Confessions Of A Naughty Child

2016-01-30 07:30

Misunderstood, Misdiagnosed, Abused: Confession of a Naughty Child

A personal account of a childhood lost and potential which could have been wasted – the case against corporal punishment

Today I choose to share something deeply personal, something I would not usually share, especially on a public forum. But, reading through some recent stories, and interacting with a few people who went through a similar situation, I figured that maybe if I shared my own story, maybe one young parent, one couple, could learn something, and perhaps that could change someone else's life, somewhere, somehow.

I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). My symptoms surfaced at around age 4 to 5. Whilst I was extremely young, I am able to remember vividly, as this coincided with the time I started pre-school.

ADHD is a neurological syndrome, found in children as well as adults. Common ADHD symptoms include poor concentration and organisational skills, easy distractibility, low tolerance for frustration or boredom, a greater tendency to say or do whatever comes to mind (impulsiveness) and a predilection for situations with high intensity.

As a young toddler, my ADHD was quite commonly mistaken for deliberate playfulness. My failure to concentrate on any task was often assumed to be deliberate, and growing up in a very traditional Shona upbringing, the first course of action was to beat out of me.

The more I progressed in school, especially primary school, the more intense my illness became, and the more beatings I got. The beatings came with labels as well, like 'naughty', 'playful', 'immature', ‘distracted’.

My case of ADHD was also rare, because I developed Tourette Syndrome at around age 7. Tourette's syndrome is a problem with the nervous system that causes people to make sudden movements or sounds, called tics, which they can't control. For example, someone with Tourette's might blink or clear their throat over and over again.

My Tourette Syndrome was mistakenly interpreted by my teachers as bad habits. It first started with involuntary backward neck jerks, then sometimes it would be hand twitches, or the clearing of my throat. The assumption was that I was simply picking up habits, and not letting them go. The beatings only got worse.

Nonetheless, none of the illnesses made me outright dull, so i was able to work through them. It got better when I went to a different High School in Harare.

The teachers there were more understanding, and one of my teachers, Mr Chigwedere, noticed that I was smart, sharp, but had these problems. He shifted my curriculum, allowed me to drop subjects i had no interest in, and managed to get the school to allow me a special syllabus which had material that I was able to learn and switch in between, without losing interest at all.

Had it not been for Mr Chigwedere, I probably would have simply got more beatings, until teachers got tired. In primary school, I had eventually displayed tendencies are often associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. This was mostly as a reaction to the torture.

This is the primary reason I am against corporal punishment in educational systems. I was never good in maths, because I struggled to concentrate long enough to learn anything. But when I did my courses in Statistics while pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, I aced them, better than traditional math gurus.

The difference? It was something that appealed to me. Mr Chigwedere remains one of the most key figures in my life, including Mr Mutasa my history teacher at Allan Wilson Boys School.

They are the big difference between my near disastrous primary education, and my successful high school years.

The reason I have shared this, is so that, one parent out there, may learn that children are there to be understood.

I did not choose ADHD, or Tourette's. They are not degenerative disorders, but the treatment I received because I had them could have been catastrophic.

I can tell you now, I could have ended up on the streets. I could have wasted myself, never quite became what I am.

I get people who ask me how and why I can be a Political Analyst, a Website Entrepreneur, Social Media Expert, and Highly Skilled Internet Connoisseur all at the same time.

They ask, how you can be a jack of a number of trades, and still be reasonably good at them.

My answer is, I used my psychological illness to my advantage. Where I could have been learning Psychology only, I kept my interest in it by learning IT, by learning more about SOM, by exploring the Internet for Opportunities.

Till today, when I work, i have multiple work spaces open, often switching between tasks that are not even related. That has been my way of using my ADHD attention span shifts to my advantage.

ADHD kids can be very exceptional. I may not be exceptional, but I do reasonably ok.

Not every child who struggles with paying attention, concentrating on school is playful, or naughty. No child should be beaten up, rather understood.

I hope my story can help educate someone. I turned out ok, but somewhere out there, several kids like me did not.

Understand your children, educate them, and do not beat them. I was lucky my mother was never the violent kind. Perhaps that is what saved me. But, teachers, parents, understand your children. You can't beat a brain illness out of a child.

Lots of love


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AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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