By Daniel J. Vance
From all appearances, Matt Lust is “normal.” He's a 24-year-old graduate student majoring in sociology at a midwestern university and a former high school football player.
“I first learned I had ADHD in 2002 while attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado,” said Lust in a telephone interview, referring to his disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The National Institute of Mental Health website reports that ADHD affects about two million American children, and probably many millions of adults. Professionals recognize three types of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and the combined type, displaying both.
In short, hyperactive children seem to be perpetual motion machines. Impulsive children have difficulty “curb(ing) their immediate reactions or think(ing) before they act,” reports the website, and may blurt out inappropriate comments and lack emotional restraint. And inattentive children become bored easily, and have trouble focusing.
“At the Academy while going through the rigors of the program I was experiencing stresses that hadn't had before,” he said. “I had an inability to maintain a focus over a few hours, which was new to me. I was getting jittery, couldn't sit still, and my mind was racing. In essence, I couldn't perform the tasks the academy demanded of me.”
The Air Force has strict rules about being medicated while serving on active duty. In summary, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder cost Lust his military career.
“In retrospect, I had symptoms before that,” he said. “For instance, in first grade I refused to read, wouldn't do my schoolwork, and was a horrible student. It wasn't that I couldn't do schoolwork. I just wouldn't.”
He said that reading books eventually became his “saving grace” in school because the written word had the power to keep his racing mind focused on task. He believes now that many of his ADHD symptoms were masked growing up because his parents had been able to provide the structure and discipline a person with ADHD needs. When attending the Air Force Academy, suddenly he had to create his own structure.
Does he have advice for parents of children with ADHD?
“Don't be overly harsh with them, but you do have to be firm,” he said. “They need boundaries. They can't create their own structure. Young boys with ADHD are not being obstinate; it's just that they do not know anything else.”
For more, see danieljvance.com or nimh.nih.gov. [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com]