In honor of Back To School, today’s blog post was actually written by my son. It was his Diversity Statement for his law school applications, written seven years ago (he has since attended law school and become an attorney).
While I know it’s impossible for me to be objective, this essay is one of the most poignant pieces of writing I’ve read about ADHD. On the one hand, it hurts my heart to think about my son, a little boy, struggling with feeling so different, and being made to feel just…wrong. But on the other hand, I am so proud of him, of the person he is (and was all along), of how he has battled the struggles of ADHD, and continues to persevere. He is one of my heroes, and I feel blessed and lucky to be his mom.
Scattered among my old papers and school supplies are dozens of painstakingly crafted childhood dalliances–trail maps of fictional ski resorts drawn in my free time, hundreds of loose-leaf pages of notes and classwork from my academic career, the words therein corralled by extensive marginalia and doodles– reminders of the all the time I spent in my own little world.
Since my preschool days of apathetically watching my classmates entertain themselves by scouring the floor together collecting staples, I knew that I had a talent for getting enthralled in my own thoughts at the expense of the outside world. When my kindergarten teacher excoriated me for being “rude little boy” and spacing out during math, or when my ninth grade history teacher scolded me daily for asking questions that had already been answered, I wondered why my peers had no trouble focusing in class, relating to others, or being “normal.”
Finally, I discovered the name of my affliction; ADHD. But I was surprised to learn that this was more than just a daunting obstacle. Certainly I would need to offset my focus problems with color-coded school binders, and by ensuring that my homework was complete before watching TV–and I have continued to employ similar strategies to this day. My doodling habit, far from distracting my easily-misled mind, has become a means of stimulating creative thinking and focusing my scattershot thoughts on the task at hand. Yet I have also found that ADHD causes me to selectively and intensely get absorbed in the things that actually interest me.
This “hyperfocus,” a component of ADHD, gives me the opportunity to turn things over in my mind in a unique way, and has caused me to develop a unique perspective. So whether I was telling my friends about the Loch Ness monster in third grade, or finding nuances in situations for use in my sketch comedy class, I can draw conclusions that others might not, and use these seemingly quirky observations as a bridge to others, instead of the wall it once was.