Jamie - Trying to Fit In
A Former Student's Perspective

For as long as I have been conscious of my own impact on the world I have been aware, painfully so, that I am not like everyone else. I had tried and tried for years to understand why. I had trouble socially in just about every setting all my life. For me, school was more the "prison" most kids describe than I think they really mean. When I graduated from post-secondary education I thought my life was finally under my own control. I thought I could finally go to work and be taken seriously. After 4 years of working as a software developer, nothing had really changed. I still felt like an outsider.

The best trick for understanding another person's behavior is to put yourself in their shoes! Try for a moment to imagine being a child with ADD sitting in a classroom and trying to do what you are being told, all the time. If you're having trouble with this one...might I suggest you turn on three radios on different stations in the messiest room of the house, just after supper. Drink 10 cups of coffee and have your mother-in-law call you on the telephone. Now try to do your taxes. Oh, and you're not allowed to get up from your chair for at least a half hour.

This may amuse some, but it's a painfully real analogy. There's a storm going on in the head of a person with ADD. But the storm never stops. Imagine trying to fit into society with a problem like that! One of the biggest challenges we children with ADD face is trying to help others understand us, while at the same time, trying to understand ourselves! A daunting task for a child!

Any advice on how to help a child with ADD will probably apply to any non-ADD child as well. The widely touted techniques of individualized attention, rewards, structure, discipline, rules, novelty or situation and motivation have been rehashed time and time again by authors.

  • As far as a classroom setting will allow, let us control when we are the center of attention.

  • You may be surprised to find that we don't always want to be the shining star. I found (and still do) that sometimes I wanted to be the center of attention and sometimes I did not. But, I do know that I always wanted to be in control.

  • I hated it when I realized I had done something wrong and the teacher publicly drew attention to the fact. I also hated it when I did something right and the same happened. If you're right too often in school, you become the "teacher's pet"; wrong too often and you're a "dunce." Praise us, but please, not too loudly. When we seem surprised by our successes, then it's usually safe to publicly praise us! We need the praise and reassurance, but often we are uncomfortable with the publicity.

  • At the same time, please don't ridicule us when we make mistakes. When this happens, we stop trying for fear of failure leading to ridicule. "You can't fail if you don't try" the child thinks...but the sad part is you can't succeed either. When I tell people this, they say they do not ridicule, yet they see nothing wrong with the phrase, "Johnny, you know better than that": With rare exceptions, most people do not set out to fail. Because of this, it should be obvious that Johnny did NOT know better. Watch your words, they can cut like a knife.

  • Give us our dignity. This is true for all people. If you give respect and dignity, you often earn more respect for yourself.

  • Finally, a few more simple points:-
      When in doubt, ask us!
      We do not willfully misbehave
      Don't try to fit us into the square hole - sometimes we need to be forced through a different hole.

By: Jamie Cashin
This document was last updated 8/13/97 by Chandra Hawley.
Center for Adolescent Studies, Kris Bosworth - Director

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   The most valuable reward in teaching
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