Pronoun Power

by James C. Wiley, MD, FAAP


ADHD brains get corrected, blamed, and shamed so often that they find ways to push back. One favorite strategy is blaming everything and everyone else. You’ve heard it…”The dog ate my homework.”

During a follow up visit one of my bright teenage patients explained that he rarely needed his ADHD medication anymore and mainly took it when he had a big test or project due. His response to why his grades had tumbled from honor roll to toilet bowl was that he had several teachers that didn’t like him.  More than that, a couple of them “didn’t really teach”. In addition, one teacher “messed me up because she only posts assignments online so I have to remember to login to the website to even know what we are supposed to do–the work sneaks up on me!”.  When I asked if he had looked into the summer program he told me about at our last visit, he explained that “so much has been going on that there really hadn’t been time to do that and the application deadline passed.”

At that moment something fired from my ADHD brain and shot straight out of my mouth like a bullet.  “You need to change your pronouns.”  I didn’t even realize what I was saying but like a lot of us with ADHD, that didn’t stop me from continuing.

“You see, as long as they don’t like you, they don’t teach, she messes you up, it sneaks up on you, it has kept you from meeting a deadline, YOU are powerless.  You can’t change them or it. You can only change you.”

What if you changed your story to this?  I need to be more respectful, get my work done and participate in class more. I need to come up with a system to overcome my tendency to forget online assignments.  I need to work on my time management so that I don’t miss important deadlines.’

He sat there blinking for a moment before saying, “so I would be in charge.”

Then something fired from his ADHD brain and shot straight out of his mouth.  “Wow, Dr. Wiley, you should write that down”.  So, I did.