Editor’s note: The following article is part of our series ‘Junior Project Reflections’. We invited members of the Junior Class to share their reflections on their Junior Projects – a month-long internship that takes place during January of a student’s junior year at GFS. For his project, author William Lines ’23 underwent an independent project researching ADHD. Lines, himself diagnosed with ADHD, wrote this article describing some of his findings, as well as his process throughout the project.
For my whole life, I have struggled to sit still, with talking when I’m not supposed to, and remembering important tasks or events – just to name a few. When I was younger, I thought that everyone struggled with these things, but as I grew older I started to realize I was often the only one in my classroom who was falling behind. This deficit grew and grew until my parents and teachers decided it would be beneficial for me to get tested for ADHD. The ADHD testing process can be very stressful for a young kid; a two-day exam that tests reading and visual comprehension, short and long-term memory, matching, and other cognitive skills. When the test came back and my suspected diagnosis was confirmed by the expert, no one was surprised.
After my results came back, it was a lot easier for those around me to understand why it was harder for me to do the things that come quite naturally for others. It also made me feel safer and more understood by my teachers and peers. Before my diagnosis had been confirmed, I felt misunderstood and judged for my actions because my teachers and peers lacked knowledge of my disorder. When the results came in, it gave those around me much more insight as to why I acted the way I did.
I am glad that I am able to have this information to share because there are many kids that have ADHD, are undiagnosed, and lack the sense of security and understanding that I have. The recognition of my disorder has helped me to set myself straight at times, and without it, I think my life would be more complicated.
Since I was diagnosed with ADHD, I have been very forward with the fact that I have ADHD because I think it’s a defining part of my character. At the beginning of each school year, I tell all of my new teachers that I have ADHD and that certain tasks are more difficult for me. My life is a lot more challenging at times due to ADHD and I have been able to make it easier for myself and those around me by educating them on why I may act differently than others.
ADHD is much more complicated than how it is represented and because of this, ADHD awareness and education are of paramount importance. Due to this importance, as well as the daily obstacles I face living with ADHD, I decided to designate my Junior project to studying ADHD with a final goal of creating an article educating others on ADHD as well as my own journey with ADHD.
Of the many things I learned this month, one of the most interesting to me was that people with ADHD are 2-3 times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem in their lifetime. When I came across overwhelming evidence that proved my postulation to be true, I was interested to learn more and was able to answer one of my initial thesis questions. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects cognitive decision-making, movement, decision-making, social interaction, and much more. ADHD is prenatally developed (before birth) in around 80-85% of cases but can be influenced by the environment you live in as well. Children in a predominantly English-speaking household are four times more likely to develop ADHD than a child in a non-English speaking household. This phenomenon is mainly because of genetics, but could also be somewhat due to environmental factors as well. Environmental factors can be a sum of things such as if a mother used substances during pregnancy, exposure to chemicals or metals, nutritional factors, or social factors.
This independent research project was quite difficult for me at times, and throughout the course of the month, I couldn’t stop thinking about how ironic it all was. Me, a kid with moderate to severe ADHD, was doing extensive research every day on the disorder he has, which makes it hard for him to sit still and focus for a long time, do work without structure, and not get distracted by the little things around him, all while focusing on either reading, writing, or note-taking for extended periods of time. Even though it was so difficult to stay grounded throughout the process, it made it much more interesting that every time I found a new piece of information, it would resonate with me in some way. I was learning more and more about myself every day in a way I had never experienced before. Learning about what I was researching with first-hand experiences on almost every topic was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had, and I am so thankful that I was able to have this experience and that I was able to learn so much about myself while hopefully being able to educate others on how significant and life-altering living with ADHD is.
The highlights of my project consisted of interviewing pediatric psychiatrists Elton John Smith, and Craig Stevens. It was interesting to hear about what it’s like to constantly be surrounded by those with ADHD as a part of your workday. One of the things I found most interesting is that in our grades of 100-120 students here at GFS, there are usually 10-15 students with ADHD. This fact made me feel like I was part of something in which I wasn’t alone.
I hope those reading this article can use this information to gain a better understanding of what life is like with ADHD. ADHD is something that a person can’t just change or get rid of, and I think it is important to be patient and respectful to those that could appear as “slow”, because it can be a challenge to live up to the expectations of those around them; they are working just as hard to do their best as you are.