Zoë follows the report card paper trail for evidence of childhood ADHD symptomsEvidence of ADHD symptoms in childhood is one aspect of an ADHD diagnosis. In Part I, I shared some of my childhood diary entries as part of my personal paper trail of ADHD evidence (or lack thereof).

Today, we’ll look at more historical evidence. We’ll see that, based on the paper trail alone, an unskilled observer might erroneously conclude that I was a little angel, or a child prodigy whilst attending public school – neither of which is remotely true (ok, maybe the prodigy part).

(Ok, maybe not…)

In any event, the documentation presented cannot be deemed to provide conclusive evidence for a diagnosis of ADHD. There may be, however, subtle and nuanced indications that an experienced and educated examiner might observe and interpret forthwith as ADHD-like propensities. [Translation: I wasn’t a total sh*t-disturber1 , but I had some definite quirks]

Let’s proceed with an examination of the evidence.

Exhibit Two: public school report card entries

ADHD adults who found their public school experience painful are legion. And why not? We were the misfits, the miscreants, and the misunderstood.

That’s why it takes a crack investigator like myself to read between the lines to see the ADHD-ness in my report cards. I was one of the lucky ones: my public school was ADHD heaven.

As ADHD is a context-driven syndrome, my more difficult symptoms rarely arose in a school where I felt encouraged and supported by my teachers. Ok, I did spend a lot of time out in the hall for talking in class, but that’s not all I was good at. To wit:

1968, Grade 3 report card excerpt [note that my adoptive name was Michelle, I changed it years later…long story…]

“Michelle has been reading at the fourth year level … she enjoys writing stories and is exceptionally gifted in this area. Mrs. Avey asked me to tell you that Michelle does excellent work in science, and so it seems that her talents lie in more than one direction. …Generally, Michelle seems to be a very creative child with the desire to do everything she attempts well.”

Many researchers report high IQ’s in ADHD kids, and above-average performance in some, or multiple, academic areas.

In the right environment, a child with ADHD can thrive, and their native intelligence can shine. But that doesn’t mean our quirks don’t get in the way at times.

June 1968, Grade 3 report card excerpt

“There is an intensity of feeling about her which she brings to even little things. This is probably part of her temperament and I mention it only because I sometimes think that she worries too much about things that don’t deserve that much concern. To be able to see things in their proper perspective is a desirable attribute in life.”

Ha! Excessive worry, mood swings and intense feelings can all accompany ADHD, especially for an ADHDer with a flair for the dramatic (like myself).  As for “seeing things in their proper perspective” – a distant dream for a lot of us until diagnosis and treatment.

Grade 5 report card excerpt

“Michelle is a delightful person and a delightful student. …She is a rare little person in that she truly enjoys and appreciates good poetry and literature. Her own written work is highly creative, as are her drawings. Michelle’s compositions are always a pleasure to read. She is in every way a true asset to the classroom, to the teacher.

V. Zack”

ADHD charm. What can I say? I adored Vicky Zack. She “got” me. Which is more than we can say for my home environment, where I was pronounced “weird,” “moody,” and a “wretch.” As I mentioned in Part I, ADHD is context-driven, which means that our more difficult symptoms run rampant under negative circumstances, while we flourish under the praise and encouragement of teachers like V. Zack.

Exhibit Three: letter from my (much) older cousin

When I was 10 years old, I wrote to my cousin who was in law school. At that time, a political terrorist group known as the FLQ was running amok in my home town. I remember that time vividly.

In response to my letter, my cousin wrote to my dad, “I can’t decide if she’s a child prodigy.” My cousins was incredulous at my astute political awareness at such a young age.

Yet I grew up believing I was stupid. All along, at some level I knew I wasn’t, yet it still came as a shock when, as an adult, I found my cousin’s letter. Clearly, someone didn’t think I was an idiot when I was a child. Being treated like an imbecile when in fact you have higher-than-average intelligence is another trademark of ADHD. It’s no wonder that, You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? is an ADHD classic.

At age 47, I was diagnosed with ADHD. My paper trail is a perfect testament to the benefits of better education for ADHDers, and for the importance of having a trained, experienced and skilled professional to provide your diagnosis.

I rest my case.


1 DISCLAIMER: I am NOT suggesting that all ADHD kids are sh*t disturbers; however, as an ADHDer with a healthy dose of the H – hyperactivity – component, I can tell you from experience that a LOT of us are, and were. With me, this happened mostly outside of school.

PLEASE NOTE that “sh*t disturber” is NOT a clinical diagnostic term (although it should be). It is my term. I’ve already cried enough about the ways ADHD has hurt me; it’s time to laugh.

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