The World Wasn’t Built for ADHD

I had always been that kid. Adults referred to me as “a handful” and “a spirited child” or “a space cadet.” I left my clothes on the stairs, missed the bus for school, and forgot to turn in my homework even after I’d done it. Plus, I was always on the go. I never stopped.

It was always most evident when I was around other kids. At school, I’d look around at all of my classmates sitting calmly in their chairs and wondered how in the heck they did it. I had a lot of energy, and sometimes it got the best of me. I definitely had other friends who flew off the handle on occasion, but I would freak out pretty dramatically and I cried easily. I thought I was the freakiest thing ever. 

I felt like no one in history was as weird as I was. 

ADHD At School

Academically, I did alright in classes when we were problem-solving or doing something straightforward like vocabulary quizzes. But once we got to subjects that called for reading comprehension or required absorption, reflection, or patience, my grades started to dip. I sensed that things should be easier, that something wasn’t quite right about how hard it was for me to get through a typical day. There just seemed to be more difficulty in the world for me than for other people. 

Does that sound familiar? You may have ADHD just like me. It’s actually a great brain, with so many upsides. But at places like school or work, sometimes it seems like the world wasn’t built for ADHD. As award-winning professor at the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education Dr. Greg Fabiano pointed out in a webinar, if an evil scientist were tasked with designing an environment with the purpose of ruining the day of someone with ADHD, the scientist would crush the assignment by turning in a model of a typical school classroom. 

Starting at a very young age, kids are expected to come into a stimulating room full of posters, chalk, screens, and twenty or so other children, sit in an uncomfortable chair for approximately seven hours a day, and listen to an adult lecture on a topic that is likely of no interest to the average child. They receive very few breaks and almost no opportunities to get up and move around. It’s the perfect environment to elicit symptoms of ADHD. 

ADHD At Work

You’d also get pretty darn good grades in evil scientist school if you submitted a mock-up of your average workplace where people do desk jobs. More sitting. More expected quiet. More dull tasks.  As a result, it’s common for people with ADHD to miss deadlines, procrastinate, overlook important details, and have trouble with project management. 

Give me a choice between going to the dentist, sanding the deck, and sitting through a one-hour video conference with ten people, and I will sand the deck with my teeth before choosing the meeting. I am not good in a big group meeting with an agenda, particularly if the meeting’s online. There are way too many places for my brain to go other than that virtual room. I would rather have ten one-on-one meetings than one group meeting, because that way I can water one flower at a time instead of spraying my attention like a lawn sprinkler. 

How To (Mostly) Thrive

This week, we recorded a live podcast at SXSW in Austin, Texas about how to (mostly) thrive with ADHD. We talk about how the world wasn’t built for ADHD and what systems I’ve put in place to make life more manageable. (I also detail these in our new book, ADHD Is Awesome.) I haven’t been able to (mostly) thrive without a partner who understands and accepts me.  On the podcast, she gives some incredibly valuable advice about how to connect with an ADHD partner.  

My hope is that we can find more understanding for those of us with different, but wonderful brains. If you have ADHD, how would you change your school or workplace to be more ADHD friendly? Let me know in the comments and enjoy our podcast: 

Acast: https://open.acast.com/public/streams/618c3caaa322d1001350082c/episodes/65ef29a53e599300175c146a.mp3

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-holderness-family-podcast/id1378725018?i=1000648870146

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0VOAxIh7IKYATTj41GfShZ?si=1f7f3eebf5084fb4

Pandora: https://pandora.app.link/ybJlvNQ6THb

Amazon: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/094464e9-aad9-4b09-8ee8-248c76b48bd6/episodes/d547138a-2dbd-4992-9e28-c784ec0bcacc/the-holderness-family-podcast-mostly-thriving-with-adhd—live-from-sxsw