Learning Differences and ADHD, Some Closing Thoughts
This post is being written in the week that Steve Jobs died. Now that may seem a bit peculiar opening, but I can tie it together. Because of my work with the dying, more than one friend sent me a copy of Jobs’ 2005 Stanford University commencement address in which Jobs referred candidly to his cancer and ultimate demise (See Commencement Address). I thought it was an extraordinary talk. And, I have no doubt of his sincerity and insight. Cancer is a remarkable inducement for insight. My only prior encounter with Jobs had involved a dispute over alleged child abuse at the school for â€śgiftedâ€ť children that my kids attended and it wasn’t a pleasant one. Jobs was on the wrong side of the dispute and he lost. But he formed a lasting impression on me that only changed upon viewing the commencement address. He was a good teacher for me, reminding me of the need to follow my own coaching advice.
So, as I was researching another great teacher this morning, a man who offered such extraordinary insights into children with learning differences, I made a horrible, personal discovery, which somehow I had previously missed. Dr. Mel Levine, the author of All Kinds of Minds, and so many other empathetic and compassionate pieces on working with children with learning differences, had committed suicide at the end of last year. It came on the heals of allegations of past sexual abuse of children. I don’t know what is or is not true about the allegations. I read his suicide note and his final Journal entries this morning (see Note and Journal). What I believe is unimportant, but what Mel Levine taught is. I was unable to find an appropriate lecture to insert here. But I would ask that you contemplate this short piece on his work (Mel’s Teachings). I have no doubt that Mel relieved suffering in the lives of thousands of children, siblings and parents through his work. More importantly, no matter what may or may not have happened, his work stands for something extraordinarily important in the lives of all of us.
And that’s how I get back to Steve Jobs. Irrespective of my impression, what he saidÂ six years ago at the Stanford University commencement, stands on its own and reveals to us his true, perhaps not fully realized, nature and capability. So maybe I’ve been wrong about Steve Jobs for all these years. Maybe those who pursued Mel Levine also were wrong. In the end, each spoke passionately to a truth, which remains unaltered by other circumstances.
So I’ve written about learning differences and ADHD for two reasons. First, I wanted to offer an understanding of what it is like to suffer with learning differences and ADHD, to see the way in which those affectedÂ – and others – label, prejudge and condemn them and deny the world of their potential. I wanted to write about it as one who has lived with learning differences and ADHD, who parented children with learning differences and ADHD, and who frequently is in the company of parents and children with learning differences and ADHD. I wanted to convey the need for greater understanding, empathy and compassion for this misunderstood, and often maligned, part of our human population.
Second, I wanted to use learning differences and ADHD as a template for considering where else in the world you might draw lines, create boundaries, exaggerate differences, inflict suffering, and lose the gifts of those you might fail to understand. I wanted to urge you to support and love them for who they are, because of their differences and not despite them.
For those of you reading this who have confided in me the stories of your children and your families, I hope this is been of some help.