ADHD and Dylexia: problems that run in my family, but not past me.


It’s a problem that cannot be fixed

When you read, your letters are mixed

It’s harder to ponder

When you attention can wander

But the drugs I’m going to have nixed.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  In May 2010, I left my position of 23 years, and honoring my non-compete clause, traveled for a year doing locum tenens work.  In June of 2011 I joined up with the Community Health Center, which provides care for the underserved.  I’m now working part-time, which, for a doctor, means 54 hours a week.

Dyslexia and ADD run in my family.  I have 6 dyslexic siblings.  On revealing her problems reading, one sister tearfully announced, “But the words dance on the page!”  My grandmother said, “I thought they only danced for me.”

Dyslexia has a spectrum.  During med school, we all knew that the best car mechanic in town had the problem; his wife had to read the manuals to him.  Yet he could disassemble, overhaul, and reassemble any American engine in an afternoon. 

All seven of us figured out strategies to get past the sequencing errors and all of us count literacy as a prized asset.  One brother can sing backwards. 

I can write backwards and upside down.  With lack of practice my upside down and backwards reading has slowed.  Nonetheless while driving in southern Alaska I read an exit sign and said, “All I saw” (Wasilla spelled backwards).

One of our daughters’ dyslexia kicks in with fatigue, another got early treatment in the school system and did well.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder also runs a spectrum, and not all who have one have the other.  A language student of mine never stopped fidgeting but he never lost his focus; he stayed on task and he pushed the class to learn at maximal speed. 

My personal problem with attention deficit comes down to easy distractibility, and however energetic I might be I have never suffered from hyperactivity.  Yet I went through school long before this learning disability became trendy.  I had to develop coping strategies.

I did my best studying after everyone else went to sleep.  In college my serious studying didn’t start till midnight.  Most lecture situations limit distractions; in contrast I cannot learn with a TV on.  In the course of my daily work I talk to one person at a time, and things go well.

But if two people talk at the same time I get very uncomfortable, and if someone wants to tell me something important while the PA plays an announcement I want to scream.  I have stood up in meetings and said, “We have 9 people in the room, and just now 7 were talking at the same time, and no one is listening.”

Imagine my discomfort during small group computer training when a trainer and a trainee had a loud, spirited discussion right behind me.  I had to leave the room, which constitutes a learning, coping strategy. 

Beats getting an ulcer.  Or taking amphetamines.

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