Dr. Umesh Jain
is now exclusively responsible
for TotallyADD.com
and its content
Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

The Forums Forums I Just Found Out! My Story Did anyone else actually do well in school?

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  • wanderquest

    It took me a long time to figure out I’m ADD because I did great in school. Anytime I heard someone talk about ADHD I always thought, “That sounds EXACTLY like me, but I did well in school so I can’t have it”, and summarily dismissed the possibility.

    By dumb luck I stumbled onto someone else’s story who had similar circumstances. I started reading more about it. Started taking online assessments, started talking to my husband and my mom, and finally went to my doctor who asked me a whole bunch of questions that made me break down crying in a fit of relief and started on Vyvanse. BRAND NEW WORLD.

    And yet…even though all these weird pieces of lifelong oddity fall together now, my friends and family tell me it’s pretty obvious, and I’m being drastically helped by treatment, I still have this nagging doubt that this can’t be it.

    I’ve thought some about it and maybe I just got lucky because I found school interesting. In retrospect, I didn’t do it “right” by normal standards. I never studied but almost always scored very high on tests, I wrote term papers the night before (or class before) they were due, and copied 80% of my homework from friends (not because I didn’t understand it, I just didn’t DO it).

    But I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop and to be told I don’t really have ADD. I feel like an imposter because I got good grades 20yrs ago.





    You are NOT an imposter. It is very common to have that feeling. I doubt myself all the time. But then I come here and read something that is just oh so me and my doubts disappear.

    One of the best indicators of whether you have ADD is how others see you because they are more likely to see the traits than you are. And the fact that you are responding well to the medication is another good indicator.

    It is a common misconception that people with ADHD can’t do well in school. And it couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, people with ADHD tend to be very intelligent and though many do struggle in school others are able to compensate, like you did.

    I have a friend with very severe ADHD who graduated both high school and college at the top of her class and won a ton of academic awards.

    I only got mediocre grades myself (70-90%) and struggled with always being late turning in my assignments, or forgetting that I had an assignment,  not being able to retain things and having to learn them over, or my attention wandering in the middle of class and missing it altogether. I almost never read the books I was supposed to read (boring!) and never studied for tests (even more boring!). But I graduated and could have gone on to university if it hadn’t been for other factors that got in the way.

    So, if the shoe fits, then wear it ( if you can remember where you put it.)



    I did EXTREMELY well in boarding school (highly structured environment) and nearly flunked out of university (no structure, many distractions). But I think academic success also depends on the quality of instruction and our level of interest in the subject matter. I know from experience that there are some schools out there that any bright kid can breeze through, disciplined or not. And of course it’s always easier to excel in something that really grabs and holds our interest, or something for which we have a real talent.

    I always ran into trouble when I signed up for a course that LOOKED interesting but turned out to be excruciatingly tedious. Too, I knew I usually didn’t read books; I skimmed them. Sort of. So I was savvy enough to steer clear of The 19th-Century English Novel. It seems to me the key for ADDers (and others, as well) when it comes to academic success is to avoid impulsivity when it comes to choosing courses. We need to be always mindful of our particular challenges and, for example, resist that urge to sign up for The Architecture Of The Roman Empire just because we saw some neat pics of the Colosseum in National Geographic.

    Patte Rosebank

    It also helps to be aware of how you process information.

    Although ADHD wasn’t even a blip on my radar when I was at university, I did have enough self-awareness to recognize that I thrived in (and loved) the small discussion-based classes; but I loathed the ones where hundreds of students all sat in a huge lecture hall, taking notes while a professor stood at the front and talked AT us.  I loathed them so much that I skipped more than I attended, because it was such a struggle to absorb the information…or even stay awake!

    A few months ago, I took the ACKTIVV test, to determine my information-processing methods.  No surprise that my preferred methods are Tactile and Verbal (by a long shot), while Auditory was way down at the bottom of the list.

    And yet, I love listening to Radio comedy and drama.  Maybe all the different characters and sound effects and music make it interesting enough to really draw me in and stimulate my imagination.


    I think structure and changing classes every hour helped. But when I went to college and figured out that you didn’t actually have to show up to class – I went from 4.0 down to 2.0 in one semester, lost my scholarship and wound up changing majors 5 times.  The big lecture classes were the WORST. I used to play solitaire on my palm pilot  just to keep from losing my freaking mind. Or if I deemed a class easy, I never showed up-because Hey! Easy! (dumb idea it turns out) Eventually graduated eight years later. So yeah, looking back that makes sense too.

    As for books. If I like the book I can read the entire thing in one sitting.(all 7 of the Harry Potter series in 3 weeks.) If I don’t like it I can re-read the same chapter 12 times and not remember any of it at all. (was required to read Wuthering Heights in 3 different classes-wrote 3 B- essays,  never actually made it to the end of the book.)

    I am for sure a tactile and visual processor. I worked at a floral shop where the owner was very verbal. She’d write out delivery instructions with words (turn left at blah blah street) and before I’d leave I always had to draw myself a map, we both laughed about how we’d have to translate each others directions. Man I miss that job.


    @wanderquest: YES!!!!! Thanks for sharing that….it has also been really difficult for me to totally accept it.

    “But I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop and to be told I don’t really have ADD. I feel like an imposter because I got good grades 20yrs ago.”

    I was labelled gifted, and told by the “gifted” teacher that my high score meant that I could do “anything I wanted to”when I grew up. Oh, how that one little remark haunted me over the years…I was SUPPOSED to be able to do anything, so why did everything feel like such a muddle?

    I was the “good, smart, quiet” kid who got good grades without trying and faded into the background while some of my family went from dramatic crisis to crisis. With other major mental illnesses taking up family resources, I often felt / feel that my little ADD thing doesn’t “count”.

    I like @blackdog ‘s “One of the best indicators of whether you have ADD is how others see you because they are more likely to see the traits than you are. And the fact that you are responding well to the medication is another good indicator.” Hopefully those ‘someones’ can be supportive, positive people…because, of course, bosses can be very good at pinpointing your ADD traits as well 😉


    Structure of the classes/school made all the difference in my grades. I would get everything from a fail to A+ in a course depending on the teaching style, structure, assignments, etc. Being interested in a course was always a benefit.

    The difficulty is that one cannot always take a course that is of interest to fulfill degree requirements.

    @WGREEN I loved Roman Art and Architecture and Attic Vase painting, but those are in my wheelhouse. On the other hand, I took Roman Law as it sounded interesting and hated the course.

    Blue Yugo

    I got bad grades in 4th through 6th grade because I was very picked on, but aside from that, through Middle and High School I was always on the Honor Roll, and in college on the Dean’s List.  I had a problem in school called “This is so boring and un-challenging, I am bored to tears!”

    I did well because I learned the material fast.  That worked well for my then undiagnosed ADD because I learned faster than the average kid, so I could easily afford to doodle and daydream and do anything BUT pay attention in class.  I did constantly feel overly impatient for the slow pace of even “college prep” level classes, and I’d wind up similar in the work world…can’t stand slowness or being bored, and I am constantly in need of challenges and mental stimulation.  School was not mentally stimulating, and the pace was so slow, I tuned out due to combination of boredom and I was probably going to tune out anyway.  In hind-sight, I’m lucky I guess, to have gotten good grades despite everything.  My secret was that I wasn’t really paying attention half the time, but the slow pace of public school meant that if I paid attention only 25% of the time, I’d still absorb the lesson.  Then, no one would discover that I was inattentive.  I was a bit immature for my age, though, and that was tough to hide.  But being a 16 year old senior didn’t help either.




    New here, my first post 🙂

    I was a good student…..Computing and Science class….high school for only the best and smartest kids in town…..But i was lousy in Math, Physics, I hated them so badly….

    and the irony is my father is a professor of Applied Math with a Ph.D….


    ABSOLUTELY!! I sailed through school. I was reading in Kindergarten and by 7th grade was reading on a college level. I don’t enjoy writing or math, but I can do them. It helped to have a non-ADHD, very intelligent older sister to compete with. Plus I’m insanely curious about almost every topic, and love to do research. My problems in school were purely social, and I was unpopular and bullied until college. I still panic about meeting new people. But academic/coping problems came later, starting with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life.

    In hindsight, I should have majored in Art or History, and gone on to a master’s in library science or historic preservation. But I came from a small, working class town, and my dad informed us that he “would not pay for us to get useless majors like art or history.” Closest I could get was Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles (this was pre-NAFTA). So I’ve been an admin assistant to an engineering firm for 20+ years. But, yeah, I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 43–every time I’d mention it to a doctor, they’d ask how I did in school. “Great!” “Well, you don’t have it.”

    The situation became desperate (basic organizing is a BIG problem), and a psychology professor friend recommended a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD. I had to go outside the insurance coverage to see him, but it was worth it. (One previous attempt to get a diagnosis from an insurance approved doctor failed. See “did great in school” point above.) His PA worked with me for 45 minutes, filling out forms, asking questions, taking several surveys/questionnaires. When she finished, she said the doctor would come in a few minutes and review everything with me, but “you are a classic case of adult ADHD in a female. I don’t know why no one caught this before now.” Sigh–I tried to tell ’em, I really did. And no one believed me. I’ve been called organized and dependable my whole life. In reality, that was me desperately maintaining control because I’ve always felt everything was completely on the verge of total chaos.

    Okay, this post is a bit disjointed. I cut some stuff out as it was turning into my life story. But yeah, some of us do really well in school–it’s everything else that jumps up and bites.


    One of the criteria for diagnosing ADHD which I feel is just plain wrong is:

    There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.

    I would bet dollars to donuts that there are plenty of members who did well or at least average in school despite their ADHD.  “You did well in school, so you can’t have ADHD.”  The fact is that these “refused-to-be-diagnosed-as-ADHD-by-their-doctors” individuals performed at acceptable levels because they had IQs of 130+.

    Yes these people performed at acceptable levels.  They passed their classes, they graduated, and some even made it through college.  They didn’t appear to have symptoms which interfered with their abilities.  They figured out on their own the coping strategies they needed to get by.  But they performed far below their potential, at an average level, because of their ADHD.  They may have been labeled as “not trying.”    These are people who, had they been diagnosed and treated, would have become leaders in their fields, becoming famous doctors, musicians, scientists, and such.

    Can I get a witness?


    oh,and yes I always did crappy in school. I was the one the teacher would asked if I had finished my home work. but only  when they knew it was undone and they wanted to point that out and ridicule me. oh well shit happens. grade were just high enough to skweak by. untill I got to grade 9 , by that tine they failled me and told me to find a job and get out of there school. because they didn’t like me and wanted me gone. so I left almost as dumb as I went in. back in the 70’s they never knew about adhd or cared.


    @RitaFaye, Hindsight is 20/20. I never knew what I wanted to do either. And I come from the same kind of family. Dad expected me to go work at the factory and mom thought I should “take a secretarial course”. I always wanted to study art but decided (or let them decide for me) that it wasn’t “practical”. And I have never really had any confidence in my artistic ability. If I could do it over, I would go straight out of high school and into fine art. But then, I would probably still fail. Because I would still have the same problems.

    @kc5jck, You are preaching to the choir. When I got my package for my upcoming assessment and saw the section on education I thought “oh no, not again”. But this guy specializes in ADHD, so he *should* know better. And the questions are more in depth, broken down in to separate areas, so it will clearly show that I do have some problems with learning.

    @trashman,  I had some of those teachers too. And worse, I had some who used me to humiliate the other students. No faster way to become the least popular kid in the class. And it was a mean thing to do to the others. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that.


    @kc5jck They forget what the word “or” means. OR does not mean the same thing as “and.” I was #2 in my class, and graduated the honors program at the university. But socially–huge problems. I was a bully target until I graduated high school. I have to constantly remind myself of various “polite” responses and strategies, especially in large groups.

    My parents weren’t being mean about the degrees, but neither of them had the opportunity to go to college. And the area I lived in was middle-class to poverty, and even the teachers pushed the few college-bound kids into “safe” degrees–nursing, education, med school, business. Something you could get a steady job with benefits from. And I didn’t research options for history or art, because I didn’t see any jobs that actually used them. Such as working as a museum curator, or illustration for an ad agency (and that was pre-internet–graphic design has exploded now). They really just wanted the best for us.


    I did fine in school. I was never a math whiz, and still can’t do basic arithmetic, but I got almost straight A’s the entire time. In high school I took a lot of art classes, and majored in art in college, and later studied graphic design. My GPA was 3.6-something or 3.8-something, I don’t remember. There’s probably a connection between my level of interest and the degree to which I was successful and the subject matter of the classes I took, but even in elementary school, I was OK.

    I do remember, before getting the diagnosis, how frustrated I was by not being able to concentrate on the reading. I’d have to read the same text over and over. At the time, I thought it was because of depression. Finally I figured out that if I skipped the reading entirely and just listened to the instructor and took really good notes, everything said in class would be on the tests. I memorized my notes and performed well on exams without ever actually learning anything. It’s pretty amazing, actually, how well someone can do in school if they test well.

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