When my school announced we would start distance learning for at least our first semester, I was overcome with a lot of emotions. As someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, learning online doesn’t come easy. Doing well in school, even under normal conditions, has always been a struggle for me.
Before I was diagnosed my freshman year, school seemed impossible. I didn’t understand why it took me two hours to complete an hour-long exam, or why the soft sound of a clock ticking could completely derail my focus. I spent most of middle school filling my locker with hundreds of tiny paper cranes that I folded in class instead of listening to my teachers.
Things got better when I entered high school but it wasn’t a smooth transition. My focus improved when I was diagnosed and went on medication, but it was difficult to get the support I needed from my teachers and counselors. It would take two years after my diagnosis to get formal accommodations at school. But even with that, it often seemed like teachers felt burdened when I asked for help.
I remained patient and with the help of a psychiatrist, things got easier. I got more time for tests, I started doing work after school in the library with my friends, I was given a planner and started making schedules for myself.
But just as I found a rhythm, COVID-19 hit. I managed to get through the last semester of junior year turning in late assignments and skipping teachers’ Zoom meetings. But that won’t work as I start my senior year. Teachers now expect the same amount of work and concentration as if we were in the classroom.
As a senior, there’s a lot more at stake. It’ll be hard to explain to colleges why my grades dropped in my mid-year senior report.
As many schools start the year with online learning, I can’t help but question just how prepared they are to support students like me with learning disabilities and ADHD. It has taken me years to feel comfortable at school. I don’t want to go back to hoarding paper cranes.