Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity: Is ADHD Really A Disorder?

by Jimmy Durham

We can quote textbooks and specialists all day long, but in the end, it is how we perceive ourselves and our individual conditions that really count. In that respect, is attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) truly a disorder? I don’t like terms like illness, disease, or disorder because they all imply there’s something wrong, and I don’t entirely feel that’s the case.

Growing up with ADHD

Certainly, as a kid being odd and off putting and called things like a “daydreamer” or “lazy” made me think there was something wrong with me. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to ask, “What’s the problem with me anyway?” I began thinking maybe it was the world that had a problem. Both points have some validity. I don’t fit into the expectation that “normal” has been for me and there is some problem with how the world views ADHD.

But my thinking, lack of attention, and impulsivity are not disorders to me. In fact, if anything about me is out of the norm, it is in how I process information. I feel like ADHD people don’t have learning impairments per se, the true impairment comes when we try to fit into what works for someone who is not gifted in such a way. One size does not fit all, certainly not when it comes to living and learning.

Life with ADHD

adhdI learned to approach life and learning from all fronts. It’s something I relearn frequently, in fact. Some things come easier to me while others I need to put more work and effort into; and I despise effort that isn’t absolutely necessary. I learned to accept that I wouldn’t be good at some things; because, as it turned out, I was extremely talented at other things. I didn’t beat up on myself for not possessing some talent or ability. That taught me to be grateful for what I have, and to be more patient and forgiving of other people. As I forgave myself for my perceived shortcomings, it became easier to forgive the shortcomings of others.

A one size fits all education system does very few any good. In efforts to extend the opportunity for education to everyone (particularly in countries like the United States), we’ve inadvertently alienated some of the most brilliant minds. I can’t offer an overall solution. I can only affect my own actions in major ways. That means I don’t beat myself up as much, and when I am teaching, it means I make sure to consider all different learning types — even going so far as to ask how my audience learns best. Maybe the step in the right direction involves stopping and asking those we teach how they learn more often. I don’t remember ever being asked how I learned. Even now, I am rarely asked that question, which is a shame because it is such an important question.

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