My school years were a time of joy and sadness, learning and failure, and sometimes they continue to be lessons to me.
There were no breaks meant to help someone with ADHD back then, ADHD was little known and not understood.
There were very few accommodate for my learning limitations, little was done officially.
In grade four I was having trouble with one subject, biological science studies, never my strong suit.
When test time came I was lost. I put that paper in front of me and wrote answers for every question, often, “I don’t know.”
I felt good about that test. I’m not sure why. I think it was because my teacher made me feel like my opinions mattered.
I handed it in
I was sure I’d get a failing grade and we’d move on to study something else, hopefully something I could learn.
The class moved on to something else, I was given a sealed letter to take home to my mother.
The envelope, I discovered when my mother opened it, contained my test, and a blank copy of the test paper. It also included a note telling my mother that my teacher would accept a retaken test done at home under mom’s supervision.
I was in trouble. My mother, in her usual understanding but firm way insisted that I explain myself.
Now folks, I really thought my declarations of “I don’t know” would be accepted as answers. I had failed to acquire that particular knowledge, I felt that nothing more could be done.
I was wrong
It was a Friday, by Monday morning I had a redone test in my pocket, one that had taken all weekend to do. I had spent much of that weekend in my room with the test and my text book, learning what I’d not been able to learn in class. It was probably an hour of work for a neuro-typical that took me three painful days.
And lest you think my mother had anything to do with my redone test, I assure you that it was learned by me and written by me and I still only managed to pull off a C on it.
Later in life
In grade ten I decided I needed to quit science. The problem was that it was 50% biology and that was the stuff they were teaching first. I have no idea why I find biology problematic, but a month in I was lost, totally out to sea without a chart or compass.
The guidance counselor I pled my case to, ascertained that my problem was biology. He suggested an alternate science class, Applied Physical Science, that contained about three weeks worth of biology because in grade ten I needed to have a smidgen of that to be considered educated.
I tried it!
Without realizing what they were doing, they had provided an accommodation for my learning issues. I thrived.
Again a year or so later I was struggling with French and I needed that credit. I was transferred to a course called “Conversational French” where I learned an adequate amount of the language without having to write it correctly or struggle with syntax or tense.
The final exam was to have a conversation in french with my teacher, one on one, where in I answered random questions as if she were a tourist in my french speaking town. Again, I thrived.
School wasn’t easy for me, but the thing I learned from it that has taken me the farthest in my life is this: I can learn.
ADHD is considered a learning disability, and I buy that, but it doesn’t mean we can’t learn. And it doesn’t mean we can’t thrive.
And it doesn’t mean learning must be difficult for me or my people. It just means that if you want to teach me something and you want to be successful at it, you have to learn how to teach me.
But, you can ask for help. I’ll tell you everything I know.