I Am a Teacher with ADHD, Autism, Depression, and Anxiety by Amber


When I was 3 years old, I was expelled from preschool (a Montessori school, actually.) Montessori education is, by definition, “child-centred education designed to help all children reach their fullest potential – at their own pace” ….Well, I guess they didn’t like my pace.

I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office, often due to acting without thinking and being impulsive. I switched to a mainstream school in grade 4 and I was identified as “gifted” in grade 5. All that really led to was just me being told I’m not reaching my full potential by teachers, and me questioning for years and years why I seemed so dumb when I was supposed to be so smart. It felt like I was left out of the loop because everyone else seemed to know how smart I was, but I couldn’t figure out why they thought that. I wasn’t top of my class, and it felt like I had accidentally tricked people into thinking I was smart when I wasn’t.

Fast forward to high school, within my friend group I was always the one who knew the most in any study session, but we all just referred to me as “school smart, people stupid” or “book smart, world stupid.” Throughout my life, friends and family have often told me: “you know, you’re really dumb for a smart person” to which I would always agree with them.

In grade 11 chemistry, I finally had a teacher who made it clear to me that he knew there was a disconnect between me and my potential. On tests, he would come over and quietly read the question out loud without changing the wording or explaining it, and for some reason that helped it to “click” when it otherwise wouldn’t have from reading it in my head. This led to me speaking to my SERT (the spec ed teacher assigned to me since I had an IEP), and we set up a consultation with an educational psychologist.

During the evaluation, they told me: “You’re going to graduate next year, you’re an honour roll student, you’re well behaved, you’ve got great attendance. Unfortunately, you’re just not a priority for the school system to approve a proper psychoeducational assessment,” and that was that.

When I got to university, I was so excited about all the new experiences like going to class, living in residence and being downtown without my family. I was desperate for all the cool psychology knowledge I could get my hands on. In my 3rd year, after seeking out an assessment, I got diagnosed with ADHD at age 20 (which in my opinion was 15-17 years too late). I was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which, unfortunately, comes with the territory of undiagnosed/untreated ADHD. I slowly got worse and worse with procrastination, especially in my 4th year when I no longer lived in residence and instead had my own apartment.

During 2021 when all my classes were online, I was bad at taking care of myself. I only left my apartment to go to work a few times a week, was pretty depressed, and didn’t care about the work I was doing, which was very unlike me. I was just altogether lacking a lot of motivation for anything and everything. It got hard to do basic stuff like work up the effort to wash dishes or even do things I actually enjoyed like reading or colouring. I would spend hours just staring at the wall like a zombie while on the inside, I was doing mental gymnastics. If you have never experienced being physically tired while simultaneously being mentally hyper -- I’ll tell you right now, it is exhausting.

It was around this time that I started learning as much as I possibly could about ADHD, especially how it is in girls, which is quite different from how it can present in boys. It became a cycle because the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn, and the more I wanted to shout from the rooftops what I had found out. Since then, I have found out that I am also autistic, also something I had to figure out myself. I have continued learning about ADHD, the common misconceptions and realities of those who deal with it, and I have worked hard to advocate for ADHD awareness.

Currently, I am in a Master’s of Teaching program and have dedicated my research to help kids with ADHD as a teacher, and especially, to help kids who might slip through the cracks of the diagnostic system like I did. I know that I am really fortunate to have had the privileges in life that I’ve had, and that my school experience was generally positive. Ultimately though, my public-school experience left me feeling that this cannot be the best it gets for other neurodivergent students.

Despite the popular myth that ADHD is over diagnosed, those with ADHD, as well as those with autism, often make it into adulthood before being diagnosed. So many of my future neurodivergent students may very well not have an accurate IEP during their time in my classes if they are given one at all.

Sometimes people tell me that all I talk about is ADHD and to that, I say: “so?” Not enough other people are talking about it, and if that means I must take it upon myself to spread awareness for it a bit more, I think that is really a small price to pay. To put it this way: anyone who might get annoyed with me for going on and on about ADHD, how much of life it affects and how more teachers, parents, and people, in general, should know about it, I would much rather have them be mildly annoyed with me instead of have kids grow up hating themselves or thinking they’re broken or alone in the world.

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