It was 1974 and I was sitting in the guidance office at Oakridge Secondary School in London, Ontario. Kemper, as he was called, not only dabbled in guidance and physical education, but also coached the golf team. He was laid back, rarely displaying any anger or frustration over the usual pranks pulled daily at the school. He started our conversation that day by asking me how I was doing, what was new, how the football team was looking, and other pleasant chatter. Then he got to the reason for my being pulled out of class.
“Since you started here in grade 9, Henry, your grades have been going down steadily— from 85 percent, to 74 percent, to 71 percent, to 68 percent this year. What’s going on?”
I had no clue. I thought I was doing very well on the athletic field and in gym, and doing even better socially. I told him I would promise to work hard; he was pleased and let me go. I graduated my final year of high school with a 61 percent and was miraculously accepted at the University of Western Ontario.
I didn’t know it back then, and wouldn’t know it for some thirty-four years, but I had undiagnosed ADHD. I also had a learning disability with some very specific pockets of giftedness. My grades in high school were slipping because not being able to focus, poor organizational skills, and an inability to get my thoughts on paper started to take their toll. At one point, many thought I had experienced mild traumatic brain injury from my high school and college football career, but later experts told me it was ADHD.
Years of trial and error taught me how to overcome academic obstacles. I earned a bachelor’s degree in physical and health education, a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in education, and in 1988 a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Wonder what my high school guidance counselor would say about that, or perhaps the professor from the University of Western Ontario who told me in 1977 that I didn’t have the brains or what it took to be in his program. I could tell you many more such stories, but you get the picture. ADHD-oppositional behavior is helpful when you’re surrounded by idiots who keep trying to tear you down by telling you your goals are unrealistic.
As a psychologist, I have spent the past twenty years helping others develop tools and strategies to overcome many ADHD obstacles so they too can achieve success. During that time, I have also learned valuable lessons to maximize my own performance, tools I will share in this book. It has taken me many years to fully understand my own condition. Only within the past ten years, due to ever-improving technologies, have I been able to identify ADHD, various learning disabilities, and gifted behavior.
The most significant development has been the use of neuroimaging, or a brain scan or QEEG that is reviewed by a neurologist and brain physiologist to help identify if neurological or brain patterns exist for types of ADHD. I’ve had many scans done on my own brain by some of the world’s most respected authorities. In the early years when I was training, volunteers were often asked to step up to have an image done. I would insist on being that subject, which has taught me many valuable lessons and also provided me with world-class clinical opinions of my brain. The images provided at different locations with different types of equipment pointed to the same conclusion and confirmed my diagnosis.
The purpose of this book is to help you find your ADHD success, to learn to live with it and even enjoy it and the unexpected gifts it brings. ADHD is a gift that, if nurtured and properly fine-tuned, will allow you to achieve well beyond your non-diagnosed colleagues and friends. You will likely discover that other learning style issues, giftedness, or specific learning disabilities are also part of who you are. Most important is that you will learn how to live with ADHD success instead of failure.
The ADHD “fix” is about using proven strategies to eliminate the negative impact of ADHD symptoms on the life of a child, teen, or adult. Traditionally, health care professionals try to find ways to make the individual with ADHD fit into existing environments or structures. The ADHD Fix is about creating strategies or a “toolbox” of solutions that if used and modified throughout a lifetime will change the environment to fit the ADHD lifestyle. ADHD is a life-long condition; just like medication, if you stop using these strategies, the ADHD symptoms will again return and negatively impact your life.
Let’s get started.