Spring Break with Jonathan Chesner Jonathan grew up in San Diego, California, and now lives in Los Angeles. He is the author of ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild. (Be sure to check out the book video!) Read our interview with Jonathan and find out the motivation behind writing ADHD in HD, why he loves dolphins, and how teachers can make life easier for their students with ADHD.
Q: What prompted you to write ADHD in HD? A: Well, I was at a friend’s holiday party and a mutual friend introduced me to his girlfriend, a special education teacher who works with a lot of kids with ADHD. I was sharing how discouraging and difficult growing up with ADHD can be, especially in a school setting, and how fortunate I was to overcome a lot of the negative stuff and she said, “You should write a book!” I felt like lightning had hit my spine—I knew I had to create this book. It’s been smooth sailing ever since. Q: What was the best/most rewarding part of developing your book? A: Hearing “Oh man, I totally understand!” or “I thought I was the only one who deals with that” from other “special brains.” Also, when my mom read the manuscript and said, “Wow . . . this helps me understand you a lot better.” Just knowing that this book can make a special brain’s life better stokes me out to no end! Q: What is the goal of ADHD in HD? A: Growing up it was really easy for me to get depressed when I focused on a lot of the negative aspects of ADHD, like being reprimanded for talking out of turn, my inability to focus, and having a tough time reading social cues. Since you can’t tell who has ADHD based on looks, the goal of this book is to let “special brains” know that they aren’t the only ones who struggle with this stuff. Since it’s taken me forever to learn how to manage the downsides of ADHD and play up the positives, I want to share that. Maybe I can help authority figures better understand what it’s like to have ADHD. And I hope everybody laughs a lot.
Q: What book inspired you the most as a child? A: A book in the series Impact Zone. It was about a kid who decided he wants to follow his dream to go to Hawaii to surf this one wave. One day he gets fed up and just packs up and leaves. The book had some pretty realistic stuff in it (drug use, sex, someone gets killed, etc.). I liked it because it was a very accurate book about chasing after something—and the ups and downs that come with it—and it involved surfing. Q: What was your favorite thing about school as a kid? A: I had a U.S. History teacher who really believed in me and encouraged me. She recognized my minor outbursts and squirminess as passion. It was the first class I got an A in and it was because I was interested in the subject and I had someone believe in me and know my capabilities—which, in turn, made me want to excel and not let her down. Q: What was your least favorite thing about school? A: There were a few kids who were pretty mean to me. So I wasn’t amped on those guys, plus math. I also didn’t like the teachers who wouldn’t let me engage with them or were overly formal. Q: Any advice for teachers on how to make life easier for their students with ADHD? A: Be supportive and find ways to make demonstrating the material learned more accessible for kids with ADHD. Sometimes expecting someone to put all their applied knowledge in an essay or a test isn’t going to inspire the same hunger or desire for excellence as an art project, writing a screenplay, or making a comic strip. Also recognize that being able to memorize and parrot back information doesn’t always make you intelligent, it just means your mind is good at being filled with other people’s ideas.
Q: What is the most difficult part of having ADHD? A: Either not being able to easily control zoning off or getting really excited and not thinking things through. While answering this Q&A, I’m in the zone and focused. But five minutes ago while I was reading a book on patents . . . ? Not so much.
Q: What is the best thing about living with ADHD? A: Probably how excited I can get about things. When I’m doing something I love I can be more amped up than a 5-year-old on a case of energy drinks!
Q: What are your favorite meals? A: Breakfast burritos with bacon, dumplings, sushi (eel rolls!), Mandarin-style Chinese food, and sub sandwiches with turkey, avocado, roast beef, bacon, and sprouts.
Q: If you could trade spots with one animal for a day, what would you be? A: A dolphin, obviously! Dolphins always seem to be really happy. I think it’d be a lot of fun to get to swim around, jump high, and splash around in the waves. Anyone who spends enough time around me will eventually see my dolphin impression—I’m already practicing!
Q: What makes you a “Free Spirit”? A: One of my friends said this to me and it has always made me smile: “Jonathan, what I like about you is when you decide you want to do something, you just do it. You don’t sit around and think about it and weigh the costs or the odds, you just go after it.” So whether it’s writing a book, going around the world, or even just grabbing a sleeping bag and driving up the coast, I guess I’m more of a “free spirit” than most.
Q: What’s next in your life? A: Since I feel like I’m up to something new every few years, I guess the best answer I can give is only God knows. Ideally, I’d like to learn how to make clothing patterns so I can make my own clothes. I’m currently working with a good friend of mine on a wheelchair invention, called Hi Five Hand Holds. Maybe find a Mrs. Chesner and make a few special brains further down the line?
See Jonathan in action (and check out his dolphin impression) in the ADHD in HD book video.