We can eat and drink at the desk. We are allowed to listen to music or even watch youtube. As long as the workload is completed and the quality fits, we can do pretty much whatever we like.
What does this to my work?
I am a perfectionist and I like when I do my work 100% correct but I do need a lot of small breaks. Usually I really just stare out of the window for a few minutes when I can’t focus anymore. And when I am in a hurry, I listen to GTA radio (yes… and usually K-Rose, in case anybody wants to know). But this work environment makes it possible for me to deliver good work. So good indeed that I was told that I am top of my team which I have never been told before (in work environments that were not that free and trusting).
So how deal with an ADHD person? (wow that sounds bad!)
- Don’t take it personal when we lose focus. It’s annoying for you but we can’t help it.
- When you see that we are losing focus, ask us a question, engage us in the conversation.
- When we seem random, either ask how we got to that thought, or just deal with it.
- Don’t tell us to “just focus for a second!” because we can’t. Give us a minute to stare a whole into the wall and then continue.
- Understand that looking away doesn’t mean that we are not paying attention anymore. Try me, I dare you 😛
- If you have a child with ADHD that can’t focus on the homework, allow it to have little (LITTLE) breaks of 5 minutes. For example do math problem one, go drink a glas of water, do the next problem, go use the toilet, do the next problem, get a chewing gum, …. and so on. (I might dedicate a post, on how to deal with an ADHD child, in the future.)
AT TEACHERS: Please, don’t just be happy that the medicated ADHD child is so much more quiet now. It is quiet because its brain has been numbed. How good is that for the health, what do you think? And if the child suddenly starts lashing out, do not take it personal. In that case it is likely wrongly medicated, and that is the feedback the parents need. Not a note “Timmy is too aggressive!” but a note “Has Timmy changed his medication? He seems more agitated.” Yes, it’s a few more words, but it helps you, the class, Timmy, and his parents. Try to help those kids, they are not stupid and they are not doing it on purpose!
Here is the video that inspired this post: