Living and Teaching With ADHD

• July 13, 2013

The fol­low­ing has been Reblogged from a Guest Post I wrote for Andrew Campbell’s blog Look­ing Up


In response to yesterday’s post about ADHD med­ica­tion I was con­tacted by Ryan Bar­rett. Ryan is an ele­men­tary Core French teacher with the Hamil­ton Went­worth Dis­trict School Board and has been since Sep­tem­ber 2008. Ryan shared his extra­or­di­nary and inspir­ing story of grow­ing up, liv­ing and teach­ing with ADHD. I asked if I could share that story on this blog and he agreed. The fol­low­ing are his words, unedited by me.

I am 32 years old and teach grades 3/4/5 and have been under­go­ing med­ical treat­ment for com­bined type ADHD (both inat­ten­tive and hyper­ac­tive-impul­sive types) for just over a year now. The just’ is the impor­tant mod­i­fier here as I have spent my years from pre-school to uni­ver­sity, and every year there­after in class­rooms, try­ing to find my foot­ing in the sim­plest of rou­ti­nes we teach our stu­dents Day One.  I kept re-liv­ing that first day of school, strug­gling with unman­aged ADHD for 28 years, until last win­ter when I just couldn’t make it out of the house any­more.

My per­sonal strug­gle in the class­room was never of the sort that dis­tracted oth­ers or demanded addi­tional sup­port from the teacher. I was iden­ti­fied gifted, and at IPRC meet­ings (this was pre-IEP, but post-Bill 82) they said I was bored and that I needed to chal­lenge myself. Even­tu­ally, they thought, I would learn to meet dead­li­nes. I would learn that prac­tice makes per­fect’, and the rest­less­ness and inde­ci­sion would even­tu­ally fade and I would find my one true call­ing. I would learn to use a binder, a high­lighter, and keep a cal­en­dar — and fol­low it! I would be sat­is­fied and con­fi­dent enough to com­plete a piece of work with­out start­ing over, and over, and over…

While my pro­fi­cien­cies were lauded, sup­ported med­ically, and for­mal­ized, my weak­nesses were dis­missed as the tini­est of chal­lenges that matu­rity would over­come.

Today I still find it dif­fi­cult to go seek help when I can’t con­cen­trate, when I can’t focus, or can’t stay orga­nized. I don’t tell enough peo­ple when I am frus­trated, over­whelmed, or wor­ried about dead­li­nes loom­ing or missed. I cer­tainly don’t seek med­ical atten­tion often enough, and espe­cially not when I am unable — when my brain, and body are unable – to accom­plish a task that is, at this stage in my life, vital to my sur­vival. I can’t stress that enough. I can’t live like this with­out treat­ing the root of the prob­lem and not just the symp­toms.  Last win­ter I didn’t think there was any hope at all.

With­out the right med­ica­tion, the dosage of which is still being adjusted since I am just at the start of this jour­ney, I just haven’t enough strate­gies to do all of the  things most other grown-ups do in a day. Time and time again, I wake up in the morn­ing and won­der what to do next.

Do I shower first? Where is my towel? I always end up leav­ing wet foot­prints on the car­pet in the hall­way. Keys: I need those to drive. I lost the check­list I made last night. It is prob­a­bly with the one I made the night before last. If any­thing goes wrong, I’ll be late. I have just enough time to rein­vent the wheel before the bell goes.

Still, I remain bound to the class­room, where I prac­tice what I never learned. But this Sep­tem­ber, I’ll be a step closer, and all because I know now that my body lacks what it needs to pro­pel me through the next day, and the next. And because it’s not a secret any­more…