Upbeat News September 2012:
ADHD Awareness Month
Hi, I'm a Special Brain
adapted from ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild by Jonathan Chesner
You know what sucks? Having to tell cynical people that you have ADHD. In my experience dealing with these types of people, one of two things happens:
1) They think ADHD is an excuse and you’re just trying to get extended time on your tests or easier grading.
2) They start treating you like you’re four years old. Seriously, this rarely happens:
Person: “Why are you so squirmy? Can’t you sit still and watch this?”
Me: “I’m sorry, I have ADHD and right now I really would like to go run around outside.”
Person: “Oh, no worries.”
My name is Jonathan, and I have a special brain. I’m not making this up, and it doesn’t mean I have the IQ of a blade of grass.
I was really young when I realized that my brain wasn’t like other people’s brains. One way to describe it was that I had the type of brain that would wear a Hawaiian shirt, bright red pants, and cool painted shoes to a wedding. I felt like other people had brains that would wear three-piece suits and read textbooks. At school, all the other kids could sit behind their desks and be quiet, but my brain wanted to do jumping jacks in the corner.
Here’s another way to put it: my brain was like a dolphin and other people’s brains were like well-behaved elephants. Those brains would look at me and see some type of wild animal. But I wasn’t a wild animal; I just wasn’t a well-behaved elephant. And elephants can call dolphins unruly all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that dolphins are awesome!
For My Dolphin Bros and Sisters: Tips for Getting Homework Done and Balancing Multiple Tasks
School is a really difficult place for people with ADHD. A high percentage of special brains get in trouble or suspended, some of us even get expelled. It’s pretty easy to see why. Nobody I know gets on the school bus thinking, “Man, I really want to get the worst grade possible on my quiz today.” But sitting in a desk, learning about things that may not be interesting, and not being allowed to goof around are constricting for any kid—especially for someone with ADHD.
Some things in school I struggled with no matter how hard I tried. Some lectures were so painful I wanted to rip my skin off and throw it at the window. I’m not watering that down either! Sometimes it was because the subject would not make sense to my brain. I had some really nice math teachers, but it felt like my brain had a brick wall that stopped anything they tried to teach me. Other times it was a teacher who couldn’t handle that I would get a little more excited and talkative than the other students. These teachers misread my talking out of turn as being disruptive instead of being enthusiastic.
Starting homework was always really difficult. After the final bell rang, my brain was toast (and it’s never a good idea to re-toast toast). I spent countless evenings staring at homework problems trying to pep talk my brain into getting started.
Homework is something anybody who has a high school degree had to do. Even after high school, you’ll encounter things you won’t be hyped on, like jury duty, flu shots, or picking up after your dog. I can’t help with your jury duty or dog poop, but here are some tips for homework.
• If one subject is taking you all night (when it should only take a half hour), then that’s an issue. Approach the teacher about creating (or altering) assignments, so you aren’t spending too long on stuff. Talk to the teacher when nobody else is around, so he or she won’t feel pressure to hold the line in front of other students.
• Check your environment. A 40-minute homework assignment can turn into three hours if you switch between the TV, phone, and stray magazines. It’s way easier to go hard for one hour and finish your homework than it is to put in a compromised effort and spend a few hours on it.
• Ask for help. Find out if your school has tutoring or homework services. Check your local library, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, even church, synagogue, or mosque, to see if they offer any type of homework assistance. Having someone next to you keeping you on task is a huge help.
I hate trying to balance a full plate of responsibilities the same way I hate uncooked broccoli and trash juice (you know, the liquid puddle at the bottom of the trash can). Whenever I have multiple important things to do (for example studying for three exams during finals week, getting groceries, and taking the dog for a walk), I might as well have 100 huge things to do. I don’t know what it is, but my brain just freaks out over multiple assignments.
Anyway, here’s some really good advice to avoid freaking out when you have to do more than two or three different tasks.
• PRIORITIZE: If you have a lot of responsibilities to take care of, ask yourself if anything can be put off until things slow down. Can you wait to get new guitar strings or reschedule a haircut until after midterms? Sometimes you have to cancel plans or say no.
• MAKE A LIST: Compile a list of stuff you have to do before you head out so you’re not making adjustments on the fly. Nothing is worse than being somewhere and realizing that your next errand was five minutes from where you were just two errands before. Factor in traffic (if appropriate), location, importance (knock off the big ones first if you can), and the amount of stress each task entails.
• KEEP CALM: Having more than one thing to study or do for the day can feel overwhelming. Try to free up as much of the day as possible (in case things take longer than expected). Wake up early and start chipping away at your first task, then go onto the second task, etc. If you’re making progress, you’ll feel less stressed. It’s like when I have to eat something gross, like Brussels sprouts. Just get started and keep eating one bite after the other, and don’t stop or get distracted until everything on the plate is gone.
• EATING AND EXERCISE: Don’t think that being under deadline is an excuse to let your eating and exercising habits slip. You may save 10 minutes by getting a burger and soda at some fast-food place, but you just gave your body grease and processed crap for fuel—bad fuel means bad performance. Also, be sure to do something physical every few hours. A quick power lap around the library keeps your endorphins moving after being deep in a book for an hour. Just be careful that your power lap around the library doesn’t turn into a two-hour distraction after passing through the magazine section.