You just don't get it!
Dave was telling me about a Mom whose Grade 7 son was struggling with maths. “He just doesn’t get it” she had said. This is one of those common phrases used to describe ADHD children, teens and adults, male and female.
Unfortunately our schooling system still relies on standardised exams in pressurised environments which is not ideal for those who are anxious and fearful, not only those with ADHD. Many bright students will not achieve their potential. However we live in a pressurised world and we can’t always escape. We need to learn to understand our fear and instead of giving up, use that nervous energy to push ourselves forward.
Yesterday I came across this question which was asked in the *Math Olympiad Test for teenagers in Singapore and Asia.
I read it again and again again. I “didn’t get it”. Even when I tried to work through the solution that was provided, I still “didn’t get it”. I am not stupid, I know that.
But I “didn’t get it”. The familiar punch to the stomach feeling of frustration and anxiety that I couldn’t “get it” grew within me. I hadn't a clue where to start trying to solve it.
This is what frequently happens when we don’t “get something”. The fear and anxiety become so overwhelming that our brains freeze. We might have studied really hard and should have cracked an “A”, instead we fail because we “didn’t get” one question and we don’t complete the test.
We are trapped by our fear of failure so we either give up, withdraw or lash out in anger. Understanding where our fear comes from and learning to overcome it is the key to becoming successful and confident.
“We don’t get it” in so many areas of our lives:
- We don’t understand what we are being taught. What is simple to others is simply gobbledygook to us.
- We barge into social situations and interrupt unaware of the effect we are having on other people.
- We don’t get that we need to budget and save for a rainy day.
- We don't get that it is inappropriate to make rude comments about other people.
- We don’t get time management. We drive our partners crazy when we say we will be ready in 10 mins and an hour later we are still faffing around.
- When we are in a relationship it is not “all about me and my needs and wants”. We tend to be very self-abosorbed.
It is therefore not surprising that we are always anxious and fearful.
Where does ADHD fear come from?
We live in an ADHD unfriendly world. Around ninety percent of the world does not have ADHD. It is the same for those of us who are left-handed. Eighty five percent of folk are right-handed and we lefties have had to learn to fit in and accept that life is unfair for those who are different.
Our early years are when we learn many basic life skills. We are born with ADHD but it is not usually diagnosed or treated before the age of 5 or even at puberty when many of the symptoms become apparent for those who more the daydreamer type. ADDers do not learn many of these basic skills. We don’t pay attention and we get into trouble. We act impulsively to seek instant gratification. We blurt things out and interrupt because instinctively we know we will forget if we don’t say it now. Our physical hyperactivity is exhausting and we are constantly told to calm down. We are labelled clumsy. Our tactile issues get us labelled as fussy eaters.
We are continually receiving negative feedback. By the time we get to school we should be sponges ready to soak up mountains of knowledge. Instead, we instinctively know we are different. We either become the class clown or we are terrified of looking stupid so we drift through the days, not asking questions, not understanding and not participating. When we “don’t get it”, be it a maths concept, a sporting skill or whatever, we don’t ask for help as that is admitting failure.
If our ADHD is not treated and managed in a positive manner our self esteem continues to crumble and our mindspeak becomes increasingly negative.
Our busy brain which should be our greatest asset becomes our worst enemy. We end up in jobs that are unsuitable because we have been unable to pass exams and we have given up when we should have persevered.
What can we do about it?
Once we know that we, or our children, have ADHD we have a choice. We can learn to change the way we think, how to make decisions, how to handle the pressure and how to change our social behaviour and the behaviour of the ADDers around us.
Look forward to failing as you try something new. Instead of beating yourself up when you fail, ask yourself what you have learned. Don’t be afraid to ask for help - not to do the task for you, but to help you get going and to ask you the hard questions.
When you are given a problem to solve (like the maths example above) and you don't "get it" move on to easier questions and if you have time come back to it. ADDers will frequently answer the question correctly but it is the wrong question. We speed read or we don’t comprehend what we are reading. We will make a fast assumption about what is being asked.
If you are a parent or teacher or a spouse or an employer of someone with ADHD make sure that they have the context correct when you are teaching them something. Ask them to explain what you have said and correct any mis-conceptions before there is a melt-down.
Accept that you won’t always “get it” immediately, we can’t be an expert on everything. But you can choose to give it your best shot.
These are some of the valuable lessons I have had to learn on My ADHD Coaching Journey using the Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching Programme.
*You can see the solution to this test by clicking here
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