By Rytzl D’Souza:
I’m seventeen years old. When I was eight I was diagnosed with severe ADHD, Psychomotor impairment and Dyslexia.
This is not a sad story about how hard any of those things can be. Honestly, I don’t feel sad about it. Or even angry, or bad, or any degree of self-pity. In fact, I’d say this is sort of like a happy story. It ends well and was never particularly traumatic, to begin with. I have lots of friends, I’m in 12th grade, my grades are great, and my family’s pretty proud of me.
Mine’s a happy story because I was among the lucky ones. The ones who got diagnosed on time, who had all the help they needed, who never got judged or called ‘stupid’, who didn’t even get sent to boarding school like that kid in Taare Zameen Par.
Things worked out for me. I suppose you could say, I’m the best case scenario. A what-happens-if-you-do-things-right. So if you want a peek into what it means to do things right, here’s my story:
In third grade, my handwriting sucked. I’d get sent out of class for not doing homework. I wouldn’t take any notes; I’d stare at the blackboard and do nothing. I was punished a lot, made to stand a lot. It never got very bad; there was always someone getting punished with me. At the end of the year, when the exam papers were returned to us with grades, I’d hide them. I never showed them to my parents.
Then my mum would find out from other kids’ parents that the papers had come in. That I’d flunked six out of eight subjects. Then my parents would yell at me, not because my grades sucked or my handwriting was atrocious, but because I’d hidden the answer scripts.
When my parents asked me why I hadn’t done my homework, I’d tell them that I simply didn’t have enough time. I was too busy, you see.
So they’d invest more time in me. My grandmother began to come over to teach me. My mum and dad would spend hours helping me learn after work. But the next term I got the same results. Nothing much had improved. This happened a few times.
So my mom took me to a psychiatrist. “Just in case,” she said.
The psychiatrist diagnosed slight dyslexia and psychomotor impairment, but most seriously, ADHD.
The psychomotor issues and dyslexia were the easiest to deal with. What a psychomotor impairment means is that I could not copy directly from a blackboard at all. There’s an interruption between cognitive and physical functions. It would take me ten reads of the blackboard to take down two words.
So we’d practice. My mom told my class teacher to make me sit at the front of the class. At home, after I finished studying, she’d make me copy excerpts from a newspaper. She’d give me dictation, lots and lots of dictation. I was also encouraged to play lots of sports, basketball, football, table tennis, touch rugby, swimming; you name it. There was also lots of dance. Anything to improve my physical responses to cognitive functions.
By seventh grade, all symptoms of the impairment were gone. Dyslexia too, with a teensy bit of extra attention, was no longer noticeable. (The word ‘Does’ used to give me a lot of trouble. I’d constantly spell it as ‘Dose’. But by seventh grade, I began to get that right as well.)
Then we began to find our way around the ADHD. Since I couldn’t study at my desk, I would study at the dining table – made sure it was an empty before I started to work. Even a single spoon has the potential to distract me for an entire hour.
Then I study. I can’t study for more than a couple of hours a day. That’s enough, usually. (I got 92.4% in my ICSE, so I suppose it’s not bad.) I do still have some trouble areas. My math is unfailingly miserable. In tenth grade, I couldn’t add fractions. I still cannot compute numbers at all.
I understand concepts; I understand how logarithms and trigonometry work. But I cannot add, multiply, divide or subtract. Numbers are to me what maybe German is to you.
Fortunately for me, kids with ADHD/dyslexia are given certain allowances during public examinations. We’re given an extra fifteen minutes to write per hour. (For a two-hour examination, that’s half an hour extra). We’re also given writers and calculators. The writers help solve the ADHD and dyslexia bit. The calculators ensure I’m tested for my understanding of concepts alone.
A writer is a student who’s two years junior. who simply writes everything I dictate to them during an examination. Sometimes, that can be a bit embarrassing. What if the kid who’s writing my exam is really smart and knows more than me? What if this kid knows I’m making a mistake but can’t point it out? How pathetic would that be?
But sometimes, having a writer can be fun. My best friend in school has dyslexia and used to sit behind me in a separate examination hall. I would sometimes dictate my answers really loudly so that her writer could take it down for her as well. It was fun.
All in all, school really hasn’t been that hard. At least in the schools, I’ve been to. I get that this is what privilege looks like and I wish everyone’s experience with learning disorders were just as smooth as mine were. Even the being-threatened-to-be-sent-to-boarding-school-bit.
My parents threatened to send me to boarding school lots of times. It’s not a big deal. I’m their only child. (Yea right, like they’d ever send me to boarding school. *rolls eyes*)
(As told to Sneha Vakharia)
Trijog is a 360 degree mental health wellness organization that services individuals with mental health concerns across the spectrum, founded by Anureet Sethi and Arushi Sethi. Awake and Beyond is Trijog‘s campaign celebrating the stories of seven individuals and their tryst with mental illness, in the hopes that their journey will educate, inspire and help people understand what living with mental illness is like. Together, mental illness can be fought, conquered and overcome.