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Smart But Unstable

By Lauren Honderd

Smart but unstable. That’s what one of my 5th grade teachers so kindly wrote on my
report card. I never seemed to understand why for the majority of my childhood simple tasks for
others I found so much more difficult. I indeed was smart, and when taught properly, I
understood the problems on the math tests and could read the essay in language arts just fine;
yet, I couldn’t seem to focus enough during each lecture to get every important detail of a unit,
and I certainly couldn’t sit still in my chair for an hour and a half and focus hard enough to
respond to each question.

I remember the day I showed up for 5th grade, and based on my
standardized test scores, I was moved to the lowest math level. I was distraught because I was
always good at math and understood the subjects. I just didn’t seem to perform well on
standardized tests, wasn’t organized enough to get my homework done, and couldn’t focus well
in class or sit still for long periods. Socially, there were plenty of issues for me too. I couldn’t
seem to stop myself from blurting out answers before questions were finished, interrupting my
friends, or being just “too much” for people, resulting in many seasons of loneliness for me as a
young kid. I never understood why I couldn’t find the right group of friends and always found
myself on the outs because I was acting in ways that were not natural but seemed impossible
for me to change.

This was just the beginning of long term problems for me both educationally
and socially. Little did I or my parents realize that the explanation for my behavior in school and
socially was ADHD. Going into 6th grade, I was finally diagnosed and started medication which
began to bring both pros and cons into my daily life.

ADHD, otherwise known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a chronic
neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 11 percent of children and teens around ages 6-17 (1).
Over 75 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD carry it on into their adult years (1). There are
two types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive presentation and predominantly
hyperactivity/impulsivity presentation, as well as a combined type.

Those diagnosed with inattentive presentation often struggle with focusing in all areas of life but mostly in tasks with
large effort required, basic organizational skills, forgetfulness of items, as well as in daily tasks
and activities, listening to others even when spoken to directly, and being easily distracted (2).
The hyperactivity/impulsivity type presents itself in symptoms such as excessive fidgeting and
moving around, excessive speaking and often speaking or acting too loud, often interrupting or
intruding on conversations, difficulty waiting their turn (2), and the combined type is, naturally, a
combination of the two.

ADHD symptoms can vary person to person, and it is up to clinicians to
diagnose the exact severity of ADHD presented to properly distribute medication (1.)
It is clear from these symptoms that ADHD has a massive impact on both children and
adults and if not treated can cause serious social and educational development issues. ADHD
has been traced to put children at risk for academic failure, driving difficulties, developmental
issues, social issues, sexual issues, and even addiction. Adults with ADHD may be at risk for
inconsistent work performance, relationship problems, difficulty in carrying out day to day tasks,
and chronic frustration and guilt (1). Research shows that ADHD is affecting 9 million adults in
the U.S., but only 85 percent know they have it (3). This is a large leap from where we were in previous decades, but people are still going undiagnosed with ADHD and dealing with these severe symptoms on a day to day basis. Exact causes of ADHD are unknown, but researchers believe it to be genetic, due to premature birth, exposure to pesticides in early childhood, or brain injury (1).

Though it may be easy to say that medicating would easily fix these problems,
medication for ADHD can cause some serious issues. Many medications have daily side
effects like nausea, headaches, trouble sleeping, and decreased appetite, but there are also
more serious long term effects like increase in blood pressure, putting many with pre-existing
heart conditions at a high risk for heart failure (4).

CHADD, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder, is a non-profit organization
actively working to provide education and support to those who have or know someone with
ADHD, as well as front research on causes, diagnosis, and medication of ADHD. Their mission
is to improve the lives of those with ADHD (6). CHADD has already been a large success. Since
their founding in 1987, they have been a huge advocate and reason for installment of ADHD
accommodations in schools, as well as a resource for educators and clinicians before ADHD
was more properly understood (6), but there is still more to do.

CHADD calls for funding for research on new medication, safety and effectiveness, research on early
identification and prevention of ADHD, as well as the long-term impact and co-existing conditions
(5). CHADD is making an effort to respect and involve diverse populations in their research with
regard to gender, age, race, and background, as well as balance between national research and
interventional research in schools and communities.

There are plenty of ways you can help the problem now. From efforts as large as
donating to non-profit organizations like CHADD, to funding research, to something as little as
keeping mindfulness with those that you know struggle with ADHD or present symptoms and
educating yourself on the problem. Understanding of the forgetfulness, interruption, or
disconnect of those with ADHD in the workplace or socially can go a long way. And if you think you may have ADHD, reach out to your doctor or psychiatrist to schedule a testing appointment so you can be treated properly. For the latest evidence-based information regarding ADHD, you can visit the National Resource Center (NRC) on ADHD at
http://www.CHADD.org or by calling 866.200.8098. The NRC is program of CHADD in a funded
agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (6).

Resources:
About CHADD: (6) https://chadd.org/about/#mission
About ADHD (1) https://chadd.org/about-adhd/overview/
ADHD in Children (2)
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889
Millions of adults unaware they have ADHD (3)
https://www.ksat.com/news/local/2020/12/29/millions-of-adults-are-unaware-they-have-adhd-research-shows/#:~:text=(Ivanhoe%20Newswire)%20%E2%80%93%20Nine%20million,difficulty%
20paying%20attention%2C%20and%20hyperactivity.
What to Know about ADHD Medication (4)
https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/adhd-medication-side-effects
CHADD Research (5) https://chadd.org/research/

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