I'm an adult... most of the time. I'm a father of three, husband to one, and a small business owner. I like to mountain bike, play outside, and LOVE to solve problems, the more intense and immediate, the better.
I'm also recently (at the age of 40) diagnosed with ADHD.
It was actually on my birthday. It was after I was wondering why it was so damn hard to sweat the little stuff... the details.
As anyone who knows me would tell you... I am a bundle of energy, constantly getting "stuff" done, incredibly excited about new ideas and concepts who loves to cast the vision for a little company called Compass Outdoor Adventures. I'm also the one who hates paying bills, finishes things about 90 percent, and the one who took 10 years to paint the trim in my daughter's room (after I built the entire thing from scratch). I just thought I was a slacker... one who couldn't follow things through.
It's with that thought in mind that I approached my doctor who gave me an assessment to take and worked up a diagnosis. Let's quickly talk diagnosis. Diagnosing for ADHD is not 100% accurate. You can't check blood levels, specific chemicals, or skin rashes. As an adult you take a subjective survey that is largely self administered. Then you talk to a doctor.
My positive diagnosis came along with a prescription to Adderral, and an idea about why things were challenging in certain areas.
---You mean I can completely finish our new website AND test it for errors?
---You mean I actually checked the spelling without sending it to my wife?
---You mean I can meet with the bookkeeper AND the accountant in one day without feeling like I need to have a beer immediately.
Now... that's not to say that there aren't side effects. Hellacious dry mouth... an inability to stop focusing if I take my medicine too late in the evening. That's why I take my medicine occasionally, not every day.
Two good friends of mine said it's like a prescription for glasses. Once you get the amount dialed, you hardly even know they're on. Want to try to take the test yourself? Here's a link to a basic one.
That's me as an adult dealing with ADHD. Now let's move to the kid spectrum.
Kids in School
In addition to being and adult with ADHD, I'm also a recovering classroom educator. I taught fifth grade for ten years. A great job because...
1. I got to stand up and move around all day. Remember that teacher that sat behind their desk and let you watch a movie while they graded papers? Not me. I was the teacher that had you reenacting the Revolutionary war outside complete with heavy artillery and injured students pulled off in stretchers. I was the teacher who forgot to give you homework because we were too busy blowing something up in our science period.
2. I got to run my own show. Research shows that people with ADHD are 300% more likely to start their own businesses. [find research] When the doors of the classroom were closed, the show was entirely mine. Yes I had to hit standards, but most of the time, the way to get there was of my own choosing.
3. What better way to be excited and spontaneous and constantly stimulated than working with kids?
Still, kids like me, typically boys who couldn't sit still, would bounce around the back of the classroom, and fidget through half of their work, would still spend time out in the hall.
They would still eat lunch in detention so they could finish their homework, and more often than not hurl themselves into sports during lunch, come in covered in mud, with grins stretched ear to ear.
They were the ones who would always crack jokes, bounce from group to group, and get killed off first in any Native American simulation we ran. One group actually tried to sell one of the team to another tribe because he was so disruptive.
They were also the kids who were fun, spontaneous, and wore their heart on their sleeves. They often stood up for the underdog, sometimes resulting in fights, and always needed to feel that things were fair. They were also insanely creative. One of my old students Dennis and a buddy once caught a squirrel in a backpack at the bus stop. Their plan was to bring it to school and release it in the cafeteria. Before they could get it on the bus the squirrel went nuts and they decided to let it go. As they opened the backpack, it turned around and bit both of the boys who ended up having to get rabies shots that day. Did I mention that these kids like me rarely thought of consequences?
That's when the epiphany hit. What if there were programs that got kids active AND engaged them mentally and socially? What if we let kids fidget, move, and do what they needed to to engage themselves? What if there were programs where kids were able to push themselves AND think about consequences.
As I pondered these things, I started to use little tricks and techniques that worked for me. Kids were allowed to use their headphones and listen to music while working on some of their independent classroom. They worked on math completely at their own pace, on their own schedule and I helped instead of stood and delivered. I allowed kids things to fidget with and play with instead of taking away all their little trinkets. Kids were encouraged to really focus on what they really cared about to accomplish their academic goals. (Building a miniature skateboard half pipe to satisfy geometry units)
And I got called into the principal's office three times that year. Once for letting students publish to a blog so they could have a real audience, once for playing karaoke too loud in our portable, (great reading practice) and once for.... I don't actually remember.
"I knew what worked for kids in my classroom, especially kids like me. But it didn't fit the mold of the way a classroom should be."
Those trips to the office are very likely why I started Compass Outdoor Adventures. I wanted to run programs where boys (and later girls) could push themselves physically and mentally, try new things, and not be afraid to screw up. I wanted to create a program where loud music was the norm, not the thing that landed you in the principals office. I wanted to build a program where kids like me could thrive and succeed. Every kid... and specifically... kids like me.
AND WE HAVE...
Twelve kids in the Compass Summer Camps the first year. Then 36, then 75, and now, over 450 with a cast of over 15 adventure guides that are all a little like me. Active, engaged, hyper, fun, and spontaneous. All who live the outdoors lifestyle. All who rock climb, mountain bike, swing off of rope swings, and play Metal Mondays really, really loud in our adventure mobiles. (Trevor... you owe me a set of new speakers in the Red Van)
Moms that are currently freaking out... They are also trained in First Aid/CPR, Risk Management, and emergency preparedness... Your kids are safe.
It's a mission of love. It's a new challenge every single day that keeps me engaged, active, and mentally stimulated. It's absolutely my calling.
Wait.... back to the original questions before my zen like trip down memory lane... Why is ADHD such bad words. As an adult who deals with it every day and largely built a business because of it and for it... it's not.
It's just a different way of looking at the world.
And it's awesome.
Want to know a little more about what it's like to have ADHD? We found this great article called 23 Signs You DO NOT have ADHD. Check it out.