When I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder the summer before fifth grade, I felt like I was separated from the other kids in my class. I felt alone and was frustrated with myself and the struggles I faced. I was put on medication. I dealt with anger management issues, struggled with social situations and tension in relationships because of misunderstandings.
While ADD does not define who I am, it is definitely a part of my identity. I have had to change the way I live my life because of it. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is not even recognized as a learning disability. Often ADD and ADHD are not treated as a struggle when compared to other mental health or learning disabilities, even though ADD can be a trigger disorder for other disorders or problems. Because I have ADD, I have a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse issues, as well as a higher risk of serious depression and anxiety.
There is no set program or definite help for students with ADD or ADHD. If teachers and schools would help out more, recognizing the signs and working with the student at an early age, perhaps students’ academic levels would increase because of that nurturing.
John Brown University attempts to help students that struggle through its Student Support Services, which is offered to students like myself. The professors here at JBU are wonderful and eager to help, but, in reality, how many teachers teach in a way that helps students learn in all kinds of ways? What if we had a way to all but retire Student Support Services? If programs were implemented at a young age to help those with ADD and ADHD as well as other learning disabilities, there wouldn’t be such a separation between students who do well in school and students who are a little behind because of something they can’t help. ADHD is real, not just an excuse people use to take longer on a test. According to a study conducted at the University of Michigan, from 2003 to 2011 there was a 42 percent increase in ADHD cases diagnosed in the United States. These numbers should be shared and the word spread.
I have had the opportunity more recently in my college career to speak out about ADD. I have been able to be vulnerable with those in the JBU community, to teach others dealing with this disorder to love themselves and appreciate how God has made them special. You may not think so, but I believe my ADD has a lot of value. I have been able to push myself out of comfort zones and understand myself more because of my experiences and what I deal with every day. God calls us to love others but He also calls us to love ourselves. We are beautiful in His eyes, regardless of how the world looks at us. God has taught me patience and guidance through my experiences, and a love for myself and an understanding about the issues that I’ve faced. Hopefully, me sharing my story will make a difference in the way JBU students view those with learning disabilities, whether they are registered as such or not. Love is what holds us together as the body of Christ. Show love, and don’t let what brings you down identify you. Your experiences have value. They do not define you, but rather give you strength. Let God use that.
Arnold is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at ArnoldKM@jbu.edu.