The distraction dilemma
Story by Adrienne Woods
Photo illustrations by Carly Vester
Western senior Carrington Long just bombed his marketing presentation. His voice was shaky as he tried to remember what was on his PowerPoint slides. His hands were fidgeting as he fumbled around the podium. , his presentation could’ve been saved.
When Long was 17, he was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder ADD. He says is often forgetful because of the disorder which affects his schoolwork in many ways. Losing his flash drive, he says, is a mistake he’s made many times. “I’ve always known that my brain works differently than what academia was designed for,” Long says. “So I always just keep that in mind.”
About ADD, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. ADD is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who display the following characteristic: distractibility, or poor sustained attention to tasks; and impulsivity, or impaired impulse control and delay of gratification. Hyperactivity may or may not be present, which is known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. The term ADD is often used as a generic term for all types of ADD, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
A crucial consideration in the diagnosis is that the behaviors must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person’s life, such as school, home, work or social settings. These criteria set ADD apart from the “normal” distractibility and impulsive behavior of childhood, or the effects of the hectic and overstressed lifestyle prevalent in society, according to the American Deficit Disorder Association.
According to ADDitude Magazine, ADD is treatable, but treatment is not a cure. The patient will still have ADD, and symptoms will return if treatment is discontinued or interrupted. Gaining control over ADD can be managed in several ways that often coexist with one another.
Controlling ADD through medication
Medication is often used to help normalize brain activity, as prescribed by a patient’s physician. Stimulant medications, such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall, Concerta and Vyvanse, are commonly used because they most effective for most people with ADD, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
Since being diagnosed his junior year of high school, Long has been prescribed several different types of amphetamines, including Vyvanse, , Adderall and Ritalin. While Long says he liked how the medications made him more alert, the negative side effects outweighed the benefits. He says he gets shaky,.
Long says he especially struggles with his ADD when he is reading textbooks. He says he has gone to class to take a quiz before only to realize when he gets there that he hasn’t retained any of the information he read in his textbook.
Jupe Johnson, 44, is a licensed mental health counselor at Lodestar Counseling in Bellingham. He has been specializing in adult ADD for about two years, about 75 percent of his clientele ADD.
For students, Johnson suggests studying that are intereresting to them because otherwise the ADD mind will “turn off,” and the person won’t be able to retain the information. He often suggests ways to help energize or inspire a person to help them concentrate. “[I suggest trying to] make it into something that charges their batteries,” he says. “When that happens, the ADD mind turns ‘on.’”
He says the good part about ADD is that people with it can have laser focus when they want it. When somebody with ADD is interested in something, he says it’s like nothing else matters. “If they can get in that flow or zone, then it’s really helpful,” he says.
Control through accomodations
ADD usually persists throughout a person’s lifetime. Approximately one-half to two-thirds of children with ADD will continue to have significant problems with ADD symptoms and behaviors as adults, which impacts their lives on the job, within the family and in social relationships, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
ADD is recognized as a disability under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Appropriate and reasonable accommodations are sometimes made at school for children adults with ADD thework more efficiently and productively, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
Anna Talvi-Blick is the disability management and accommodation counselor at Western’s disAbility Resources for Students office. She meets with students who qualify for its services and helps determine which accomodations students with disabilities qualify for. Talvi-Blick says the office works with about 550 Western students “It’s highly individualized,” Talvi-Blick says. “Everyone is different. Even though we meet a lot of students who have ADD diagnoses, every student is going to have a unique set of challeges as they interact with their classes.”
he most common accomodation for students is the exam program, where students are able to take proctored exams in the disAbility Resources for Students office. Students are allowed twice the exam time and a quiet testing room, among other things. “When you’re talking about disabilities like ADD, the numbers on campus could be much larger than what we see in our office,” Talvi-Blick says. “I would venture to say that there’s probably a lot of students that are self managing in other ways than the traditional coming into the DRS and getting accommodations, especially with so many medications and other consumer-based therapies available.”
Control through alternate methods
Western student James Dunn, 25, was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago. He says his healthcare provider prescribed him , but both made him feel agitated and suppressed his appetite. After researching alternatives online, Dunn takes sparingly and prefers to alleviate his symptoms more naturally vitamin B, fish oil, ginkgo biloba and multivitamins every day.
“The medication, a lot of people know about that. It’s like a shotgun to the brain and just activates everything,” he says. “With nutrition, you can get more into the parts of the brain that need to be activated.”
Johnson often suggests certain vitamins and supplements, such as vitamin B, B-complex, amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids. He also suggests a high-protein diet with low carbohydrates, eating lots of fresh foods
Control for the future
Long says he is lucky to be able to rely on other skills so his ADD doesn’t weigh him down. He says he takes life with a grain of salt because he has gone through life he is not the typical student.
“I approach things in an unorthodox way, and it’s a constant joke that it seems like I’m slacking off in school,” Long says. “I just weigh my priorities and plan my day differently to do what I need to do to exist in this environment. How well I do in school depends on how well I manage my disability.”