Everybody knows that a hallmark of ADHD is distraction. I like to think of my distractibility with a lemon twist– there are so many things in the world that are fascinating to me except the boring task at hand. For example, right now I know that I need to put together all the tax information, donations, and deductions so my husband can do the taxes. Yet I’d rather cut out pictures of bathroom remodels from magazines my hairdresser gives me, lollygag on Pinterest and look up images of Taiwanese mountains, learn Hebrew, read about alien abductions, plan my next trip to Mexico, and watch a YouTube video on DIY pedicures while organizing my bedroom drawers. Makes sense, right?
When I was a child, teachers often reprimanded me for daydreaming. It was excruciating to be locked inside while the sun splattered on the verdant trees in the sun on the playground. The branches danced in the wind, and I imagined stories, painted pictures in my head, and my brain traveled far, far away from that stuffy classroom. In high school, my teachers often told me to shut up because I wouldn’t stop socializing. No one ever suggested to my parents or me that I might have ADHD. They just said that I needed to stop daydreaming.
Side note: I wouldn’t daydream if they weren’t so boring, and I didn’t think of so many inventions, stories, and paintings in my head. Blah neurotypical people need to stop messing with ADHDers’ time travel and brain-cations. One hyperactive entrepreneur I met insisted that he didn’t have ADHD. He had BTD- Boring Teacher Disorder!
Girls Just Didn’t Have ADHD in the 1980s.
In the 1980s, girls just didn’t have ADHD. Only boys got diagnosed with it. I attended a snooty private school for gifted children (economically gifted–I thought we were poor because we didn’t have a swimming pool). I hated that school so much that I opted for our local public high school after eighth grade.
At Upland High School I tested into the GATE program, (Gifted and Talented Education), earned mostly A’s, and B’s, so of course, I didn’t have ADHD. Back then, no one talked about ADHD much. When they did, it was likely about second grade boys who sped around the classroom. And even today, girls are better at hiding learning disabilities and ADHD than boys, often developing coping mechanisms that mask their disabilities. (I became hyperorganized in school and strived to get A’s at all costs in college).
Because a whole generation of girls went virtually undiagnosed, many women with ADHD bumble around not knowing what’s wrong. About 4-5% of adults actually have ADHD, and 90% of those who have it remain undiagnosed.
I didn’t even find out until I was 30 YEARS OLD WHEN I BECAME A TEACHER that I had it! I’d be teaching reading and WOULD GET BORED WITH MY OWN TEACHING. Then I’d get distracted, and then want to do an art project or write poetry with the students instead. When I finally got diagnosed as a first year teacher, I felt like, “OMG, I could have had a V-8. Why didn’t ANYBODY tell me? Why didn’t any of my teachers say anything? Didn’t anybody notice?”
My Distraction Today
I won’t lie to you and tell you that I live in a gated community now with a manicured lawn and never get distracted. Au contraire.
I’ve accepted my penchant for daydreaming, inventing, and brain-cations as a part of who I am. I also have found strategies to stay in today and in the now, except during Death by PowerPoint presentations! When I’m in a work meeting, I take copious notes because I’m a kinesthetic/visual learner and it helps me stay more focused. If a random, post-it note thought or invention flies through my head, I write down an exclamation point on the side of the paper, with the note underneath it, and then shift my brain back to now.
My distraction kicks into full gear, whenever a PowerPoint appears in a meeting. PowerPoint presentations should be used only as torture for treasonous political prisoners or unreformable serial killers. PowerPoint is as excruciating as learning long division in fourth grade. They are only bearable if the speaker is engaging and barely refers to the slides. Since PowerPoint’s advent, too many folks have focused on making a pretty slide instead of wowing the audience. I’m delighted to hear that many businesses like Amazon and LinkedIn have banned PowerPoint–I hope the education world follows suit fast.
Do you get distracted during (death by) PowerPoint presentations or the like? What do you do to stay focused, or at least appear on task?