By Ed Runyan
Joyce Kubik, who coaches people with attention-deficit disorder, says it would be common for her to walk into a room to look at the planner that helps keep her organized “and see six or seven other things I need to do.”
That’s because Kubik, of Avon Lake west of Cleveland, also has the disorder, which is characterized by lack of organizational skills and focus.
Kubik said attention deficit disorder, the most frequently diagnosed children’s mental health issue in Trumbull County, is partly about being unable to block out sights, sounds and other stimulation.
But to her, the disorder is mostly an issue of memory recall.
That’s why people who have it frequently get into trouble for speaking out when it’s not their turn.
Kubik said children with ADD learn that they don’t have the ability to remember thoughts a long time, so they feel compelled to say what they are thinking soon after the thought hits them.
“It’s why I’m impulsive. I know I have to act it out immediately” because the thought will vanish within 10 seconds, Kubik said. “I have to do it, I have to say it.”
ADD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also are the cause of a lot of bad feelings — for children and for adults — who can be bombarded throughout the day with feelings of inadequacy.
With people who have the disorder, “You get six or seven hits of ‘You’re not doing it right’” in the same day, “and you’re going to develop an attitude about it,” which can lead to “situational” depression or situational anxiety, Kubik said.
She defines situational depression and situational anxiety as disorders that don’t need medication for treatment.
“What I’ve learned is to write everything down,” Kubik said of nonmedical ways she copes with the disorder and coaches others to cope with it. One of the most-important things she writes in is a planner.
Also important in her work is to make clients understand that ADD isn’t an indication of low intelligence. In fact, some of the most successful people in society, such as actor Robin Williams and football great Terry Bradshaw, have the disorder.
And many innovators such as Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs are thought to have had it.
In fact, Kubik and the behavior specialist for a Warren elementary school that specializes in ADD agree that “disorder” is a better word for ADD than “disability” — because those who adjust to ADD can function as well in society as anyone.
“There is no reason they shouldn’t go on to have a highly productive life. They can be entrepreneurs and leaders of corporations,” said Mike Burkett, a licensed professional counselor and behavior specialist at the Summit Academy School on Arbor Avenue Southeast.
“It’s important what sort of occupations they choose,” he said. “If they choose to do something where they have to sit in one spot ... that might not be the type of occupation you want. A firefighter, or something where you are active and things are changing rapidly — you might be great, just perfectly suited for something like that.”
Burkett and Allison Glass, school director, are the top administrators of the school, classified an Ohio charter school because public funds are used to operate the school, not private tuition.
Burkett said the nonprofit Summit Academy, which has 27 schools in Ohio, places its students in a classroom more conducive to their learning style, meaning grouped in learning stations, and the children move from one station to another.
Describing the building on Arbor Avenue that serves about 100 students kindergarten through Grade 6, Burkett said computers are available in every room with educational software students can use throughout the day to keep them stimulated.
The K-6 building did not receive high marks in the last state report card, receiving a rating of academic emergency, the lowest rating. The 7-12 building on Moncrest Drive Northwest, was rated continuous improvement, in the middle range.
Glass said this is typical of schools that mostly serve students with attention deficit disorder and autism-spectrum disorders. The children at the elementary level have not yet learned to cope with the disorder as well as the children at the middle-school and high-school level.
The Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board recently published a chart showing the most common mental-health diagnoses among children and adults in Trumbull County.
Though attention deficit disorder was by far the leading diagnosis among children, it was tenth highest among adults.
Burkett and Ilona Roth-Cohn of the Mental Health and Recovery Board say the reason for the difference is probably the ability to adapt to the disorder as children become adults.
“As adults, when you learn to deal with it, it’s no longer a disorder,” Burkett said. “It’s just part of your personality. It’s not affecting you adversely, whereas as a child, it’s affecting you because you’re forced to sit in a classroom all day. As an adult, you make more choices, so it’s no longer limiting you.”
Roth-Cohn says of the disorder: “Many adults use it to their advantage,” especially the high energy level frequently associated with it.
Roth-Cohn said she thinks the number of adults receiving treatment for attention deficit disorder is so much lower than the number of children receiving treatment because many adults are misdiagnosed.
Many adults are diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders because they are sometimes side effects of ADD, she said.