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Susi,

I am 22 year old college student who can relate to your son very well. I was diagnosed with ADHD last school year and now certain behavioral patterns and educational difficulties that I've had my entire life are now making perfect sense.

I've always been a highly functional student. When I sought a diagnosis last spring, my mother was in shock. "You've always had excellent grades," she said, as if grades are the only indication of ADD. To her credit, I was always at or near the top of my class. However, I had a nasty temper at home throughout my childhood which became arrogant indifference/animosity throughout my teenage years. My inability to remained focused in class is something I noticed at a very young age. I never attributed it to ADD. I just figured it was ordinary distractibility. I coped with it by raising my hand as much as possible or becoming the center of attention in mostly positive ways. Negative attention from teachers was a paralyzing fear I had that kept me from acting up or blurting out in class. I cried in 5th grade the first time I ever got my name on the board. I think, however, I was able to really channel my attention to lectures in class because the small, rural public school I attended gave us 3 (yes, 3) recesses per day. I was a very active child and was excited about going to the public school with three recesses as opposed to the Catholic grade school my older siblings attended which only had 1 recess.

Recess truly was the determining factor because my ADD symptoms started to really affect me come junior high, when students only had the luxury of one recess. I started losing attention more often in class, my behavior changed (I now became the class clown), and my grades slipped (not substantially, but enough to bother me). I never thought it was anything other than changing behavior due to age, but in retrospect, it all makes sense.

For high school, I transferred to a highly competitive parochial high school. My symptoms of ADD were very hightened, yet I figured that my performance was compromised only because I was now at a more difficult high school and other kids had caught up to me in intelligence (I was somewhat older for my grade). No recess in high school, and football/swimming/track practices were not until after the school day ended. Homework was a passing thought by the time I got home. Studying for tests never happened, writing papers was saved until the night before they were due, and homework assignments were usually done in the class period before they were due. Despite all of this mess, I managed to remain in the top 10% of my class. I just assumed at this point, that I was smart enough to get by without really putting forth a lot of effort.

College began much the same. I would "just get by" and finished my first two years with a cumulative GPA of 3.75, but really never worked very hard and was guilty of the same behaviors until my junior year when I hit a brick wall. After taking a semester abroad, I came back to school faced with 4 very difficult classes. At midterm, I found that my GPA was a 2.5. I was literally incapable of finishing tests for 2 of my classes within the allotted time. I was having trouble focusing and would lose track of where I was on tests. These types of things had always gone on, but again, they never effected me enough to do anything about it. Finally, I sought a diagnosis of ADD just in case. The psychiatrist I visited was amazed that I had never been evaluated before as she thought I had "one of the most clear cut cases [she'd]ever seen."

After the diagnosis my school doctor put me on Adderall and I was given extended time (time and a half) on all examinations in school. By then end of the semester, I pulled my GPA all the way back up to a respectable 3.35. In one week, I wrote 85 pages of text for 4 different papers I was writing (It truly was an arduous semester). There were several patterns of behavior I used often throughout my academic life that helped me to cope with my ADD, but none were as effective as the meds. However, I would reccomend the following to help your son:

1)Seating: AT THE FRONT. There is far less distraction when the teacher is right in front of you. It's hard to focus on anything else when this person is talking loudly right in front of you. This is VERY important in my mind. (I always asked to sit up front when I was in grade school).

2)Accomodated test-taking: I MUST have a quiet place, above all. I am easily distracted by noises in the hall or the frustrated grunts of other students. Often I need to be alone in a room to take the test, and I ALWAYS make use of the extended time on tests to check all my answers and concentrate more fully on those questions I might otherwise struggle with.

2)Assignments/Homework Syllabus: It's nice to have a syllabus to work with because I could almost never remember to write all of my assignments in one notebook, and if I did write them here or there, I could never find where I wrote them later. A prepared daily assignment sheet by the teacher is very important for younger ADD students. This was something I never had, which led to extreme paranoia about not having done all my homework. (I would often ask my teachers 3 and 4 times a day "If such and such was the only thing we had to do for this class."

3)Recess: Truly, children need some free time to be children. This always helped. It makes kids calmer to burn some calories and interact with their friends.

4)Kind Teachers: I found that I was a substantially better student with teachers who had reputations as being very nice. I had some stricter teachers who were often cold that really did not cater to my disposition. Try to get your child into a classroom where the teacher is known for their kindness and/or flexibility toward students with special needs.

5)Direct Parental Involvement: Make sure that you go over everything your child is supposed to be doing for homework on a given. My parents would always ask me, "Do you have homework?" I would generally tell them that I did not if I didn't feel like doing it. Verify that your son does not indeed have homework by either having him show you his assignment sheets or by talking with him (at length) about what he did in each subject on a given day. Trust me, ADD kids will lie to avoid doing work. I did all the time. Also have him show you his work once its done. It made me happy to show my parents what I had accomplished.

6)Patience: I know this is a no brainer, but I really had some bad situations in high school with teachers with low patience, even teachers with good reputations. My often flippant attitude did not always sit well with some. People need to remember that ADD kids simply do not react to things the same way that other kids do.

Other than that, I would say its hit or miss with your particular child. Just stay involved and be flexible toward trying new things. Dealing with ADD is not impossible, it just takes patience and time. Good luck.





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