Back in January, “Brook” was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), which an Attention Deficit Disorder Association website defines as a neurobiological, often genetically influenced disorder “resulting in symptoms of inability to maintain attention, impulsive behaviors, and/or motor restlessness.”
“My parents said I should get checked out because I have a lot of trouble studying,” said 15-year-old Brook (not her real name) in a telephone interview. “I can study for five minutes at a time and then have to go do something else. I just can’t sit there. I have a lack of being able to focus on the material in front of me and a short attention span. I get easily distracted.”
When talking with peers, she often jumps around topic to topic. For instance, she could be talking about something from yesterday and impulsively switch to something happening three years ago. People trying to follow her conversations often get lost.
“At schools, teachers get very frustrated with me,” she said. “I’ll be looking at the clock trying to figure out how many minutes are left in class or playing a song in my head to occupy myself and a teacher will ask me to read. I won’t have any idea what everyone else is doing.”
She refuses to use her diagnosis as an excuse for poor behavior. However, she and her mother don’t want her using drugs because of the potential side effects. Brook is doing her best controlling her symptoms by increasing her water intake, getting sufficient sleep, and eating healthy food.
“I’m definitely thinking about how it will affect my future employment,” she said, adding that being a teacher or a meteorologist especially appeals to her. “As for being an elementary school teacher, that would work well for me because children can’t sit in one spot either and I could do active learning with them. When little, that was the kind of teacher I liked. They understood me.”
She also enjoys watching the Weather Channel and dreams of being a meteorologist. “It’s kind of like the weather has ADD,” she said. “A storm pattern can be heading in one direction and then suddenly goes off in another. It’s not consistent. The weather changes. Watching the weather helps me focus my brain.”
Overall, she attributed her well-adjusted life to loving friends and parents, an outgoing personality, and an ability to laugh at herself.