Striving to focus, students with ADHD cope
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 13:02
He has five minutes left to complete the math test. In the middle of scribbling down a formula, his eyes wander to the smoke alarm on the side of the wall, which leads him over to the floor where a boxelder bug crawls, which then flies to the windowsill while he rehearses a grocery list in his head. All of a sudden, the girl sitting next to him drops her pencil, which breaks his concentration, sending his eyes back down to the unfinished test.
A day in the life of Michael Luebke, or another student with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — ADHD — could be much like this.
“It’s a chemical imbalance that causes a lack of focus in individuals,” said Michael Luebke, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “It affects your ability to focus on one thing, but in doing so you’re able to pick up hundreds of different things all the time because your brain is just always darting around.”
Luebke was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school when his mother and teachers noticed he had trouble giving attention to class and homework. According to Luebke, anger, active restlessness and lack of concentration are all symptoms of ADHD.
“The mind-wandering is probably the number one sign,” he said. “I was really bad at paying attention to teachers in elementary school but I could tell you about their classrooms really well. You’ll pick up on small things that people do or things around you that interests you that I think other people just pass by.”
Luebke said ADHD isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and his condition could help him in his hopeful career of inventing.
“It’s been a blessing and a curse in college,” he said. “One of the things that doctors say that ADHD can cause is a thing called hyper-focusing which is when you really get into something and you actually wanna do it — that is all that exists to you. Your brain has this ability to just throw everything else out and you can hyper-focus on it and your thoughts are really well constructed.”
Luebke also said he struggles finding attention for things he does not find amusing.
“It’s almost like you feel this energy welling up in you and your mind’s just going everywhere,” he said. “It becomes frustrating because you think, ‘I need to be focusing here,’ but every time you try and do that, your mind jumps somewhere else.”
Luebke said anyone diagnosed with ADHD can find their own way of coping with their personal struggles.
“In class I know that if I want to focus, I need to take notes or I need to doodle or be doing something,” said Elizabeth Mugleston, a freshman at USU studying animal dairy and veterinary science. “I can’t just sit.”
Both Mugleston and Luebke said taking medication for ADHD has helped them overcome their struggles.
“I don’t even want to think about college without medication because it’s hard to work without it,” Luebke said.
He also said no two ADHD cases are alike. In one case medication may be the only answer, whereas in another case it may not.
“I noticed that it just kind of changed my mood,” said Zac Zurn, owner of Pita Pit in Logan.
Zurn has been on and off medication throughout his life since high school and said he prefers to perform without it.
“People have different levels of ADHD,” Luebke said. “For me right now in my life, it would be a long process to try and overcome it myself and it wouldn’t be very beneficial in school. Right now I’m at a stable point where I can function and work. Maybe at some point in my life where it’s not so critical that I do well, I could spend the time in trying to work through it. I do believe that if you master self-control, that can help a lot with it.”
Luebke has proven he doesn’t let his condition change who he wants to become.
“Everybody has trials and challenges that come up in their life, and so to say, ‘Because I have ADHD my life is harder than someone elses’ is unfair,” Luebke said.
Mugleston and Zurn said being diagnosed with ADHD does not give them any right to expect less of themselves.
“My dad never let me use it as an excuse for anything, so it’s part of me,” Mugleston said. “Sometimes it kind of sucks and is annoying, but I still have the choice to choose to focus or not.”