Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Page at a Time: Getting Through College with ADHD

NOTE FROM SUSAN: It goes without saying that students with ADHD often have difficulties in school. This can be especially problematic in college when concessions are rarely made for ADHD students. Phill Pappas knows this reality: It took him seven years to get through college because of his condition. As a result, Phill has written a book called One Page at a Time: Getting Through College with ADHD so that other students with ADHD can benefit from and relate to his experiences. Part memoir, part self-help guide, the book is broken down into three sections: Home, School, and Life. Each section focuses on issues that Phill dealt with during his time in college, from buying a laundry basket, to choosing classes, to dealing with procrastination, and everything else in between. The following is an excerpt from One Page at a Time. If you or your child has ADHD and is college-bound (or already there), this book may help!

Have you heard the theory that ADHD is actually an evolutionary adaptation?

It seems that back in the day, the cavemen who didn’t have “ADHD” were so oblivious to their surroundings they would get eaten by crazy-awesome saber-tooth tigers. So, over years and years, cavemen eventually became a little more vigilant. Instead of being oblivious to environmental stimuli, caveman 2.0 was somewhat aware of his surroundings. However, he was still eaten by some other crazy prehistoric animal.

Then caveman 3.0 was released. He was hyper-vigilant. Everyone was always telling him to shut up. “Ugh,” they’d say. “Uga guh guh guha.” He was always climbing trees and then falling out of them, and when it was time to paint on the walls, he was pacing around the cave telling everybody else that wall-painting was f---ing boring to watch. Caveman 3.0 was also the best hunter and didn’t get eaten by crazy animals as often, because he was more aware of his surroundings than the previous versions of cavemen. He was the ancestor of you and I.

I like this idea. Some people think ADHD is a societal diagnosis, others think it stems from slower development of the frontal lobe, and some people think it’s caused by exposure to lead or pesticides. I like to think that we are better models of an always-adapting entity. We think faster, we have more energy, we take more risks (for better and worse), and we can adapt quicker. From this angle, who wouldn’t want ADHD?

Think about computers. Would you want to own the shitty Macintosh from 1988, or do you want the amazing new laptop that runs faster, longer, and does so much more? I say we are the faster operating system of the human race, and society has simply refused to change for us.

The education system says that we should slow down because we are too active* in the classroom, so we get prescribed drugs. Shouldn’t we be looking for ways to change the school system that was created in the 1700s, a time when most people were retarded by today’s standards?** Well, who knows how long until we see any societal change on this issue, so in the meantime, I say, don’t slow down, speed up.

Take a second to think about your ideal day. Would you be sitting on the couch all day watching TV? Would you spend the entire day sitting in a classroom? Or, would your day be packed with places to be and things to do? Work, school, friends, sports, food, relationships, and adventure*** can be packed into every day if you speed up.

Instead of fighting it, try to embrace your energy. When other people are slowing down or getting tired, we are still operating at mach-five. My productivity increases when my days are packed. I am always happier when I have more to do. People wondered how I managed to take 12 credits, work 35 hours a week, and train as an amateur boxer. Simple, I am happiest when I stay busy.

Filling your days with things to do and places to be enables you to do two important things: Expend energy and enjoy accomplishments.

*This is often called, “Being disruptive.”
**I hear some charter schools are attempting new ways of engaging kids in the classroom. All hope may not yet be lost.
***It is often hard to add adventure to an already full schedule, but I like trying.

To purchase One Page at a Time: Getting Through College with ADHD, by Phill Pappas, CLICK HERE.

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