Spaz: The True Story of My Life with ADHD

Spaz: The True Story of My Life with ADHD


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From the hyperkinetic boy who was tossed in a dumpster to the man who found life-long love, Spaz: The True Story of my Life with ADHD takes you on a journey through inspirational highs and unthinkable lows. Dispersed between a series of true stories about one man?s struggles with severe Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Spaz includes supporting material and research on what we know about ADHD today. Leigh?s unparalleled drive to prove his naysayers wrong and become a success because of, rather than in spite of, his ADHD will entertain and intrigue young and old alike. Additionally, the informational pieces presented before each memory will educate you on how to handle common ADHD concerns. Spaz presents a mix of humor and raw truth that promises to have you question everything you ever knew or thought you knew about ADHD.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546209300
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 09/20/2017
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

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When my wife discusses the developmental delay caused by ADHD with anyone, regardless of if they thought they knew it all already, they are always totally and utterly blown away. The science now shows that, although the brain of an ADHDer seems to mature in a normal way, there are elements of it that are delayed for an average of about three years. This developmental delay generally affects the cortex, or the part of the brain associated with executive function. A study using brain scans at the National Institute of Health confirmed the delay in the thickening of the pre-frontal cortex in children with ADHD. "These frontal areas support the ability to suppress inappropriate actions and thoughts, focus attention, remember things from moment to moment, work for reward, and control movement" ("Brain ...," 2007). These are the very things affected by Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. This means that a child with ADHD operates three years behind the average child in these functions.

Along with a struggle in executive functions comes an apparent emotional immaturity. Therefore, a child who is biologically eight years old may have the emotional maturity of a five-year-old. A child who is eighteen may only be able to function at the same level as a much younger teenager. This is shocking for parents to hear, but it is also enlightening and can be a bit of a relief. There is some freedom in realizing that the reason your six-year-old can't get his shoes on to get out the door in time for school is because he's actually functioning at the emotional maturity level of a three, or four-year-old. Tying shoes is not high on a three-year-old's priority list, nor is it always physically possible for someone who is operating at that age level.

Additionally, there is something comforting about the fact that an eighteen-year-old may only be thirteen years old cognitively speaking. This statistic is a very valid reason for people to take advantage of bridge programs before college or to go to a community college for a few classes first before deciding on what they want to do with the rest of their lives Understanding the cognitive development and emotional maturity of someone with ADHD can open a whole new world of possibilities both to those affected and to their loved ones.

When I was three months shy of my sixth birthday, my parents had me evaluated by a psychometrist, a doctor who studies mental capacity, at a learning disorders unit. Initially, I was diagnosed as "having problems with both activity level and acquisition of academic skills ... [and] considered to be somewhat hyperactive." Although the conclusion of these tests dubbed me "a young man of average to above average overall intellectual ability," it was the last line of the doctor's report that would brand me forever:

"Behaviorally Leigh was hyperkinetic ... His attention span is relatively short."

Did I mention that I was five?

One month later, in August of 1979, I found myself on a clinical trial of the stimulant medication, Ritalin. This jump seemed unfathomable at first How could I have gone from being a little excitable to requiring Ritalin to simply get through kindergarten? What was the cause of this leap in treatment? Who was to blame? The answer:

Buck Rogers

I was a science fiction lover from an early age. I loved fantasy, aliens, time travel, heroes and villains In early 1979, a film, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, was released. Of course I had to see it. My new Buck Rogers action figure was always at the ready to play out all the exciting new adventures featured in the film. My latest acquisition was the Buck Rogers Star Fighter spaceship. It was made of beautiful and pristine white plastic and was ready to sail through space and time I loved it. That is, until I watched an episode of Buck Rogers and saw that the Star Fighter had undergone severe fire damage. The "real" ship wasn't comprised of a flawless white material. No, the "real" ship was burned, singed, dirty-looking, and totally badass. I knew right then and there that my space ship had to look just like the "real" one on television.

When you're a kid with ADHD and you have the drive and determination to do something, there is very little that will stand in your way. In this case, the simple, rational concept that lighting something on fire was "bad" just didn't factor into my plan. So when, late one late August evening, I decided to make my Star Fighter look like it had been through the epic battle I had seen on television, I never thought that playing with fire was a bad idea or would be considered "trouble". I understood that fire was dangerous and kids weren't supposed to play with it, but this wasn't play This was serious space business. The authentic, original Star Fighter had been burned, and mine would be too.

The logical place to have a star battle was the kitchen, so I crept downstairs in our apartment after I thought my mom was asleep. I knew that the Star Fighter did not have severe damage; it needed just a little singeing here and there to make it authentic. I found matches in our kitchen junk drawer and lit one It went out surprisingly fast before I had a chance to do anything to my spaceship, so I tried again. I managed to melt a small spot on the Star Fighter, but it wasn't giving me that been-hit-in-intergalactic-warfare kind of look yet, so I knew I had to keep trying. I think it was on the third or fourth match that my mother emerged in the kitchen doorway She was there just long enough to ascertain that I was lighting something on fire, and that was enough for her. Without questioning my motives, she screamed at me and quickly removed my toys and the matches from my possession. I sobbed as I tried to explain, but she wouldn't hear it, and I was sent to my room.

Less than a week later, I found myself in front of Dr. Smith, the pediatric neurologist, again. My mom had made a distress call to his office. My parents just didn't know what to do with my erratic and often irrational behavior. They felt very much at a loss for how to parent me. Their concern was genuine and necessary. Yet, for all of their concern, no one asked me why I was lighting matches in the kitchen at the age of five. No one wanted to hear my side of the story. This would become a trend throughout my childhood

Dr. Smith's report of that visit states "He [Leigh] recently was caught setting fire to several objects in the first floor of his house in the middle of the night. We have started Leigh on Ritalin, which I hope will make a difference in his behavior as well as his activity level. It is entirely possible that we shall need to try him on lithium. We shall try to get him stabilized on a medication before school starts."

Did I mention that I was five?



Many parents of children with ADHD are not aware of all of the school-based resources that are available to their children. As a former teacher, Renee will admit that public schools don't necessarily readily provide special education (SPED) help because it is costly. In fact, a student with SPED support will cost roughly twice as much to educate as a student without those resources. It is understandable, from a school's perspective, why they would shrink from offering special education accommodations unless they are pressured or lawfully required to do so. This is why educating yourself on your child's rights as a student in the public school system is absolutely crucial. (Please note, I am not discussing private schools here because private schools do not even have to adhere to any of the laws regarding support for students with disabilities.)

First, you must know that you have every right to request an evaluation for special education services and/ or accommodations. This request is protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which, along with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, states that ADHD can be considered a disability. If your child has ADHD, or you think they might, and you feel that they are unable to achieve academic success because they are limited by their ADHD, then you may request an evaluation. At that point, the student may receive some sort of services. Depending on the severity of the student's ADHD and its impact on his or her ability to perform in school, a student can be given a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). There are significant distinctions between the two plans even though they are both designed to support and accommodate students with disabilities.

A 504 Plan is issued when a student does not qualify for a full IEP under the IDEA requirements, but who still requires assistance in the classroom. A 504 offers accommodations to the student, but they are limited to accommodations that can be administered by the classroom teacher. There are no legal requirements about what should be in a 504 Plan and the school is not even required to inform the parents that a 504 has been put into place, although most schools will contact the parents prior to implementing the accommodations. A 504 Plan covers students with any disability — any physical or mental condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Because of this loose definition, a 504 can apply to many different types of disabilities. For instance, a student with a severe allergy can qualify for 504 plan which states that he or she will be away from the allergen(s) and will outline a plan for what to do when/ if the student has a severe reaction. In order to receive a 504 Plan, a student's ADHD must somehow substantially limit his or her ability to perform a major life activity as it applies to school For instance, someone with ADHD may struggle with copying notes down from the board onto their paper, so he might be provided with a copy of the teacher's notes in accordance with the 504.

If a person's ADHD is severe enough to hinder their ability to learn in a regular classroom, he may be eligible for an IEP plan under the term "Other Heath Impairment" (OHI). They might also have an additional condition that causes them to struggle in the classroom, such as a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) or a Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED). When a student falls under this level of impairment, the IEP is presented and followed through by the special education department (SPED). An IEP gives students an additional layer of assistance, not only because of the accommodations it can provide, but because they have a SPED or inclusion teacher who helps manage and assess their work An IEP is a legal document and certain regulations must be followed. It contains information about the student's personalized goals and services provided to him or her. The plan and the child's progress are monitored throughout the school year, and the IEP itself must be reviewed and renewed annually.

It is important to know that not all people with ADHD will qualify for either plan. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), in order for ADHD to be considered a disability, it must cause "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities" (U.S. Department of Labor). Although the list is not exhaustive, these activities "include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working" (U.S. Department of Labor). The list is thorough, but it is certainly broad and open for interpretation in some areas. Most students with ADHD find that their ability to learn like a neuro-typical, or non-ADHD, person in a school environment is next to impossible without the help of some accommodations. Therefore, I would argue that ADHD should qualify a student, at the very least, for a 504 Plan and possibly even an IEP, depending on how the ADHD influences her brain and her behavior.

Sometimes it is hard for parents to get past the notion that their child may require special education SPED had a different stigma in my youth than it does now, but parents often cringe at the notion of their child being singled out or labeled. When these parents approach Renee and say that they don't want them to have to be placed in special education, Renee asks them a fairly simple question: "If you had all of the necessary resources to help your child be successful, wouldn't you want to use them?" It is hard to say "no" to this question. Of course we all want our children to be successful in school, as in anything else they set out to accomplish. When you put it that way, it just makes sense for parents to inquire about a 504 or an IEP plan Children can outgrow the need for an IEP, but they will never grow out of their ADHD.

If it were not for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, I may have had a very different life. This section guarantees a "'free appropriate public education' (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person's disability" ("Free Appropriate ..."). That is a lot of verbiage to sort through, but essentially this means that all children, whether they are disabled or not, are entitled to equal public education. Equal does not mean that they are to be given the exact same education, but that the public education in place must meet the individual student's needs. Although this law has been in place since 1973, it isn't one that people would necessarily know unless they were directly affected by it.

My parents were directly affected by it.

First grade marked the start of my long line of academic failures. It was barely mid-year before my parents were receiving daily phone calls to pick me up from school. I was described as "disruptive", "unable to sit still", "impulsive" and "hyperkinetic". However, teachers and schools at the time were so uneducated about ADHD that they did not realize that I exhibited normal behavior — for a boy with ADHD. Therefore, the school began to tell my mom to keep me home for a day, or a week, or even two weeks I wasn't suspended I was just asked to "take a break".

While this greatly upset my parents, what truly pushed the situation over the edge was when they received a letter home from the school's principal. The letter explained that my first grade teacher's husband had recently passed away. Her mental state was described as "fragile", and the principal informed my parents that she should not have to "put up with Leigh" during this time. My parents weren't aware that this letter's suggestion was entirely illegal, but they did know that something had to change.

In the spring of 1979, I should have been finishing first grade year Instead, I was removed from the public school and placed in a different type of school that was supposed to help me mature. I'm not sure whose idea it was for me to do this extra year, but what is certain is that this year did not do anything to ensure my scholastic success. It just made me a year older and further behind than ever. I did not yet realize I had been labeled as different. In fact, I thought I was pretty special, considering there was a bus coming around my neighborhood that was just for me.

One morning, I was sitting in front our RCA Roundy color television set watching an episode of Star Blazers. Suddenly, I heard a great deal of heavy-handed car horn noises coming from the street. I reluctantly began making my way outside as I muttered and mumbled about not wanting to go to school. The horn ruckus was coming from the transportation to my new school — a 1977 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon with a school bus sign shoddily screwed onto the roof. The driver was a heavy-set woman with long, brown, greasy hair, parted in the middle. That day she was wearing jeans and a light blue flannel shirt that was worn through the elbows. She never acknowledged my existence. She never wished me good morning at pick up, and never told me to have a good day at drop off. In fact, I never even knew if she was capable of smiling.


Excerpted from "SPAZ"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Leigh Macneil with Renee Macneil.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface, ix,
Chapter 1 Pass the Buck, 1,
Chapter 2 The Short Bus, 6,
Chapter 3 Not-So-Smooth Sailing, 15,
Chapter 4 The Darkest of (Snow) Days, 23,
Chapter 5 The Bad News Bear, 34,
Chapter 6 The Statement, 39,
Chapter 7 Don't Get All Huffy, 46,
Chapter 8 Here Comes Spaz, 53,
Chapter 9 Oh No! Judo, 61,
Chapter 10 When Bad Days Happen to Bad Boys, 67,
Chapter 11 General Hospital, 73,
Chapter 12 If Found, Please Return to the Kitchen, 80,
Chapter 13 Winner Takes All, 85,
Chapter 14 Wrestlemania, 90,
Chapter 15 Seize the Day, 94,
Chapter 16 The Opposite of Death, 100,
Chapter 17 Nineteen to Life, 105,
Chapter 18 How I Got into College, 110,
Chapter 19 Finally Finite, 116,
Chapter 20 The Best Laid Plans ..., 120,
Chapter 21 Car Sales or Bust, 132,
Chapter 22 Let's Make a Sale, 136,
Chapter 23 Cadillac Man, 142,
Chapter 24 Don't Pick the Booger, 148,
Chapter 25 Lather Rinse Repeat, 153,
Chapter 26 How to Get Well(butrin), 163,
Chapter 27 It's All Good, Baby, 173,
Chapter 28 I'll Be at the Cool Adults Table, 178,
Chapter 29 This is Your Brain on ADHD, 185,
Chapter 30 Renee and Spaz Sittin' in a Tree, 189,
Conclusion A Call to Action, 195,
Step One: Reflection, 195,
Step Two: Education, 196,
Step Three: Unification, 198,
Step Four: Proclamation, 201,
Works Cited, 203,

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