Welcome to Thrive with ADHD. My name is Leslie Morris and I’m an ADHD Life Coach, mom, wildlife photographer and lover of all things bright and shiny! My personal ADHD story is unusual in two ways, I was an early diagnosed girl and I was diagnosed in the early 1970s when it was not even called ADHD and mostly attributed to being a problem in boys. My parents were told I had “short-circuit effect” and my pediatrician recommended behavior and activity therapy.
In the early 1970s ADHD was not even remotely understood. It was often labeled with some scary verbiage. Diagnosis such as “Hyperkinetic Impulse Disorder” or “Minimal Brain Function” or gasp… even “bad parenting” were thrown around to scared parents and Ritalin was making its debut and parents did not want their kids to be the test population. My poor parents. These first-time parents who thought they gave birth to an active free spirit who marched to her own drummer from day one, were being told there was something wrong with me.
Blessed with a forward-thinking pediatrician, they were guided to help me with my lack of coordination, over-activity, impulse control issues and love for animals and outdoors, to sign me up for horseback riding lessons. I felt tremendously fortunate because the thing I loved the most in the world and was interested in nothing else…was horses! This marked the beginning of decades of my amazing parents hauling me and my horses around to shows and activities. This worked well outside of school and I was very happy, but inside school it was a different story. So many children fell through the cracks during these years and many have scars from well-intentioned teachers with no knowledge of Executive Functioning delays in challenging kids like me. In third grade I was in the hands of a team-teaching situation, one teacher wanted me medicated, the other not. My pediatrician continued to recommend against medicating in favor of behavior and healthy activity therapy.
Remember I said I marched to the beat of my own drummer? Funny story. A few days into the first week of kindergarten, the school called my mom. Apparently, Leslie was missing! As she was still on the phone, I walked in the front door, announce that Kindergarten was boring and I did not need to be there. I then proceeded to go to my room, slam the door shut and draw horses.
I was the classic impulsive, easily distracted, over-active, fun seeking ADHD kid many see today, but I did not live in a world where my style was appreciated (sadly we see this today as well, even though we know so much more). Teachers either loved me or hated me. I hated all things school and learned very early on how to do just what was required to get by so I could quickly get to ANYTHING more interesting than school. For me, just about anything was more interesting than school. How about picking up the neighbor’s newspaper and trying to sell it back? Or gathering rocks, painting them and putting them in home-made carriers and going door to door selling pet rocks? Seriously, I am certain my pet rocks were more interesting than those that were the craze in 1975. Or, to my parent’s horror, bringing home any unattended puppy, kitten, lizard, snake, frog or other creature that was going to surely die if I did not take care of it!
The schools were not equipped for me, I was tested gifted and pulled out of regular class into an immersion gifted academy in the 4th grade that included 5th and 6th grade together in a sort of Montessori-like environment. This academy assumed ALL gifted kids loved to learn everything and would learn most quickly at their own pace and be self-directed. Well, if it did not have a mane or a tail, Leslie was not going to voluntarily self-direct to learn about it! My delays in many executive functioning skills went unrecognized, and I was always behind. My desk was a black hole disaster and I was forever losing my currency for the money system setup so that I could not even leave to go to the bathroom.
I don’t remember much of this time as I believed I was traumatized and my parents must have agreed, as when they were told they could not take me out put me back in the traditional school due to my test scores, they took matters into their own hands. They made a sacrifice and moved out of our school district to get me into a better situation, pulling my poor younger well-adjusted sister along in the aftermath of my inability to fit in well in school. My new school was better, but my needs were still not met. One forward thinking teacher in the 5th grade did get it, she allowed me to represent my learning through drawings. If it were not for the advocacy of my parents and their relentless energy getting me into social and recreational activities that I did enjoy, I might have been a severe casualty. Because of their amazing parenting, except for school, my early years were well adjusted, happy and full of adventure. What more could an ADHD girl want?
Next chapter? Middle and High School. Stay tuned for the next installment of my ADHD Story, Birth to 55!