Can I Be Your Trusted Friend?

The following is an un-edited letter I sent to a friend, similar to the one on Processed Foods. It represents a set of personal beliefs developed through experience, failure, and success. While I believe much of this to be dead-on there is much to disagree with. I welcome an open debate:)

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For thousands of years humans lived easily without ADD and ADHD “diseases.” It’s not that these symptoms didn’t exist rather it is that our lifestyles have changed. There is an increasing focus of daily life on controlled seated conditions for an ever increasing amount of people. This is a relatively new environment for humans and our culture has not yet learned how to function in it.

There are basic skills one can learn to alleviate the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, that if not taught by adulthood lead to destructive habits. The foundation of these skills is helping the individual to become self aware. Creating a sense of when things are normal and when they are not. Once that recognition can happen a series of coping mechanisms can be put into play. More on that later, but first some more background.

ADD as a problem (and not a disease) has been studied and worked on for decades in the field of education. The Montessori school system has developed a method of teaching that they believe is superior to public education, while also helping to alleviate the problems of ADHD. Of course their schools are only as effective as the parents allow it to be. Parents are a major problem in education because they often endured harsh conditions without learning these skills and expect their children to endure as well, though for much longer (college and graduate school).

The real battle in our public schools is not over testing but over new teaching styles. To improve the quality of our education we need to teach our students better. School testing is only a measure of how effective these new styles are. The most effective styles to date ironically focus on alleviating the root causes of ADHD, things like group work, outdoor activities, large projects with structured tasks, etc.

Understanding this history in American education helps explain some key issues involved with ADHD, namely culture, environment, and adults. For a child we can help to control all three and make the process of dealing with ADHD easier. For an adult the process is like hardened cement, only making progress through blasting old concrete and recasting new pieces.

Back to the original “cure.” The first step is to become self aware. Doing this often requires a trusted friend. One who can tell the person that they are exhibiting the behavior. It is hard on both parties to develop this routine since ADHD manifests itself in many ways, through boredom, anxiety, depression, over-excitement, and most importantly the individual is unaware of their own behavior. With practice and experience this becomes easily explained and noticed.

The second step is to develop a range of support tactics to employ when suffering an attack. This involves the individual being self aware of the issue and then selecting the right tactic, or trying several until one helps. The tactics can be anything from taking a long walk to reading a magazine. They are entirely situational and often require a fair amount of practice. They act like a bridge where one side is normal and the other side is normal. ADHD acts like the river in the middle always ready to sidetrack and take you away through panic, anxiety, or whatever. Having a bridge allows one to cope during the attack, let it subside, and then safely arrive at normal again.

ADHD is not the scourge of the modern world. It is a problem in our society that only a few truly understand, the rest suffer from it. To fix it requires a simple yet focused set of skills applied over time with another trusted individual. For children this trusted individual is often the parents or a teacher. For an adult it is a boyfriend, friend, or coworker. For those without any of these people it is a drug addiction.

15 thoughts on “Can I Be Your Trusted Friend?

  1. I don’t disagree with you on this. Although never documented, I’ve always shown signs of it – as a result, my school work suffered. I recently learned how to compensate for this, as my brain is attune to focusing while it’s processing something else, i.e. chewing gum, listening to music through headphones or taking a walk. I agree that more people should really pay attention to themselves and what is affecting them and what remedies they find that work to help alleviate this, even if this means doing two things at once to figure it out :-)

    1. I totally understand. I need lots of noise in order to focus. I find some of my favorite albums are like radiohead where there is lots of noise, few lyrics, and long drawn out lyrics.

      I also bit my nails too. Everybody has told me it is a bad habit but it allows me to focus instantly so it has become a serious habit…

  2. I don’t disagree with you on this. Although never documented, I’ve always shown signs of it – as a result, my school work suffered. I recently learned how to compensate for this, as my brain is attune to focusing while it’s processing something else, i.e. chewing gum, listening to music through headphones or taking a walk. I agree that more people should really pay attention to themselves and what is affecting them and what remedies they find that work to help alleviate this, even if this means doing two things at once to figure it out :-)

      1. Behaviors can be changed because they are set by environment, traits are in the genes and cannot be changed unless some trauma happens. I am High Aggression, High extroversion, low patience, and low details. I don’t know how this effects those with ADD/ADHD, but I don’t think either are a “real” problem, I think its a gateway diagnosis for a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

  3. Once we realize the true measure for education performance is the ‘affective skill’ of engagement, we will begin to entertain ways to accommodate this problem – much as you state is being done in the Montessori system. So long as we insist on standardized testing as the core measure – which measures nothing that matters or is required in a 21st century workplace – we will endure the “sit still and learn the damned Trivium” crowd of well-intentioned Inquisitioners.

    1. Oh I totally agree, the standardized tests are silly. I wish we could get back to just getting an A as a standard. Maybe once every child can get an A then we up the standard and so on.

      I feel like a grump but all these newfangled methods anger me. The problem is the same as it always was!

  4. Montessori school through kindergarten and set me far ahead of public schools in Seattle area (I was doing multiplication tables in kindergarten, trying to sort out division, and was reading complex sentences with rather large words for the age range), but it seems to embrace the ADD / ADHD in a manner that isn’t problematic. I can tick a lot of the traits for ADD / ADHD, but haven’t been tested and don’t really see the point (not all bad unless I get bored, which really isn’t good). Montessori school is largely free flow and engages kids to embrace the focus as long as you have it and trigger interest to learn at your own pace.

    I didn’t really think Montessori was that different until one of my co-workers in San Francisco asked another co-worker and I if were were products of Montessori schools. She went down our Montessori traits of overly curious, strive to understand everything, competitive (not knowing it at all and wouldn’t classify it as such), self learning, easily board if not challenged, and thought process traits. It was very dead on. She also nailed other educational traits from college and being exposed to the Oxbridge system. I have no idea how kids who are shy, unmotivated to learn, nor have deep focus fit in the Montessori system. When walking in Montessori preschools they are often very quiet, which is quite different from many non-Montessori schools.

    1. This makes me happy to read @vanderwal. My nephew, not even two has been going to Montessori school since my sister’s family moved to the Atlanta area a short bit ago. I was worried at 18 months, not having any other kids around he was not getting the socialization part of his education needed at that age, as his cousin, one month younger seemed more advanced. Now, he knows his numbers 1-5 and loves the alphabet. I got him started on that in October. I just hope that all the Yo Gabba Gabba is really teaching him something as well.

      1. I really wanted Montessori for my son, but he is doing really well now. Montgomery County enables kids to progress quickly with reading and math if they have the capability and interest. I really fear for him being bored and he is trucking right along.

    2. Thanks for replying Thomas. It is always interesting to peek inside a classroom. I have always been impressed with the Montessori system, though I do often hear how frustrating it is to leave and go back to the “normal” public schools.

      1. I was put in a progressive 1st grade class mixed with 2nd graders, which worked fairly well. Second grade didn’t have anything like this and I was rather bored and became “creative”. Third grade was into a school in Portland, Oregon, were I was quite behind. I think I would have been better off, to some degree skipping a grade in there somewhere. I really didn’t click with school again until college.

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