It’s Never Too Late for Learning

Was I the ADHD Class Clown?

Or was I just deaf?

I was the class clown. Yep, 59 years old, in a master’s program in counseling and I had my fellow students roaring when I asked questions or replied to the professor. And I’m telling you, it hurt. OUCH.

My questions and answers in class were important to me as both gauge my level of understanding the material being taught. I don’t remember ever being laughed at so much in a classroom and I think it’s because I learned to be invisible. This experience is new yet ages old. At first I was bemused when there was a littler tittering at my comments and I was a little embarrassed. But then, one day I was truly embarrassed and knew I had to learn something about how I was in this fix.

I came to understand what was happening the day my hearing aid was fixed. Are the two separable in my unplanned research experiment? You the reader can make up your mind as there is no control group. Prior to the hearing aid, I was actively engaged in classroom discussions, as usual reading lips, scanning visually for who was talking as I’m not accurate with my auditory radar, and I was really interested and stimulated to participate.

It changed the day I used the hearing aid, raising my sensory awareness of how fellow students reacted to me. I was appalled. It’s about how living with ADHD/hearing loss is misperceived. I understand how comedians are born in classrooms. In a short moment, I knew how, if I was young I could turn the class on its ear and become ‘a problem.’ I knew why the young ‘un who received laughter had to explore why she was being laughed at – it’s an adventure in self discovery only this time I had the tools to manage my emotions and rise above their misunderstanding.

“Oh, Maureen,” the professor said to my comment in class one day, ‘you are usually so abstract in your comments.’ Sigh. ‘Why are you being so concrete now?’ The class is in an uproar, turning and looking at me in the back of the classroom. He could have turned my observation into a teaching moment with some targeted questioning. But the point is, he didn’t and he embarrassed me in front of my classmates. It’s a multi-cultural group, mostly 20-30 years younger than I am and I have a different academic, cultural, and ethnic point of reference.

That being said, in a moment I was back in second grade, startled, a little scared, surely embarrassed and beginning to sink into a black hole of obscure invisibility. I have gone down, down, down this road many times for as long as I can remember. How can I, a coach and student turn from my well-worn path into obscurity, and learn from the incident in a way that will inform my coaching (someday my counseling) and educate the world about life with ADHD?

I see now that cute, ever curious child who once said to a group of adults talking about semantics, ‘isn’t that the Jewish religion?’ and hear their laughter and feel diminished again. And I see the scared eight year old child who knocked on the door of a home in a neighborhood where I was lost (oh, the story). I said to the lady of the house, ‘can you please take me home?’ But, when she asked me in I said, ‘Oh, no, I can’t go into strangers homes.’ She smiled at me. And then there’s the time the neighbor called my mom to say I was up on the roof (3-story) with my legs hanging over the ledge. If you’re like me, you know what happened with mom and that it’s only the tip of the tales I could tell.

Thank all you ADHD coaches for the work you do. I can still get teary and become very young and hurt from a communication misunderstanding either abstract or concrete, yet quickly pull myself out of the hole using the practical tools from ADHD coaching to move past this event. Now I know that I make a difference for someone like me by practicing ADHD coaching.

You do, too. The little girl in me thanks you.

ADHD Awareness forever.

Maureen Nolan