Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

Is the burden of ADHD causing lost Childhoods?

I am not like everyone else, I have ADHD and my childhood wasn’t normal either.

Quite frankly, I don’t want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to conform to be someone better than anyone else or to be ‘normal’ and I certainly don’t want to be average. I have no such desire. I used to and it would drive me crazy. I like being me. I have some hard luck stories, I can tell you of all the mistakes I have made and the challenges that overwhelmed me, but sometimes the point is missed. I still have ADHD and many of the issues that come with it, but that is not my point.

The reason I have revealed so much about myself is because I have overcome many challenges, found some decent workarounds and I have moved forward to a more positive place. But, I didn’t entirely conform to do so, I didn’t become normal and I didn’t become what others wanted me to be

I became something far better: I became whole, as myself. I am free to be me, positive and hopeful for a better future, as matter of fact, a better: today!

Raised with undiagnosed ADD I got in so much trouble for not being like other kids, for not following the rules perfectly and, forbid, for not coloring in the lines. When I was in grade school it was a burden for me and my parents. I wished I could have gotten my act together and just, at the very least, behaved normally. I learned to flinch at shadows, I learned to disapprove of myself and, worst of all, I learned I wasn’t good enough. Living with my head in the clouds was disastrous, but it sure seemed a better place to be. Now I wonder if it was really me that was so wrong after all.

Today as an adult I have the freedom to be me. I had to go through a lot of therapy just to get back to being me. I have come to learn and understand that, yes, I had a great many difficulties as a child with undiagnosed ADD, but it wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but there were far better ways to help a child in my situation. Unfortunately, I grew up in a time when ADHD wasn’t that well known, much less embraced. We’ve come a long way. But then again, we have a long way to go.

Even today kids with ADHD are expected to be something different than they are, to be better, to improve and to conform. They have ADHD after all. Be that as it may, there’s a hard lesson many of us who grow up trying to measure up must learn and that is: Sometimes we just need to be ourselves. We need time to have the freedom to goof off, daydream, hyper focus or, wander around without any destination just to let our minds drift here and there. We also need time to explore our natural talents and traits, whatever they might be. Some think that much talent has been lost in today’s world. Talent isn’t being lost, the freedom to explore it early in life, is – then later in life, sometimes it is just too late to rediscover it, much less use it to its full potential. Well, yes, I guess that would also mean talent is sometimes indeed being lost.

I remember back in elementary school, second grade, I was temporarily put into a special reading / writing class and the ONLY difference was that there were fewer students, the teacher spent more time on each of us and we had special, individualized learning methods. These things helped me stay focused and learn. In that environment I excelled beyond expectations. In that class I discovered I loved to read and write. I also discovered then, in that wonderful environment, that I had a talent for writing. Unfortunately, it would be over a decade or more before I would rediscover my love for writing. To me, this speaks clearly about the major problem for us when we are in the wrong environment for our individual ways of learning. Medication fixes that for some, but we can’t forget that in some ways medication may only be a substitute and I don’t think it is intended to be used that way.

It’s too bad that I did so well in that special class that I had to go back to the normal classroom environment only to have my problems again (you can read the story in One Boy’s Struggle). I can’t help but wonder what my school experience would have been like if it had been individualized as that special class was. For a short time, as a child, I felt smart and well able to accomplish my lessons. For a short while my mental and emotional outlook was healthy and positive, and when class time was over I was free to be. My experience in that class still benefits me to this day.

A proper diagnosis of ADHD as a young boy possibly could have helped so much, if properly treated. In the above example medication wasn’t prescribed, because there was no diagnosis or thorough attempt to understand me or the learning difficulties I was experiencing. For a short time when I received individualized instruction based on how I learn, everything was okay, not only okay, it was like I was brilliant and I felt good to be in school. I was free to be me, naturally.

I sincerely believe that kids with ADHD are more likely to grow up with lost childhoods simply because there is so much pressure to overcome, to attempt to be normal and to generally conform. All the while, too often, kids with ADHD are in the wrong situation, the wrong place and trying to obey rules which simply don’t work for them and the way their ADHD minds work. In my opinion, talent, hope and enthusiasm are being lost in early childhood. 

Do you think the burden of ADHD is causing lost childhoods? Are children discouraged to daydream, to learn at their own pace, and to let their creativity shine? If you’re an adult with ADHD, how did it affect your childhood?