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 "CARpilepsy."  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 queue that flew out of my fingers as I was reading, writing, tweeting, on Facebook, talking, IMing 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! 


  1. Someday, you and I need to sit down and talk about my use of technology in my day to day life. It's perfect illustration of how I am a broken human being. We'll compare it to my disfunction in school. Also: We'll drink tea and eat crumpets.

    P.S. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best little posts you've written—double-spaces after periods, aside.

    P.P.S. Let's also talk about my O.C.D.

    P.P.P.S. Regarding podcasts: we need microphones ( and we need to figure out a way to do the double-ender (

  2. @Steve Kinney, I'm in! Let's set a date.

    In the meantime you should come to my monthly ed chats. They occur on the last Monday or Wednesday of each month. Come tomorrow.

    Re your P.S. - Thank you! Breaking the double space habit is hard. Gimme a few years :-)

    P.S.S. - I (and my BFF) dated OCCDer. Pretty good at that convo.

    PPPS - Oy! Podcasting sounds hard. I think I'd only come onboard if everything was provided. I'd pay. What about using a phone and Blog Radio?

  3. I just had to laugh at the double space comments. I'm guilty of that when I'm not consciously thinking about it.

    I know the benefits of technology, I really do. And if students are using it effectively, that's great. I just feel like even when you, as teacher, do all the things you should do to make sure everyone is on task, there is always going to be a few rotten apples that will take advantage of the situation simply b/c they lack the desire to learn. I guess you could block sites you feel aren't relevant but if you allow YouTube and Twitter as tools, students can misuse those tools just as easily.

  4., I don't think anyone lacks the desire to learn. The student either is not interested in what you're teaching or how you're teaching it and the reality is that in most cases they're placed in a class rather than choosing to be there. I believe students own the learning and if what you're teaching isn't of interest why must we strip them of their freedom to do something more productive with their time?

  5. You are right about being labeled. Too many students are not engaged, and immediately the soulution to the fidgeting, and zoning out is medication. These same teachers, young and old, fight using technology in their classrooms! "Oh, I tried to use it, and it didn't work."
    Years ago, I had a student some teachers wanted medicated because he could not sit still. The Dad refused, and they were actually upset with the Dad! I developed strategies for this child, so that he could be fidgety, and succeed. He graduated from high school, unmedicated, with honors, and is now in college.
    And if I hear, "Suzy is off her meds today, oh it's going to be a rough day for me!", one more time...

  6. @oldschoolteach, you don't sound so old school to me! Thanks for your thoughtful insights and for supporting children in learning without meds. We must remember that what's convenient for the teacher is often not what is best for children.

  7. Great post,

    Took me back to my school times :). I

    I now work in a project that uses technology and enquiry learning to facilitate learning processes for children in Australia and some developing countries. Children have really enjoyed the process.

  8. This is a great post. My friend @don_watkins tweeted it to me. I am a big advocate for freedom, students being taught to make good choices and students being allowed to make their own decisions. I am also a firm believer that if someone is texting in my professional development session then I am the first to point the finger at myself and say "I must not be captivating my learner's attention." It is also important for students to delay their own needs or wants until a time that does not offend people. I have to be honest with you. I would much rather someone text during my class than text during a movie while they are sitting next to me. In class, I believe in my abilities as a facilitator to capture attention, often my participants are texting to process information. The movie situation comes down to the distracting light. Most phones, when opened or when typing to send a text, illuminate. This light is distracting. I do know many students who can text in class while their cell phone is in their pocket. That would be the perfect etiquette for texting in a dark movie theater.