For Families > Disorders and Treatments > A-Z Disorder Guide > Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

A Teenager Talks About Growing Up With ADHD

by Rachel Stone, Nyack, New York

Everyone faces adversity while trying to accomplish a goal. The dictionary defines adversity as, "an instance of misfortune; calamity." I don't see the adversity I've faced as a calamity; I see it as a factor that helped me become what I am today.

In fourth grade I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD). At the time I wasn't exactly sure what that meant. I always had trouble focusing on homework and paying attention in class. I was put on Ritalin and told that this would make it easier for me to keep on task and keep me focused. I accepted this without asking too many questions; I didn't really want to face the fact that I had something that made me different from the rest of my classmates.

I continued taking the medication until the end of seventh grade when I started developing facial ticks as a side effect. A decision was made to take me off further medication, curious to see how I fared without it. I did fairly well for the rest of middle school; the work wasn't very hard, and I got by with decent grades.

Upon entering high school I was determined to make high honor roll every quarter. It didn't quite work out that way though. I had not prepared myself for the academic workload and the pressures of being a high school student. I was completely lost. I couldn't focus on work, I couldn't pay attention in class, and I couldn't concentrate on homework, rarely completing it as a result. Emotionally, I didn't really know how to handle it. I was completely frustrated because I didn't understand why I was having such trouble. I didn't realize that I was having difficulty because I wasn't on any medication and neither did anyone around me. My teachers knew I had the potential to do well, but they just figured I was lazy and not motivated. My parents were angry with me because my teachers told them I never did my homework. Nobody understood that it wasn't because I was lazy or not motivated, I really did care about my grades.

I would try to sit down and write a paper, but there were too many thoughts in my head and too many things going on around me to even get a paragraph down. I would sit in the front row of my math class, with my notebook open and ready to take notes, but then something would catch my eye out the window and I'd miss the whole lesson. Its funny though, I was very close with many of my teachers. Most of them liked me because I am a very animated person and always talked a lot in class discussions. They were all rooting for me, and they wanted me to pull through. No one could understand though. It was like I was drowning and everyone was around the water trying to save me, but they couldn't see where I was.

So, I basically gave up, I started to believe it was just because I didn't care, and it was too late to do anything about it. I stopped making up excuses about leaving my homework at home; I stopped asking for extensions for papers I knew I wasn't going to do anyway; I completely lost hope. After hitting rock bottom the middle of sophomore year, I was finally retested for ADD. I was put on the medication Adderal one month before sophomore year concluded. I was able to pull up all my grades and end up with an eighty-five for my fourth quarter average, making the honor roll for the first time in my high school career.

Things only got better with junior year. My second quarter average was twenty points points higher than it was second quarter of sophomore year. I feel that my best achievement was in math. I almost didn't pass math sophomore year, and almost didn't take it junior year because I didn't think it would be worth it. With the Adderal, I was able to focus in class and remember how much I liked math! I ended up with the highest average in the pre-calculus classes, a 100% homework average for the year; I also received the 11th grade math award for achievement and effort.

I talk very openly about my ADD now. I tell people how much I've accomplished and what the proper medication has done for me and how proud I am of myself for overcoming this. Sometimes I run into people who believe that my having ADD is just an excuse and that I'm just trying to compensate for being lazy during the first two years of high school. Or when I tell them how well I did on my S.A.T.'s, they roll their eyes and say that it's just because I had extended time. I don't let it bother me anymore though. I know its difficult for people to grasp the fact that I can't filter distraction without medication. I know that I accomplished something a lot of people couldn't accomplish. I even look back on how I just sat here and wrote this essay completely focused, knowing this is never something I could have done two years ago. I know I'll face more adversity associated with my learning disability in the future, but I'm going into this knowing that after the wall I scaled, the rest are just hills to skip over.

About the Authors

Rachel Stone lives in Nyack, New York

References and Related Books

All About ADHD (Grades K-8)
Linda Pfiffner
Scholastic Paperbacks (T), January 1, 1999

Learning to Slow Down and Pay Attention: A Book for Kids About ADD
Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ellen B. Dixon, John Rose (Illustrator)
Magination, 2nd edition, October 1997

The ADD Hyperactivity Handbook for Schools: Effective Strategies for Identifying and Teaching Add Students in Elementary and Secondary Schools
Harvey C. Parker
Specialty Press, February 1992

The "Putting on the Brakes" Activity Book for Young People With ADHD
Patricia O. Quinn, Judith M. Stern, Neil Russell (Illustrator),
Quin Magination, January 1998