Sunday, April 22, 2012

ADHD and Me (Pt. 1)

By Kevin Stoda I was not one of those American boys who was properly diagnosed with ADD. You see I grew up in the 60s and 70s when little was known of it—and long before the substantial Post-WWII changes in the American diet had led to changes in children’s physical and mental make-ups (which in turn lead to many more obvious cases of ADD). Naturally, genetics has likely had more influence on ADHD development in the USA population than any other known contributor. This is likely because the kind of peoples who arrived here from around the world over the centuries were more impulsive and had demonstrated hyperactivity or imbalances in their own selves with their prior society—which lead them to be more likely to move to a new setting and start over. Now, 3 to 5 percent of children in school in the USA are identified as ADD or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Teachers back-then did not even consider a child like me to be too much out of the ordinary—in terms of having classroom distractions and hyperactivity back in those days—i.e. as long as we didn’t get into a lot of fights and act out in front of others too often. In all of my school report cards, I recall only that my fifth grade English and Science instructor noted that my “being distracted” was affecting my performance and participation in class. (Interestingly, the 5th grade was when I actually got the best grades of my entire elementary school years. Therefore, part of my distraction in English class likely involved me reading social study books or novels in class.) “ADHD always begins in childhood. For some people [like most of those in my generation], though, ADHD is not diagnosed until adulthood. That means adults who are newly diagnosed have actually had ADHD for years, and have had to endure symptoms as they’ve matured. In addition, research shows that between 30% and 70% of children with ADHD continue to have symptoms of the disorder when they become adults.” According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, “ADHD has been called attention-deficit disorder (ADD) in the past. But, ADHD is now the preferred term because it describes both primary aspects of the condition: inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. While many children who have ADHD tend more toward one category than the other, most children have some combination of inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior. ADHD symptoms become more apparent during activities that require focused mental effort.” I really never noticed that I was hyperactive until I became an adult. It was during the last year at college that I noted that I could no longer sit down with people and chat for long periods of time. By the time of my graduation, I was so out of sorts that I nearly failed my communication class and had trouble putting together my dissertation. Others had already noted my distractedness and apparent inattention years earlier but I was seldom one to get into fights or to take to alcoholism or take to using drugs as is common among those who have never been treated for their ADD or ADHD. (In short, a lot of self-medication has been an option for ADHD sufferers for generations.) Instead, I traveled and went to new places as often as I could. Eventually, I traveled to 102 different countries by the time I was 45 years of ages. Looking back on my travels, one episode stands out, whereby a medical professional took notice of my somewhat disguised hyperactivity. That was in Munich, Germany in the summer of 1991. I was teaching German by this time and had been invited to a two-week workshop for German instructors from around the world at the Goethe Institute. On my last free evening, I went out for a stroll near one of the ancient royal parks and gardens planted around the city. On this evening, there was a black man in his early 40s playing a guitar. He was playing a lot of tunes I liked. So, I came nearer. There were some children dancing around the man as I approached his bench. I clapped along and stomped my feet nervously up-and-down with the rhythm. I discovered from the man’s accent that he was originally from Jamaica, but he worked in England as a pediatrician. He was in Munich visiting his daughter and grandchildren that week. That day was one of the longest days of early summer and the man played and chatted with me over the next hour. He was not a street musician as I thought—but simply a music-loving-Jamaican-M.D. The man and I talked about children and how they loved to dance. He finally observed that my own feet had been happily tapping away—almost uncontrollably as I listened or sang along. The pediatrician observed, “Only in little children have I observed such happy dancing feet before.” In short, my almost spastic happy feet were showing a hyperactivity and joy of life that only young children’s feet generally exhibit. (to be continued)


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