High-Functioning ADHD is a spectrum


Amber Roth, Co-Editor-in-Chief

My whole life, I’ve been told I’m smart. I coasted through elementary and middle school, I had A’s in all my classes, I got perfect scores on tests. Then I hit high school.

I struggled. A lot. School was suddenly 10 times harder; I couldn’t focus, and I was turning in assignments late. What I didn’t realize was that symptoms of ADHD were becoming more apparent. When I finally got a “diagnosis”, it wasn’t a formal one, because I wasn’t failing school.

ADHD, or attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder, can affect people in many ways. Some of the most common symptoms include inattention, being very hyper-active, fidgeting, etc. Often, others whose symptoms present differently than the “typical” symptoms won’t get diagnosed. Some of the “non-typical” symptoms can include hyper fixating on a certain food for weeks at a time, then never touching it again, quitting something you think you won’t be good at and not being able to understand other people’s emotions.

Ever since I was little, I’ve had those symptoms, but because my symptoms didn’t present as the “typical” signs for it and I learned to over-compensate for it so it didn’t appear to affect my school or home life, no one thought to test for ADHD.

When I did finally get that diagnosis, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, because I no longer felt like something was wrong with me. But despite the huge relief I felt, there was still a lingering feeling of doubt, because it wasn’t a formal diagnosis.

According to ADDitude Magazine, a quarterly consumer publication about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (DSM-V) is used to make a diagnosis. The DSM-V says that one of the biggest indicators they use when diagnosing someone is if the symptoms being presented affect the person at school, work, or home, but when they say affect someone at school, they’re really only looking at grades and whether someone’s failing or not.

I’m not failing, but I was still turning in assignments late and not paying attention in class. Eventually, it got to the point where I ended the year with a D in one of my classes. If I had not been attending an Omaha Public Schools (OPS) high school, schools notorious for being laxer on late work, I probably would’ve failed half my classes.

Because not everyone with ADHD is going to have the most obvious symptoms and act the same, adults in the education system and parents need to educate themselves and watch for any signs of ADHD, and not just the most obvious one. Additionally, doctors need to stop using outdated guidelines as a baseline for diagnosing everyone. People like me deserve help sooner than their junior or senior year of high school.