FROM THE INVISIBLE OBSTACLES SERIES
LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL, Part 4
“I accepted and explored my diagnosis. I learned to focus less on what I can’t do. Now I’m using my strengths – the gifts I was born with, and more importantly, the stamina I built while I was running to keep up. Learning to survive on the wrong planet taught me how to hustle.”
– Flipping the Switch
ABOVE & BEYOND
“Because he is already in this fast mode and because his mind works really quickly – it’s made him a better hockey player. He has the ability to anticipate potentially where something is going or what someone is doing.”
“His brain has enough speed to do that. He can scan and see everything that’s going on. He does that on the ice and you can see sometimes in his head he’s thinking ‘What-if…what-if…what if…,’ and that’s made him such a great player.”
“This has given him this ability to see things from different angles much better. I mean, I thought I did that well – he goes above and beyond where I can.”
As he glides over the ice, Sherri tells me about the championship game Aidan’s team won earlier in the summer. She’s proud, but not bragging – the gist is, at his age group, Aidan is a key player in one of the best teams in the country.
I know that hockey involves sticks, ice, and a puck that moves too fast to see – but that’s about it. Even knowing so little – I can tell Aidan’s comfortable on the ice. Sherri assures me, he’s good at hockey. Really, really good at it.
“We struggled off and on through school with a diagnosis and finding ways to help him learn because he has such a hard time focusing in class. There are periods that were really good and there were some that were just ridiculously difficult.”
“Even when he was younger, he would run around the house to burn of some of that energy inside of him. As he got older we were able to put that into sports, and that helps relieve some of what’s going on. That outlet – to be able to physically burn off what he feels, but yet at the same time he’s focusing on the things that he’s supposed to be focusing on.”
On the athletic field (or ice), Aidan is in his element. He’s confident. Athletics have become more than a tool to manage Aidan’s ADHD – it’s a place where he can use the way his mind is wired to excel above and beyond what those of us without ADHD can process.
When so much of the world is designed against him, having a safe place to go, where he can behave naturally has benefits beyond the rink.
Physical & Cerebral
“When he was little – he and a neighborhood friend figured out they could play princess for a little while, and then they’d play soccer, or they’d jump on the trampoline, or they’d do something physical, and then the’d go back to playing princess – because princess was what she liked, and physical activity was what he liked.”
“If it’s physical – he’s a leader. He feels comfortable there, he knows how to do it, comfortable in his abilities, doesn’t doubt himself as much. If it’s more cerebral and it’s ‘Let’s work on this project,’ he sort of steps back some, because he’s not as confident.”
“They figured out all by themselves how to make that work for the two of them.”
Disabled kids in books, TV, and documentaries are two-dimensional stereotypes for non-disabled people to pity or rescue. Disabilities are something a hero overcomes, or they’re a minor character flaw.
Rarely are our disabilities shown with true dimension – disabilities make it hard to fit in typical environments, but stronger in others.
We rarely see how all of us have strengths and weaknesses. We don’t often get to see how the things that give us pause in a classroom give us super powers when it comes to making friends – or slicing over ice like an olympian.
“How do you manage a kid that’s been managed throughout the day but now you’ve got to get home and you’ve gotta do an hour’s worth of homework? Yet – you still want them to be a kid and go out and play…but, if I send him out to play, then his medicine will wear off?”
“I’d be like, ‘You need to do this – please pay attention,’ then, ‘Move on to this – please pay attention.‘ It was this constant banter – back and forth, that had slightly negative connotations to it.”
“I had to learn to block it, doing his homework in block time periods – work for 15 minutes, then go take 15 minutes and go play. We spent every night struggling to try and get through this homework.”
How do we find our own path to navigate a world not designed for rare skills? How do we mitigate the parts of life that come so easily for everyone else, ones that are designed to be obstacles for us?
How do we persevere and preserve our spoons, so we can keep going through the day, when schools, offices, stores, and social spaces are tailored against us rather than for us?
REFUGE IN THE RINK
“It’s not easy for him to have someone who he feels is nagging him all the time. There’s this constant juggle finding that place where I’m not making him feel bad, because he doesn’t always feel great about himself. So, we’re still sort of in that, and we’ll probably be in that for a long period of time.”
“He already struggles with self esteem – going back to before his diagnosis and feeling ‘stupid’ because he wasn’t caught up to where the other kids were – because he couldn’t focus so easily. I think he will always struggle with feeling bad because he doesn’t learn or doesn’t do things the same way as some of the other kids do.”
“When he’s doing a physical activity he can focus more because he’s burning off that energy at the same time and he’s good at it and it makes him feel good about himself.”
Aidan has finally found a place designed for him. Everyone needs a place like this. Everyone should have access to refuge – a place where it’s safe to exist and stop struggling to act unnaturally.
If literature and algebra were taught on the ice – Aidan’s energy could go into learning instead of sitting still.
Imagine truly inclusive schools and workplaces – designed not just to mitigate disabilities but to promote them. It’s not something I can picture in my lifetime.
But as Aidan would say… “What if?”
Sherri’s had ‘what-if’ dreams of being a hockey-mom, single, working full-time, accommodating her son’s ADHD and living with her mother. It’s different than the ‘June Cleaver’ life she had dreamt of.
This new future she didn’t expect – it’s not better or worse – just different.
But it took a while to get go of that TV-sitcom life she once dreamt of.
…Find out how Sherri learned to get go in part 5: Rolling With It
This session is from the Invisible Obstacles Series. Families in the Invisible Obstacles series provide a glimpse into daily life while navigating adversity. Names and locations of minors may have been changed to protect privacy. Permission & quotes attributed to Sherri L. unless otherwise specified.
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