Social norms are the unwritten rules of society which we ADHDers struggle to grasp, but ones which we are expected to conform. These things can range from knowing how to sit appropriately, knowing what to wear based on temperature changes and also knowing when to speak in a conversation (especially if there are more than two people involved). No matter how hard we try our behaviour seems to fall below the mark of what is expected, yet perhaps we are not the problem completely.
Yesterday, I was at a fostering support group and one of the topics that come up in discussion was that a few of us like to doodle as we listen to information to help us focus. Some people, especially teachers, view this as rude, but actually it can be the thing that helps us the most. This brings up one important question is a different type of behaviour not ok as long as it impacts negatively on nobody else?
Let me give you an example from my childhood. Something else that happened yesterday is that my mum reminded me of something that happened when I was child. When I was about 7 I visited a speech therapist to be assessed and whom I played with for two hours as she observed me. A few weeks later my mum got called into school yet again to discuss my disruptive behaviour in class and they commented “Even the speech therapist said she displayed inappropriate behaviour.” My mum was rather confused, she had been with me throughout that two-hour session and not witnessed anything untoward. When she asked the school politely what the heck they were talking about they couldn’t elaborate further, except to say that it was in the report that was sent to them.
Well, my mum determined to find out what had happened actually rang the speech therapist and it turned out that the inappropriate behaviour had been a hug. My mum was furious and responded with “You’ve played with my child for two hours and you think it’s inappropriate that she hugged you to say thank you.” She made the speech therapist ring up and explain this to the school and I think it wasn’t long after I changed schools, though I don’t think it was just this that contributed to her decision. Now obviously there is a big thing now about perhaps asking before you hug someone, but how much harm did my behaviour really cause for it to be classed as inappropriate?
“Sadly the education system which is in place in the UK currently is aimed at neurotpyical people and still remains somewhat inaccessible for neurodiverse people.”~ADHD Girl
The point I’m trying to make is all ADHDers are on a different wave length frequency to neurotypical people, so why would we behave in exactly the same way? Who cares if we doodle to pay attention? Or we’re not sat still on a bottom correctly? Does it matter if we have little fidget cubes that we play with (I have two)? Or that we occasionally need reminding that we’re talking too fast? Some people seemed to get far more annoyed that we don’t fit into the normal behaviour of society, then anything we’ve actually done to them.
Of course, there are some things that we need to keep in check with our behaviour or try our very best to control, like interrupting all the time pretty soon gets incredibly annoying for the other people trying to speak. Disrupting a whole lesson can cause major issues for both the students and the teacher. Bouncing off the ceiling instead of going to sleep can cause a major headache for parents who just want their peace in the evenings.
In summary, like everything else, in terms of behaviour from someone with ADHD, it’s got to be a balancing act. We should be celebrating our differences while respecting when we need support. Strangely enough, I never ever felt like I fit in when I was at school. That’s because in a lot of schools it’s all about conformism; has to be because of funding and time restrictions (There is a great Ted Talk on YouTube called The Education Paradigm by Sir Ken Robinson, which goes into more detail on this). It was only when I left formal education that I found my differences; the things that make me special, some of the things that come from my ADHD can actually come with a huge advantage.
“I’m now glad that I wasn’t very good at school, because I’d rather be good at life. People forget they are not mutually exclusive.”~adhd Girl
I’m incredibly creative because I have the ability to think of lots of different things and possibilities at once, that definitely comes from the ADHD, this means I’m good at coming up with unique ideas, perfect for things like being an author or changing the world through inventions. I’m incredibly caring because I know how it feels to be treated badly for needing more support and it also stems for my empathy for being able to see other people’s perspectives (again going back to being able to see many different things at once). This is perfect for service careers which require working with people directly. I’m incredibly friendly because my impulsivity from my ADHD means that I have a real passion for life and being bubbly. Lots of people tell me this is one of my nicer qualities because it puts them as ease and makes them happy too.
So all those things that got me into trouble all school; my impulsivity, my bouncing brain that refused to let up and the schools lack of compassion actually led to me becoming not only someone who copes better with ADHD, but someone who is pretty proud of who they are. When you get right down to it, the way they teach you in school is predominately aimed at neurotypical people. In others way is based on how the majority of people think and behave. However, it’s the different thinkers of this world that are going to change it, because they are the ones with the new ideas that nobody has thought of which will progress society forward. The world needs people like us yet we’re the ones who at a young age struggle to access it the most.
I may have gone off on a bit of a tangent from my original point on inappropriate behaviour, but the truth is all ADHD issues boil down to the same two things: a lack of understanding and a lack of support. Once we begin to fix these things, then everyone will know that it’s hard to fit in with ordinary behaviour when you have an extraordinary brain.