Monday, June 3, 2013

Chaos = Order and Order = Chaos

One of the most fascinating things about the brains of ADHD people is how fast they are. People with ADHD typically get some of the most complex, developed concepts easily but have a really hard time on the content that most other people would consider "easy."

For example, I cannot add or multiply to save my life. It has taken me YEARS to be able to multiply without going through each step in my head and writing it down and I still have to really try hard to make sure I know what I am doing. However, I can usually complete dimensional measurements, converting them to centimeters and then fractions, multiplying to find the square foot of a room in a three dimensions. Or, when I was in math, I could do Calculus by placing random numbers on the paper as "place holders." At this point in my life, analyzing poetry, even the most difficult poetry, is usually only a matter of seeing it and arranging it in my brain with words that make sense.

I don't say any of this to brag- believe me, it took me many many hours of hard work to learn to add and subtract. But I wanted to make a point and that is that for many kids with ADHD, they really don't start to feel successful in school until the information that is being taught can be understood by their brains. I call this "reverse learning."

I explain it like this: the brains of ADHD jump around so fast, trying to be stimulated and changing direction all the time that when a worksheet is placed in front of them with multiple circles for organizing, like this:



It creates complete chaos in their brain. I look at this and think-

Wait a minute, what do you want me to do with this? It looks kinda like an amoeba, no, maybe wallpaper from the 50s. Ok, pay attention- you are supposed to organized something in this thing....Organize? How the heck can I organize anything in circles? Circles connect how? Pay attention...She is saying something about main ideas and how they go in the center...Center of what exactly? Center of the circle? Should I get a ruler? Yes! That must be it, I need a ruler to center the idea...what idea? Oh yeah- the main idea...What is a main idea and where can I find it? Ruler and idea....Maybe I just need to draw the circles within the circles like concentric circles....oooooo and then I can color them in different colors and that would be pretty...Heck of a lot more sense than main ideas and rulers....

And yes, I really just typed what I was thinking when I was looking at this.

In school, I would write my essay and then fill out whatever outline or graphic organizer I needed to turn in since I really had no clue what should go where and why and how. It just did not make sense to me and when I started teaching, I realized that it did not make sense to ANY of my ADHD students. So, I changed it to be very direct and specific:

 
 
Now this makes so much more sense. I can see exactly what I need to include and how each sentence relates to the essay, creating an easy to follow essay graph. I also use these graphs and organizers for Senior Research Projects and even Character Maps.

I like to remember that whatever may seem to be orderly and exactly what makes sense to the non-ADHD person will generally look like complete chaos for a kid with ADHD whereas something linear, easy to follow with specific instructions and connections will be easier for them to concentrate on.
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