Deep in the dark recesses of a damp basement in a stern Illinois government building, there are many X-Files-style filing cabinets, and in one there’s a file with my name on it, Ben Glenn. About 4 inches thick, filled with papers that date all the way back to the early ’80s, the file reads like a novel: “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away there was a boy in the third grade who was asked to take some tests that would change the course of his life forever.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if the story continued, “…and after being placed in a special education class, all of Ben’s challenges went away and he had a successful academic career”? Maybe. But it didn’t. Growing up in a special education class was a negative experience — the biggest challenge of my young life.
And while we’re separating fantasy from fiction, I guess I should clarify that I didn’t really sneak into the government warehouse to steal my personal files. I requested them and received them in the mail, like an organized, intelligent adult like my wife would do.
In 1998, three years into my marriage, my wife, who is the smartest person I know, suggested that I visit a psychologist to see if I might in fact have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) (on top of the dyslexia with which I really was diagnosed in the third grade). At the initial meeting, to help with the diagnosis, the psychologist asked me to try and track down my records. I was curious to see what was written about me, hoping it would explain why I had to go through so much adversity.
I wasn’t sure if there would be anything left to find, so imagine my surprise (and yes, I will admit to this!) a small burst of pride when I discovered such a gigantic file.
When the papers arrived from the State of Illinois, deciphering the information was not unlike trying to read in a foreign language. “Why does this stuff always have to be so complicated?” I asked my wife, feeling not a little frustrated. I gave the file to my psychologist; he gave me the ADD/ADHD stamp of approval in return … and I’m afraid not much else. Confused and unsure where to turn, the only thing I was sure of was that I needed to get to the bottom of my “disability.”
It can be incredibly discouraging to receive a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, especially if you never get beyond the surface — that it is a disorder, a cause of disorganization, absentmindedness, and poor focus — to find the benefits. In the fourteen years that have passed since the day I got that file, I have met hundreds of parents, teachers, and students who are, or have been, as frustrated and confused about ADD/ADHD and the struggles that come along with it as I was, and because of my experiences and theirs, I have worked to find simple and practical answers to questions people have about ADD/ADHD.
My hope is to encourage you with information and insights about ADD/ADHD that might convince you that it’s not the end of the road for you or your child.