For the first time in my life, I am going into an education setting with a label, and its corresponding accommodations: ADHD. It’s a very odd feeling for me, because it’s not like I was hit by an attention deficit bus, and am different now than I was when I was last in a formal learning situation. I am the same “me” I always have been, with the same promise, same creativity, same leap out of the starting gate. Only now, I may ask for and receive help when the sprint becomes a marathon.
Here is my usual performance pattern: I start off with loads of promise, and often get an early reputation as “the smart girl”. If the class is easy, I can run into trouble from a pace that’s too slow. I end up doodling all over my notes and zoning out in class, missing important information, like when our assignment is due. My public school report cards were riddled with comments like, “Catherine would do much better if she would stop starting out the window. She dreams for most of the class and then rushes through her work at the last minute, and does not hand in her best work.”
If the class is challenging, you might find me halfway through a course, staggering under the burdens with overwhelm and paralysis, not knowing how to break a big job into small parts. University was a bit like this. In high school, I was used to being “the smart girl” and getting As and Bs even when all the work was done the night before an assignment was due. At UVic in the 80s, suddenly I was one of a class full of “smart” students, and the ones who learned how to study in high school suddenly were performing far better than I was. I didn’t have a chance at a scholarship, or even keeping my grades high enough for a co-op program.
Now, in my late 40s, I am trying out a new pattern. I’m starting my work when it is assigned. I’m doing the readings. I’m taking time every day to work on this Master’s degree. And I’m asking for help ahead of time. For me, that means meeting with an academic coach, for assistance with planning out my work. It also means letting my fellow learners and teachers know that my strength is found in being “in the moment”. Improvisation and synthesis is more my style than organizing and classifying.
This goes some way to address my own learning style, though I haven’t seen a good match so far in the reading materials. It will inform everything I do in the Learning and Technology program – don’t be surprised if I consistently look at learning and teaching methods through the lens of ADHD. I hope that it adds to the overall body of knowledge, instead of being a distraction for others. Goodness knows, I know what it means to be distracted!