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Personal Stories

How I've Made it This Far

By: Avi Frankl

My mother, years later, told me the story of when she first sat with the neuropsychologist who tested me in Kindergarten and was told the outcome of their two days of testing: Avi has a reading disability and ADHD. She says she burst into tears and asked, "Will he be able to go to college?" Their answer was that "he can go to any college in the country he chooses to."

My mother said that was the first and last time she cried over my disabilities. She taught me a different approach. When I asked, "When will I outgrow this?" she answered, "You won't outgrow it. But you have many strengths, and you will learn to compensate for it." My parents said, "Everyone has a burden in life to carry, and this is yours. And you will be fine."

I haven't overcome my challenge, but I have made great progress in managing my deficits and trying to compensate with my strengths. And, as Sir Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further (or gotten further) it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Who are these giants? My family, my doctors, my teachers, and my friends.

By far, it is the emotional and psychological support that I received from my parents that made my obstacles surmountable. I'm not saying that my parents were saints, but no child could have been made to feel more loved or valued than was I. The "24-7" effort that they put into me allowed me to integrate self confidence into my core being.

They also made me the poster child for behavior modification. I grew up, for example, having to earn by "screen time" by achieving simple goals such as remembering to write in my planner or hand in the completed homework. All so easy for others but so difficult for me. Ultimately, I was able to integrate these tasks demanded by the behavior modification programs, and these tasks and others like them, became more automatic.

Through my doctors, who also had faith in me, I learned to manage my medications in a way most can't. I know the half-life of all the stimulants and can micromanage their use each day, depending on the demands. And of course, no ADHD adolescent would be complete without the "I don't need to take a drug,,,I can manage without it." My parents and my school were insightful and tolerant enough to let me make my own mistakes, such as this, and get these feelings out of my system.

My teachers at Viewpoint School were supportive in other ways, also. Their efforts went far beyond tapping on my desk when they saw me day dreaming. The message they relayed to me every day was letting me know that I had the capacity to succeed. They recognized my strengths, and never lowered the bar for me.

My friends should not be left out of the list of giants that led to my successes. They understood my ADHD. They got it! Sometimes they would even remind me to take my medicine, fax me homework assignments, and most importantly, never make me feel stigmatized. In fact, the opposite: they always showed me respect and made me feel I was smart.

I recognize that almost any other child with my degree of reading difficulties and distractability might not have faired so well as I have. It is true that I am proud of what I have achieved, but I recognize that it was with the giants -on whose shoulders I perched -that allowed me to compensate and succeed academically, psychologically, and emotionally.