ADDers get distracted. I’m an ADDer, and guess what? I get distracted! Like many other ADDers, my school experience was a living hell. Teachers didn’t like me. It wasn’t uncommon that teachers disapproved of my behaviors. Teachers tormented me for it. So it was only natural for me to torment them back. In this article, I’ll take some time to explain why many inattentive kids torment their teachers from the perspective of the kid.
If you were in my family, you would have heard a story that gets tossed around at gatherings. “I had made my grade 1 music teacher cry during a parent-teacher interview”. It’s entirely funny since I was apparently an angel at home. All I did was play video games, toy cars and tinker around with computers. Yet my music teacher would be astonished by these comments. Why wouldn’t she? I was tormenting her. I really was. I was sent to the hall more often than any other kid. In fact, I spent as much time in the hall than in my classroom.
The story, why ADHD children get into trouble in class
I was in my first-grade music class, and all the kids were sitting in a rather large circle. The teacher was calling the students one by one to stand up, walk over, and pick up their assignments. After going thru this routine with several compliant children, I was next. I was called to pick up the paper with my name on it.
I told her clearly “Arrrhh. I’m lazy… Can YOU bring it to me?”
This statement got me sent to the hall AGAIN. But why do inattentive and impulsive kids say such things?
So what was I thinking? My thoughts were racing. A vivid imaginary lightbulb had been turned on in my mind. A play-by-play scenario of what should be done. Without words, I imagined the teachers distributing the papers to each student one at a time.
Being an inattentive grade 1 kid, I didn’t have the well-developed vocabulary I’ve acquired over the years. In reality, I didn’t have any words to describe my complex visualization. Nevertheless, my visualizations projected logic, values, and adjectives:
“If one person distributes the papers to each student then all the other students weren’t going to be disturbed. Why disturb all students when ONLY one person could be disturbed to the task. The teacher”, I thought.
Now certainly this is not what teachers want to hear, and so anyone can relate to a defensive – or rather impulsive – response of sending me to the hall.
But isn’t it the objective of a successful education to turn imaginary light-bulbs “ON” in the heads of the kids they’re teaching? Should deviating ideas be stimulated, asked about, or should there be an intrigue to investigate why the child behaved in the way they did? I might not have been able to describe my thought process with accuracy but at least give me a shot.
Instead of seeking children to follow blindly and comply with every request, shouldn’t we teach self-reflective vocabularies by challenging kids to explain the reasons why they behave in the way that they did?
To my music teacher, the answer to all these questions was a clear and final “NO”. Instead, she decided to impulsively smash my imaginary lightbulb to the ground so that it would pulse no longer for that day.
Punishment Does not Teach an ADHD Child.
What did I learn from this experience? Not much. All I was given were waves of negative emotions for this teacher and was withdrawn from my own education. And instead of using my mind for a productive means I was left to the hallway – imagining riding a flying snake across the school but I digress.
The bottom line: Teachers can’t relate to ADHD children
The central issue I am attempting to convey in this article is how a neurodiverse thought process can create problems in our neurotypical educational system. This issue stems from not having a single neurodiverse perspective in any of the curricula for our future teachers. Rather there are side notes about “cognitive styles” which are highly abstract and never reflects a contextualized personal experience like the one I have shared in this article.
Moreover, teachers will never be able to apply these “cognitive styles” if they do not know when, why, and how they affect the neurodiverse. Teachers must understand that cognitive styles and neurodivergent thought patterns are not only present in academic tasks but pervade every action, thought, speech and behavior.
In today’s education, many neurodiverse children don’t have a voice because their imaginary lightbulb gets smashed as soon as they hit grade one. We must accommodate and celebrate diversity to challenge the neurotypical status quo.