Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tech (not meds) Cured My #ADD #ADHD & #SleepingDisorder

I slept through most of school.  I didn’t mean to sleep through it.  I felt really bad about sleeping through it.  Many of my teachers resented me for sleeping through it.  I tried a lot of things to combat this.  I got a good night sleep.  In high school I started drinking coffee.  In my first year of college, last year of high school I started taking No Doze until the day I got so sick from the coffee and No Doze that I stopped taking No Doze. From an assessment perspective, despite my sleeping, I was a great student.  I graduated in the top ten percent of my class in high school and college and did well on standardized tests.  The issue wasn’t just an issue in high school and college either.  Starting in pre-school, my mother got a call from the school concerned that I spent my days sleeping and they thought that perhaps I was retarded.  Yep, they actually told my mom that even though I was already reading and writing before I had entered pre-school.  My mom sent me out for tests at UCLA, and the results showed I was actually gifted.  So what was the problem?  If I was smart, cared about my grades and was doing well, why did I sleep so much?  

The answer is simple.  

I was bored in school.  

When I’m bored, I fall asleep.  It’s embarrassing, but that’s what I do.  This didn’t end when I graduated from school. I had the same problem when I was bored at work. The worst is during those boring big group meetings. I usually designated a colleague to kick me or pinch me if she started to see me fall asleep.  

I am one of those people some would label as ADD or ADHD.  I just label myself as having a brain that needs constant stimulation and I embrace that. You will find many who are labeled with ADD/ADHD recognize they have the same issue.  Read this and this and this and this.  Our brains just sort of turn off if we’re not stimulated and we fall asleep.  Anytime I am in a setting where it’s one-way input, this is an issue.  I need interactivity.  This is seriously dangerous when I am driving alone for any length of time and I have the same issue as a passenger.  I call it "CARpalepsy."  It also has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t like going out to movies or listening to lectures or concerts.  I was always the one who was shushed.  I wanted to talk about what I was seeing.  Make meaning, process.  It was that or I would fall asleep.  

When left to my own devices, I operate effectively at a mile a minute.  I love it.  At this moment I have ten blog posts in my cue that flew out of my fingers as I was reading, writing, tweeting, on facebook, talking, BBMing and texting.  Often I do all that and go running or play volleyball for a few hours in the middle while still doing much of that.  For me technology has been a godsend. It provides me not only with a way to not only stay awake when bored, but it also provides a funnel for my thoughts and ideas and a way to process and share. It has been the non-medication treatment for my problem of needing a lot of stimulation and it has opened doors, windows, and allowed me to make connections I never thought possible.  

Now I can go to movies and text my thoughts to the person sitting next to me or share with the world through Twitter or Facebook, get feedback and have conversations, without disturbing others.  In meetings I’m not just sitting there consuming information.  I too can have a part in it as I BBM my colleague asking their thoughts about what is being said or look up something that is being talked about that I don’t understand instead of tuning out.  With technology I have the world in my hands at any time and I am able to control the amount of stimulation that allows my brain to work at optimal speed.  And, to me doing this is the big idea...
Empower Individuals with the ability to self-regulate and have ownership over the how they function most effectively.  
What concerns me is articles like this one Colleges worry about always-plugged-in students where we hear from colleges and professors who want to strip students of their freedom to learn in the way they choose by taking away their technology.  We all learn differently. Rather than banning, which we all know is taking the easy way out, instructors need to empower students to differentiate learning and self regulate.  If teachers can’t update their practices to engage 21st learners, the answer isn’t to keep their students in the past.  The answer is to get to the root of the issue and update their practices.  Just how to do that is the topic of tomorrow's post.  Stay tuned! 
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