Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ADD and Me? We'll Manage!

Dear friends,

My sister called me a few weeks ago with the news that she had been diagnosed with ADD  (Attention Deficit Disorder). What's more, my mother immediately replied, "Oh, you mean you didn't know that already? Virginia has it, too!" Oh my. I haven't been officially analyzed on this yet, but the symptoms sure do match up according to this very informative site: ADHD/ADD Adult Symptoms.

Hmmm! So that's what's been going on all these years! Perpetually forgetful. Generally messy. Hard to follow instructions or information that isn't written down. Difficulty with administrative details. Easily bored or distracted. Impatient with interruptions. Tending toward procrastination. Struggling with daily self-discipline. Not even noticing small things that need to be done. No wonder I drive my family nuts sometimes! Yep. That would be me.

No, it's not just laziness, though I'm sure I'm guilty of that sometimes, too. No, I'm not dumb. I graduated from college with honors. I've taught home school classes for years, and developed my own curriculum.  I've written three books and hundreds of blog posts. Like many people with ADD, I can also "hyper focus" for periods of time in an effort to tune out distractions and compensate for my quirky mental wiring. When I started to think about it, I could count dozens of ways (lots of lists -- and more) that I've already compensated for ADD (or the assorted symptoms thereof if I don't have a full blown clinical case of it).

I am amused that one of the most recent helps with this was a very unexpected gift. Even before I heard about the possible ADD, someone who loves me and wanted to bless me gave me an iPod Touch, which I never would have bought for myself since it is out of my price range. It not only has music (which I love!), but web & e-mail (when I'm within wi-fi range), clock alarms, calendar, note pads. My favorite app on it is a wonderful running To Do list that keeps tasks in date and priority order, beeps at me when I need to remember something, and is easy to edit when I don't actually get to something when originally planned. Ah, relief! What a Godsend! (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) That has been a huge help to keeping me on track.   I take it with me wherever I go, so I can type something on the touch pad whenever I think of something I shouldn't forget!  (Update in 2021: I now have an iPhone with a camera, which means I can easily take pictures of things I want to remember for later reference. I use a lot of different apps, too. I'm about to graduate with honors from seminary, so you can see don't let ADD hold me back with learning!)

One other thing I did early on is to encourage myself by writing four lists: ways I already compensate for my ADD brain, things I still need to work on, my personal strengths, and my personal weaknesses. I've posted my "compensations" and "strengths" below, such as my creativity and sense of adventure. So I don't regard ADD with a sense of dismay or doom. It's just a difference that we need to work around.

OK, here are the lists of my compensations and strengths.  These aren't "functional lists" but they sure are uplifting ones!  I also have lists for things I need to work on, but I'll just keep those to myself for now!

Existing Compensations for Symptoms of ADD 
  • reading things to remember or understand (visual learner, not auditory)
  • master grocery list (organized by aisle) on computer to print each week
  • chore charts for kids
  • To Do list on iPod
  • very detailed sermon notes
  • write down names of people I meet
  • address lists on computer
  • e-mails and documents kept on computer for information -- able to do quick search to find what I need without needing to remember exactly where I put it!
  • weekly prayer list
  • vacation packing lists on computer, plus vacation organizer notebook and car bins
  • detailed lesson plans for school -- unit studies plus some structured curriculum keeps things "together"
  • journals and notebooks
  • bins & bags for school supplies, games and puzzles
  • school bins for kids' books, notebook, supplies
  • teacher bin ready for morning school time
  • labeled storage clothes bins
  • bookcases and video shelves organized by topic
  • clocks in most rooms of house
  • blogs to record memories and thoughts that I might otherwise forget
  • photography to help me remember
  • dish cupboards have standard places for most items
  • seasonal and holiday decorations in bins
  • detailed outlines and even scripts for public speaking, though I also ad lib

My God-Given Personality Strengths

  • creative, poetic, deep thinking
  • love beauty, art, nature
  • well-read, with a pretty good memory for what I read
  • out-of-the-box thinking
  • people say I am gifted at writing and public speaking
  • soft heart: able to sympathize and empathize with others
  • flexible and spontaneous
  • adventurous -- like to break out of ruts
  • eclectic interests: learn about a lot of different things and appreciate people who are different from me
  • sociable and conversational
  • value relationships over tasks
  • once I really get going on an organizing task that needs doing, I get a lot of stuff done (if I'm not interrupted too much!)
OK, your turn!  Think about what challenges you face in life!  How do you handle them?  What are your strengths?  How is your personality unique, not necessarily "flawed"?  Get out your paper and pencil now.   Ready, set, go!

Virginia Knowles

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