Every so often, I encounter one of those helpful, speak-truth-to-power types who opposes overmedication of children. I also oppose overmedication of children - doesn't everyone? More supportive environments that affirm the varied ways we learn, interact and feel safe would be good for everybody, right? Modern life and its office work and repetitive-task labor and lack of free time and play spaces and significantly reduced sleep and down time and and and...anyway.
So far so good, but a sad proportion of these people goes on to explain how Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is actually just a response to modern life, an acquired syndrome. Occasionally they'll confide that if people were just more disciplined they wouldn't have these impulse problems.
This is not true.
I spent a good portion of my childhood hurling myself over bushes, sliding down hills on concrete, jumping into impressive puddles and answering crucial science questions like "How many eggs can you smash on the sidewalk to see if they will fry before someone notices?*"
Another big chunk was dedicated to high-level tasks like decoratively furling the edges of every page in my reader, toe-tapping, surreptitiously tossing crumbs out the window to seagulls after lunch and answering crucial life skills questions like "What will happen if I borrow this camera and take thirty six moodily-lit photos of the toilet?**"
So despite the myriad opportunities for play and physical activity, I had plenty of energy for bad ideas. (I also had ADHD klutziness despite lots of proprioceptive development.) After awhile, it may not occur to you that the idea is bad, but you will know that not everyone acts like you do and that the weirdness is not really that positive. Arguably, that is great impetus to control oneself, but the thing with ADHD is...you can't. Not all the time, at least.
As an adult, this has some positive outcomes. Like a lot of my fellow fidgeters, I am fast on the uptake and I work well on my feet. So if the kids just aren't getting something, I can usually shift gears and attack the problem another way. I also understand that certain classroom management strategies are not going to work, because I get that children want to do well and want adult affirmation and are not goofing off just to upset you.
On the negative side is dealing with the anti-drug anti-ADHD coalition. After the people who don't believe in ADHD are the people who assume that those who are ADHD want everyone drugged (I don't; for the record, I was largely undrugged and while this had horrible consequences at times I also have a repetoire of coping strategies that is a huge bonus now). Then there are The People Who Read This Story About Ritalin This One Time, who ask you obnoxious questions like if you use your medications to help maintain your weight.***
The point here was originally to tell a story about a meeting I had to attend last week. There were five people at this meeting and two are diagnosed ADHD. During a presentation, a car alarm went off.
I don't know what you do when a car alarm goes off. I, however, immediately tilt my head to the sound. That provides me with new visual interest in the shape of a list of consequences developed by some older students sitting in the meeting room. Man, that alarm is loud. At some point, I remember that I am supposed to be listening, so I demand my brain to focus on the speaker. "Don't listen to the alarm!" I tell myself.
Of course, the alarm becomes even louder. Is it louder only in my head or everywhere? I don't know. I scan my fellow meeting-ers to see if they notice the alarm, under the theory that if it is actually getting louder they will be paying attention to it too. My boot tie is lose.
At this point, the other ADHD person in the room told the presenter that neither she nor I had heard anything said since the car alarm had started. She also tapped the table with her pen so that I turned my head back to the table and heard her comment, which was entirely true.
We know our kind, what can I say? When understimulated, I will find something to occupy me.
Conveniently, Kindergarten is interesting enough, with enough going on and need for eyes on the back of my head that I can keep good focus. And given a paper and a pen or some scissors I can get through any meeting (providing I can get up and walk around the room regularly) and even know what is happening.
*As many as are in the refrigerator. You will get caught when you go ask the neighbor for some more eggs. However, the real trouble comes from the misuse of the water hose during the clean up process.
**You will teach Kindergarten. Over the years, you will experience scientists in action inquiring into high-level issues like "What happens if I put all the red counting bears down the drain?" and "What is the best way to stick a paper towel to the bathroom ceiling?"
***I believe in obnoxiously answering these questions by saying things like "No, actually my medications can make me so thin that I can't shop anywhere but girl's department, am losing my hair and have serious anemia. Thanks for asking."