The Gift of Attention Deficit Disorder
There are two people running around somewhere in the world that I’d like to throttle. The first is the guy who came up with the recipe for smores. The other is the bone head who decided to attach the word “deficit” to the diagnosis for kids who aren’t that interested in focusing on what’s in front of them at any given moment. You know, those children who aren’t always inclined towards paying attention in school.
Regarding the smores guy, I figure he never had children. You have to be just about out of your mind to hand young kids marshmallows and an unwrapped coat hanger and then tell them to go play with fire. We’ve spent many long nights trying to shampoo black encrusted marshmallow out of our daughters’ hair.
The ADD guy is on my list because he hasn’t lived inside the skin of one of these kids who has this so called “deficit.” In the first place, being able to concentrate on the task at hand—well, it’s highly over-rated. Distractions can be extremely fascinating. And even though focused attention is valuable in school, there were many times in my educational career when I’d rather have had my gums scraped and my eyebrows rotated than to pay attention to the monotony masquerading as education.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a big advocate of education. But I don’t think that the kids who “struggle” to pay attention are necessarily in deficit when it comes to intellectual horsepower. They simply have a hardwiring that runs counter to the way we educate kids today.
I know of what I speak. I could have been the poster child for Attention Deficit Disorder when I was in school. With one of my legs in constant motion, I was torqued. Lucky for me, my teachers knew how to help me stay on point. They’d simply say, “Sit down, shut up and focus!” And so I would.
Fortunately, the pedagogical style back then leaned towards quiet classrooms, one person speaking at a time, and only one subject on the table. On top of that, we had recess twice a day to burn off excess fuel. Today’s classrooms are noisy with many work stations and multiple subjects being addressed. It’s the perfect storm for kids who are over stimulated and struggle with the ability to focus.
Add to all this the excessive exposure to television, computers, and video games early in life and well, it’s like the high-strung on crack.
And while we’re comparing then with now, there were two other advantages I had that many kids lack. I had Mom waiting for me when I came home from school, ready to focus on my world. Many of today’s kids don’t come home to that option. Perhaps the word attention “deficit” does apply in this instance. What I didn’t have was all of the preservatives and junk food kids have going into them every day. This stuff isn’t good for anyone, but it is especially problematic to kids who are tightly wound.
Unfortunately, for kids with ADD, we live in an era that worships education and is deluded into thinking that top grades and top schools are the only way a person has any chance at a future. Although this is absolute hogwash, it doesn’t stop a lot of kids from feeling that they don’t measure up and never will. They struggle trying to please the god of academic elitism to which their parents bow and they seldom stroke their parents’ egos when they bring home their report cards. Perhaps it’s these kinds of parents that actually have the learning disorder. Just because a child has A.D.D. doesn’t mean that child has any intellectual problems. Nor are they actually handicapped. If anything, they have a gift!
True, children with ADD are easily distracted, but when they are highly interested in something, they can lock onto it like a surface-to-air missile. Indeed, their extraordinary ability to concentrate is just one of many exceptional benefits of these “tagged” kids. They may not get into Yale or Stanford, but it doesn’t mean that they have some half-baked future waiting for them. An inordinate percentage of the people at the highest ranks of the marketplace have ADD off the charts. The daydreaming they got in trouble for in school was just practice for the visionaries they have become. Top sales people, managers, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and artists thank God every day for their gift of ADD. I certainly thank Him for mine.
If you have a child dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder, take heart, you have an amazing child on your hands. Relax. Go make some smores with him! Don’t worry about her making straight As. They’ll be fine. In the meantime, vocalize your enormous belief in him, smother her with grace, and watch God do something wonderful with him or her as they move into the future.
Dr. Tim Kimmel has reached millions of parents with his message of building strong families.