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Breaking the Myth: Having ADHD and Performing Well in School

So many adults were not diagnosed with ADHD in childhood due to them performing well in school, leading to many not receiving the support they should have received early on. Agave ADHD Coach Vida Carey breaks the myth of ADHDers being poor academic performers and suggests ways to cope with a diagnosis obtained later in life.

February 2023, Vida Carey, ADHD Coach @ Agave Health

“You can’t have ADHD; you got good grades in school.” Raise your hand if you’ve heard this. As a public educator for 15 years, I heard adults talk about students like this all the time. I argued with educators and adults about my own child as we fought to get her accommodations in school. She wasn’t suffering academically yet. However, she was melting down at home. She was struggling socially. She was chewing on her fingers so much that she had one knuckle that didn’t even look like skin anymore.

ADHD manifests in everyone differently.

Through all of these experiences, I was thrown back to my own childhood and how my late diagnosis brought so many things into shocking clarity. I got good grades, but I would throw up every morning before school. I was on the student council, but I would sit in my closet to do my homework because it was the only place I could focus without distractions. I got good grades, but I talked non-stop, blurted answers out, and over-shared with everyone that would sit and listen. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

ADHD manifests in everyone differently; however, the two main things we see in the education setting are the stereotypical hyperactive student and the barely noticed inattentive student. One experience is not more valid than the other, but one is paid infinitely more attention because they are the squeaky wheel. Even in our inattentive students, the path can diverge between those who struggle academically and those who do not. The ones that struggle may not get the kind of attention they need, but they still get noticed because they are not conforming to the status quo. That leaves the high-masking students to navigate life more or less on their own.

My journey is just as valid as the next person's.

We develop coping mechanisms to survive life, believing everyone else struggles to remember things without lists. We hold ourselves to magical expectations that society foists upon us. We tell ourselves that we should be able to do things because everyone else can. Then as we get older and life gets more complex, our ADHD seems to boil over. We may outwardly appear to have everything together, but we are deathly afraid that we will miss something we need to do.

For many of us, this leads to copious research as we try to figure out how to survive our life. I promise it can be done, but it is going to take support. You are not on an island, and you do not have to do this by yourself. There is an entire ADHD community online, as well as many support groups scattered around the world. There are also counselors and ADHD coaches who can help you identify your biggest pain points, scaffold you as you grow, and offer ongoing support in your journey.

I did not suffer academically growing up, but I was diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, and OCD in my 40’s. My journey is just as valid as the next person's. Growing up, I felt so alone, but after my diagnosis, I started down a path filled with people just like me. There is nothing more validating than finding your group. Are you looking for your people? We at Agave can help.


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