A gap year is an experiential year typically taken between high school and college in order to deepen practical, professional, and personal awareness. A gap year can be especially important and beneficial for students with ADHD. Here are some things to consider if you are thinking about a gap year for your ADHD teen.
Here’s is a recent report from Executive Function Coach and Trainer Erin Wilson:
“It was a Friday–I had just gotten home from school, the Seattle summer had started early, and I was exhausted. I was getting a popsicle out of the freezer and beginning to settle down when my phone rang. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I had broken the rule of not giving my phone number out to students; so, student was my guess. I thought about ignoring it—Oh, come on! It’s Friday evening!—but I hit the green button anyway.
“It was one of my 17-year-old students who immediately started apologizing for bothering me, and talking of hanging up, but I kept him on the line. ‘No, I’m here. What’s going on?’ I asked.”
‘Well, I am on the Aurora Bridge and getting ready to jump, but I knew you would be mad at me if I didn’t talk to you before I jumped.’
‘Oh, gosh, Malcolm. Yes, indeed. Thank you for calling. I am here. Let’s figure this out together.’
A conversation ensued, at the end of which they agreed to go for milkshakes. She drove to the bridge and picked him up. Malcolm is still with us.
As unique as this conversation was, it is also typical. Malcolm meets with Erin once a week for executive function coaching. Erin mostly just asks questions: “What’s going on?” “How was your week?” How are you doing on your goal?” “What is your strategy?” “How is that working for you?” “What did you learn from that?” “What can you do differently?”
As unique as Malcolm’s problem is, it is also typical. So many kids in our schools are problems, or cause problems, feel they have a problem, told they have a problem. What was Malcolm’s problem? Was it dyslexia or ADHD? Was he a victim of high stress in the home or the neighborhood? Was he being bullied? Was it “Executive Function Disorder?” Suggest your favorite dysfunction.
Notice what bad habits we are in! It doesn’t really matter what “problem” he has or what his “learning difference” is, does it? Whatever the problem, he needs a partner who knows how to strengthen his executive function. Does he need better planning skills? Whatever. Whatever the matter is, he needs practice in owning his own brain, so he can own his own decisions, so he can own his own life.
What saved Malcolm’s life was not Erin’s personality, but a person who was trained to do what few people in schools are in the habit of doing: talking to students as if they are decision makers, as if they want to make a difference, as if they are leading their own lives. Each of us needs another person who acts as if the only thing that matters right now is the choices I make, and knows how to help me figure out the good ones.
Is any work in a school more important than this? How many “at risk” kids would be “at risk” if school were a place for learning to think? What would happen to our graduation rates if school focused everyone on maximizing internally motivated decision-making?
About the Author
Rick Ackerly is a nationally recognized educator, speaker and leadership coach with more than 40 years of experience in schools, 35 as head of school. He is the author of The Genius in Every Child: Encouraging Character, Curiosity and Creativity in Children. His blog is www.geniusinchildren.org.
While many celebrities are reticent to talk about their learning challenges, Ty Pennington has been vocal about his ADHD diagnosis. Pennington is the former host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and today the co-host of “American Diner Revival.” He says he is proof that a person with ADHD can focus on one thing long enough to make it happen.
Ty Pennington’s Childhood Struggles with ADHD
For all of his childhood, he wasn’t aware that he had ADHD. In grade school, his hyperactivity seemed in the way of everything he tried to accomplish. As a result, he spent a lot of his time in the hallway or in detention. School was difficult. By his own account, Ty says he swung on the blinds, ran around the classroom, and playfully slapped other students on the back of the head. He would read a book but not remember a word, cause chaos in the classroom daily, and spend most of his time being disciplined instead of learning. He was finally officially diagnosed with ADHD while in college.
He spoke with Nicki Gostin of the Huffington Post about his childhood experiences with ADHD.
“My mom was studying to be a child psychologist and she went to my elementary school to test the worst kid they had. They were like, “Mrs. Pennington, you really don’t want to know who that is.” They let her observe me through a window and within 20 minutes I stripped naked, wore my desk around and swung on the blinds. I was just a complete distraction to all the other students.
Back then, they didn’t even know what to call it. They put me on antihistamines to try and make me drowsy. They tried everything. It certainly affected my confidence and my belief in myself. When everyone’s afraid you’re going to hurt yourself from just mowing the lawn, you start to believe them. Once I figured out I was pretty decent at art and people were interested in hiring me, I realized I had a skill besides injuring myself.
What’s kind of funny is that I ended up working with power tools to pay my way through art school and still have all my digits.”
Finding Creativity Amid the Chaos
Pennington admits that ADHD hurt his confidence and his belief in his own abilities, but he found success by pursuing art, design, and carpentry. Later a modeling scout approached him and he began a career in print advertising, TV, and endorsements. Pennington was able to leverage his photogenic appearance, charismatic sense of humor, and love for carpentry into his own empire of television shows, magazine publications, home fashion designs, and personal appearances. He also won an Emmy award for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Today he manufactures his own line of furniture and writes a regular column for Enjoy magazine in addition to his work in television. Ty Pennington is proof that no matter how strong the symptoms of ADHD might be, they can be harnessed into a creative and fulfilling career.
Celebrities with ADHD: Ty Pennington
When you have ADHD or other executive functioning challenges, you may feel restless, impulsive and have difficulty paying attention. That can make managing your time much harder. There are skills you can learn to help overcome these challenges and be more productive with your time. . .… READ MORE
Do you ever feel like you work so hard at school to keep focused and do a good job that you are exhausted when you get home? You’re so tired from school you just want to forget it all when the bell rings? And when it’s time to do your homework, you just … can’t … make … yourself … get … started? Scientists have been discovering there are limits to willpower. You don’t have to do it all on your own! Use your ADHD coach as a way to outsource some of your willpower. . … READ MORE
Over the past 30 years, Dr. Monastra has treated more than 15,000 clients who have ADHD. In this important book he shares the knowledge he has gained. Engaging and straightforward, the book is directed at parents of children who have, or might have, ADHD. In a conversational style, Monastra offers a series of sequential lessons, beginning with the causes of ADHD and the most common medical treatments. He discusses all the relevant issues for parents, including psychological treatment, diet, educational laws, and practical coping strategies for both parents and children.
Dr. Monastra’s research examining the neurophysiological characteristics of children and teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as his treatment studies investigating the role of parenting style, school intervention, nutrition, and electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback in the overall care of patients with ADHD, is internationally recognized and has led to several scientific awards, including the President’s Award..