I was so excited to go to kindergarten. I couldn’t wait to play with the other kids! It did seem like a lot to get used to, though.
There was something called “circle time,” where everyone had to sit around the teacher. Sometimes she would read a story and sometimes she would play the guitar and sing songs. But I needed to move during circle time. I ran around the circle and talked to all the kids. I couldn’t understand how everyone could sit still and listen without talking for so long. My brain wouldn’t let me sit quietly.
My friends got mad at me a lot. They said that I got too close to them when we had to form a line and that I always butted ahead to be first. My brain wouldn’t let me take turns. I thought that the teacher told us to pull out our science book and turn to page 10. As she started teaching the class, I looked around to find everyone else looking in their social studies book on page two. My brain wouldn’t let me listen.
I didn’t like raising my hand to answer a question. Yelling out was important because I needed to show everyone right away that I knew the answer. My brain wouldn’t let me keep the answer in my head until I was called on. The teacher told us to write down our homework assignments, which were always written on the board. One day, I was going to write them down—but then I heard a lawn mower. I had to look out the window to know what color the lawn mower was, how big it was, what was being mowed, and who was mowing it. Suddenly it was time to leave to go to our buses, and I had forgotten to write down the assignment. My brain wouldn’t let me focus on what was going on inside the classroom.
I came home with homework, and my mom wanted me to start doing it right after I had a snack. I refused to do it then, stomping my feet and yelling at her that it was hard and I was tired. My brain wouldn’t let me obey my mom without getting frustrated and angry.
I brought home my book to do homework, but I brought home the wrong one and left my notebook with the assignment at school. My brain wouldn’t let me be organized.
I took a test in science class, but I kept worrying about how fast the other kids were finishing. I didn’t want to be last and I couldn’t focus on anything else, so I randomly picked answers and moved quickly. My brain wouldn’t let me slow down and concentrate.
Does it get better in the Middle School Years? –>
I came into class and felt overwhelmed and confused. I was trying to orient myself to the new subject and get out my papers. As I was doing this, everyone else heard the teacher give directions. When I noticed kids doing work, I asked the teacher if he could repeat the directions. He said, no, I should have been listening. My brain wouldn’t let me listen and organize myself at the same time.
The teacher was teaching an incredibly boring subject. I switched my laptop screen to something more interesting: plane schedules. (Sometimes I can “refuel” by focusing on things that interest me. Then I can go back to what’s being taught.) My teacher caught me not paying attention and sent me out of the room. My brain wouldn’t let me focus on things that aren’t interesting.
I’m still struggling to understand my ADHD, but I’ve figured out some things. I know I have to be an advocate for myself. I know I do best in small groups, when I take my medication, and when I use my systems to stay organized. I’ve also learned that it helps to have at least one teacher who really cares about me and is always there to talk. That teacher and my family reinforce strengths that I don’t always realize that I have. For instance, I can explain where planes are coming from and where they are heading; after being somewhere once, I can find that destination again—no problem; and my parents say I’m remarkably sensitive and intuitive.
Being wired differently is a challenge, but I’m going to keep working to achieve my goals. Not everyone will accept me or understand how my brain works, but that’s okay as long as I accept myself.
Karen K. Lowry, RN, MSN, author of The Seventh Inning Sit: A Journey of ADHD, wrote this piece based on her experiences as an ADHD coach for children, teens, and college students.