Learning How to Refocus
In today's episode, our intern Molly sits down with Ava, an incoming college freshman from Akron, Ohio. Their chat covers topics about ADHD and developing strategies for success. Diagnosed with ADHD when she was 11 years old, Ava has struggled with academics and confidence because of her disorder. She describes the difficult process of choosing whether to take medication and talks about not being ashamed to ask for help when needed. Ava has learned to rework her difficulty focusing because of ADHD in creating original strategies to help her be successful and confident.
Disclaimer: the information shared here reflects the opinions of the speaker and do not reflect the views of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
Content warning: the following episode covers sensitive topics such as suicide, depression, and OCD.
Molly: Welcome to Youth Engaged 4 Change Radio. I’m Molly and I’m your host. And today, I’m speaking with Ava.
Ava: Thanks for having me.
Molly: Ava, tell our audience a little bit about yourself, maybe your age, where you're from.
Ava: I'm 18 years old and I am from a small town by Akron, Ohio.
Ava: I'm a large member of the Forage community. I don't know. I just graduated high school.
Molly: Awesome. Are you going into college next?
Ava: Yes. I am going to Walsh University for biology with a pre-dental track.
Molly: Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Ava, in getting to know you recently, just kind of heard a little bit about your story, so tell us a little bit about maybe some of the struggles you faced in your life and really how that's affected you and just tell us a little bit about kind of your story.
Ava: Okay. Well, I think probably the biggest struggle for me throughout my life has been ADHD and just kind of finding ways to deal with it and how to work with it. I was diagnosed when I was about 11 years old. I always knew I had problems because I would sit through class and I wouldn't be able to sit still. I wouldn't be able to focus. I will just constantly daze off. It was a real issue, and I would come home and I'd have to relearn everything. My mom would have to teach me everything from class over again. And it was really affecting not only my grades, but also kind of like my confidence. It's just been like one of the larger problems I've ever had to deal with.
Molly: How did you found ways to kind of deal with this struggle? You said you came home and your mom helped you. Has there been any other ways that you kind of been able to work through your ADHD?
Ava: Yes. So at first, I started off trying just to learn how to refocus my energy and just trying really hard on focusing, finding coping mechanisms. But at a certain point, I kind of had to just give in and go on medication. I really was opposed to it for a while, but I came to terms with it and I kind of realized that there's no point in cussing. It's not much different than anyone who needs to take medication for allergies or for like diabetes. There's no shame in it and it's there to help you, so you shouldn't let yourself suffer if there's something that's there to help. But then also on the other end of that, you shouldn't feel ashamed if you don't want to take medication.
Maybe that's something that you're not able to do. Maybe you can't cope with the side effects or you just don't want to do it. That's the point where I was at as well. Right now I am off my medication just because I wasn't able to quite deal with the side effects. While it did help a lot with kind of learning to deal with not being able to pay attention, it just was taking a toll on my body. With that, I've learned kind of how to refocus. Something that I did, and this may not work for everyone but somehow it worked for me, I somewhat over involved myself. I tried to pick up as many activities as I possibly could. That way that energy that I had that needed somewhere to go, it always had somewhere to be focused.
So while I was distracted, I was distracted on something that would end up later being beneficial or like getting me somewhere. It's also another thing, getting tutoring. It doesn't mean that you're not smart. It doesn't that you're not capable of doing things yourself, but it really helps me. You shouldn't be ashamed to go get tutoring and get help. I don't know. I think that could be a great help to other people.
Molly: Yeah, I love the answer. I loved how you said that you focused your energy onto like other activities. I never thought about that, but I love how you put that. You kind of already answered this but I'll ask you again, do you feel like you've really kind of overcome these struggles with your ADHD and learning how to focus?
Ava: I mean it's always going to continue to be a struggle just because it's there and it's something that you can't really get rid off, but I definitely think I've learned how to incorporate these struggles into my life and kind of use them to my benefit. While sometimes they still get me into trouble because sometimes I end up like getting distracted from chores or school work or not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, I learned how to work with them. Yeah, I think I have overcome them in a sense.
Molly: Yeah, that's great. If you have some word of advice or encouragement for other youths that were also dealing with ADHD, what would you say to them or what would be your advice for them?
Ava: I just absolutely think the biggest thing is to not be ashamed of whatever decision you decide to make in dealing with ADHD in the best way that you can possible. Again, find places to focus your energy that are productive because while you may find it to be difficult and sometimes it can be a little bit stressful, it's something that might end up working for you. As long as your mind has somewhere to go, it may choose to go there.
Molly: Sure. Are there some like practical hands-on things like maybe planners or computers?
Ava: Yes. Planners have been my absolute best friend. It helps to make sure that when you have something that you're told to do or you need to do, you write it down first thing so that you can't say, "Oh, I forgot or oh, I got distracted." You can always go back and reference that. Another thing too that's important I found throughout my education was hands-on and that came to me through Forage. That's when I first kind of really learned about it. As someone with ADHD, kinesthetic learning is one of the most important things for your education.
If there's any way that you can figure out how to incorporate hands-on learning into your education, even just bringing it up with your teachers, being like, "I have this issue. Being able to like physically work out whatever we're learning with my hands and just be present in the learning is going to help me this much." I'm sure they'll be able to help you with that. If not, you can always figure out a way to do it on your own because it really does help you stay focused and retain more information.>
Molly: Yeah. I think tactile learning is excellent and definitely would help maybe not only people with ADHD, but just people who can't focus-
Ava: In general.
Molly: Yeah. I mean I know sometimes a lot of people can't just sit and look at a book all day or computer screens. That's a really good point and especially talking with teachers too. I think that's something more use to benefit from will be the communication between them and their teacher with focusing on their education. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and we really enjoyed hearing your story. We really appreciate your time.
Ava: Thank you for having me.
Molly: We learned a lot from talking with Ava and I hope you did too. Personally, I really appreciated her perseverance and involvement in positive youth development programs. If you or someone you know is looking for resources on ADHD, please visit engage.youth.gov and youth.gov. Thanks again for joining us for today's conversation on ADHD with Youth Engaged 4 Change Radio. You can find us online at engage.youth.gov or you can find us on Facebook and Instagram. We hope to see you for our next conversation./p>
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