When I surveyed the class and asked the question, do you know anyone with a learning disability or not; ten of you said yes, and six said no. What you probably don’t know is that a lot of your friends most likely have a learning disability, you just don’t see it. I’m going to share with the class a
true story from my past that I have never shared with anyone. It all started when I was diagnosed in the fifth grade. My teacher asked my mother to come to school because she needed to talk to her about how I was doing in my studies. Her exact words were, “Mrs. Jersey, I think you should know that your daughter is slow.” But I’m making it a point, to let the class know that I am, by no means, slow.
But there was something wrong; my parents just didn’t pick up on it yet. Needless to say that a certain teacher was reprimanded for her actions that day and that I was tested for a learning disability within that same week.
SLIDE 4- Congratulations you have attention deficit. Can you imagine being nine years old and being told that you have a disability? I didn’t feel like any of the other kids, not to mention I was failing every subject that was I taking. Until I was put on medication, even though it was a very small dose, it did the trick. Adderall; it changed my life. Within a week of taking my new prescription, my teachers noticed a drastic change in my performance in class.
SLIDE 5- But I was dealing with other issues because of this medication, the dark side of it, the possible side effects that I wasn’t told about, until after I had them. The side effects that I experience were horrible, I was losing weight because I lost my appetite, I was constantly having severe migraines, I was always dizzy, and I couldn’t fall asleep if you paid me to. Why put any child through such an ordeal? I could stop taking the meds at anytime if I wanted to, but I didn’t. I finally felt normal for the first time, and I actually started to fit in with the other kids. Those side effects were a small price to pay when you consider what I was gaining in the end. Those were just my side effects, but there are many other ones, and there are a few that can be harmful to your health. ADD medicine can cause severe heart and liver problems; to this day I have to get blood work done each year to make sure that my liver is still in good condition. But no matter the cost, it’s all worth it.
SLIDE 6- There are tons of people out there who don’t agree with medicating a children. In doing extra research for my speech I found many websites who are trying to abolish the use of typical ADD/ ADHD medications. They are suggesting as an alternative, to try herbal medications, and other “steps” to deal with your child’s disability, that doesn’t involve any medication at all. One website, created an herbal drug called “mind soothe” that actually contains some drugs such as St. John’s Wart. I found this amusing because there are some drugs that I am forbidden to take, because they will have a bad chemical reaction with my attention deficit medications, and the outcome of that combination can result in life altering illnesses or even death. Want to know what the #1 drug that I am not permitted it take is? St. John’s Wart.
But enough about all the medical information about this disability, now I’m going to tell you what life is like in my shoes. Many people don’t believe that ADD is the real deal. Hopefully you will understand what people who have a disability just like mine, go through every day.
SLIDE 7- So what is it like to have ADD? Some people say the so-called syndrome doesn’t even exist, but believe me, it does. Many metaphors come to mind to describe it. It’s like driving in the rain with bad windshield wipers. Everything is blurred and you’re speeding along, and it’s really frustrating not being able to see very well. Or, it’s like listening to a radio station with a lot of static and you have to strain to hear what’s going on. Or, it’s like trying to build a house of cards in a dust storm. You have to build a something to protect yourself from the wind before you can even start on the cards.
In other words it’s like being super-charged all the time. You get one idea and you have to act on it, and then, out of nowhere, you’ve got another idea before you’ve finished up with the first one, and so you go for that one, and pretty soon people are calling you disorganized and impulsive and all sorts of things that miss the point completely. Because you truly are trying really hard. It’s just that you have all these invisible things pulling you this way, and it makes it really hard to stay on task.
But there is a positive side to all this. Usually the positive doesn’t get mentioned when people speak about ADD because people tend to focus on what goes wrong, or at least on what has to be somehow controlled. But often once the ADD has been diagnosed, and the child or the adult, with the help of teachers and parents or doctors and friends have learned how to cope with it, an untapped part of the brain comes into view. Suddenly the radio station is tuned in, the windshield is clear, and the sand storm has died down. And the child or adult, who had been such a problem, such a general pain in the neck to himself and everybody else, that person starts doing things he’d never been able to do before.
SLIDE 8- In places where most of us are blind, they can, if not see the light, at least feel the light, and they can produce answers apparently out of the dark. It is important for others to be sensitive to this “sixth sense” many ADD people have, and to encourage it. If the environment insists on rational thinking and “good” behavior from these people all the time, then they may never develop their creative side that makes them so unique. It can be tiresome to listen to people talk. They can sound so vague or as if they’re rambling on. But if you take them seriously and bear along with them, often you will find they are on the verge of startling conclusions or surprising solutions.
Let me leave you by telling you that we need your help and understanding. We may make mess-piles wherever we go, but with your help, those mess-piles can be turned into a world of reason and art. So, if you know someone like me who’s acting up occasionally and daydreaming and forgetting this or that and just not getting with the program, consider ADD before he or she starts believing all the bad things people are saying about them.
The main point of this speech is that there is a more complex side to ADD than just a list of symptoms. ADD is a way of life, and until recently it has been hidden, even from those who have it. It is a way of living. Before the syndrome is diagnosed that way of living may be filled with pain and misunderstanding. After the diagnosis is made, one often finds new possibilities and the chance for real change.