This student-authored post is part of a series that highlights student perspectives around learning and executive function in the classroom.
My Experience Receiving an ADHD Diagnosis in High School
I experienced challenges with focus and organization for years, only to be diagnosed with ADHD at fourteen. Though this diagnosis did not remedy my disability, it has given me perspective and empathy.
Grappling with a developmental disability initially made me feel helpless. Regardless, I realized I had a few options on how to cope. My first option was to pretend it did not exist—an option I had chosen during my freshman year of high school. I repudiated the condition and told myself I did not deserve special accommodations. By the end of freshman year, I had lost almost thirty pounds due to stress, destroying my body and depriving it from sleep so that I could achieve all A’s and prove ADHD to be a myth.
The second option was to succumb to the difficulty of having the disorder. During sophomore year, I tried to follow the precedent I had set the year before, but the workload increased, and my mental health declined. I felt hopeless and embarrassed that a mere four-letter diagnosis could tear apart my academic future and school became something I feared. That winter, I was admitted into a partial hospitalization program for this school-related anxiety and received a 504 plan despite my original opposition.
Soon, I began to see a third option for dealing with my diagnosis: use the empathy I’ve gained for people with disabilities to contribute to the quality of others’ lives. I began working with Rory, an individual with Down syndrome, around the time of my diagnosis. Rory is an exceptional child with a mind that I know could create positive change, and I want him and others like him to be able to impact the world without suppression stemming from stigmas surrounding cognitive disabilities. Working with Rory helped me understand that people with disabilities are uniquely intelligent and have talents that can alter the world for the better, despite the presumptions often made about people with varying disabilities.
My Recommendations for Students Recently Diagnosed with ADHD
I feel passionately about sharing what I have learned throughout my diagnosis journey with students facing similar experiences. Below are some of my recommendations for high schoolers with an ADHD diagnosis.
- Recognize (and let others around you know) that you may need to go through different emotional stages after the diagnosis. These can include denial, anger, depression, and hopefully ending with acceptance.
- Setting alarms and timers is a very useful strategy for making sure you don’t miss anything important.
- Therapy with someone who specializes in ADHD is important.
- E. Grimm, Student Contributor
SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org
Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org