“I see ADHD as a gift"
- Dec. 3, 2008
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Due to ADHD, actor Ross Davidson was locked in a cupboard at primary school and got arrested in his teens. He now attends a top drama school which has helped him to find an outlet for his energy
It’s like a burning energy that I’ve learned to channel. I might get a stellar blast of an idea that develops into a new song or piece of choreography
Ross Davidson, actor and singer
What is ADHD?
ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the most common childhood-onset behavioural disorder, affecting about 1.7 per cent of the UK population. More boys than girls have ADHD. Typical behaviours are:
- Inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks
- Demands must be met immediately
- Frustration leading to temper tantrums
- Easily distracted, often unable to follow instructions
- Lack of social skills
- Uncooperative, defiant, disobedient
- Normal or high IQ but may do badly at school
Twenty-year-old Ross Davidson is starring as the prince in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow and attends GAMTA (Glasgow Academy of Music and Theatre Arts). He was diagnosed as having ADHD at the age of eight.
I see it as a gift
“My ADHD can be bothersome, but it’s me and I see it as a gift. I understand it and I use it to my advantage. I have the discipline to get down to tasks, however sometimes I get this kind of internal itch from deep inside my very core and I think: ‘Ok, I’m tensing my stomach, here’s my ADHD coming on’. If I can, I go with it, because that’s when I might get a stellar blast of an idea that develops into a new song or piece of choreography. It’s like a burning energy that I’ve learned to channel. That’s my adult ADHD, but it can be a hindrance when that energy isn’t needed.
The Ritalin years
“The reason why kids with ADHD are so erratic and all over the place is because they constantly roll with it. They don’t understand how to channel the energy and Ritalin* isn’t the answer. It doesn’t teach you how to deal with it. I started taking it when I was eight, after I was diagnosed, and I liked it at first because I felt special taking pills at school.
“My parents did their best, but I think they thought I was a bit mad. I was the stereotypical ‘hyper’ kid, always causing a ruckus and in constant trouble at school. They wasted a lot of money on alternative therapies (apparently I’m an ‘Indigo Child’ – look that up on Wikipedia!). My mum was always careful with my diet – ‘E’ numbers were banned and I’d go wild after kids’ parties. I eat healthily now, but I’m not averse to a bit of junk.
“When I was diagnosed as having ADHD I was out of control and mum and dad were at a loss. Medication seemed the only answer. I was on it until I was 13 and for me it’s like five lost years. I felt so bored all the time and yearned for that other life, to get the hell out of that situation.
*(Ritalin is a drug prescribed for ADHD)
Exceeding teachers’ expectations
“I was a handful but I was a loving kid and my parents accepted my problems and were amazing. What upset them most was how I was treated by the authorities. I remember vividly being put in a store cupboard at primary school, in the Head’s office. I can’t remember how long I was in there. It was a ‘pilot’ to see how I responded - and this was a good school in a posh area. I went nuts, kicked the door down and made a run for it. When my dad took me back to school and saw where they’d put me, he broke down. It’s the only time I’ve seen him cry.
“From then on I became more disruptive. Teachers treated me like a caged animal so I rose to, and exceeded, expectations. No-one talked to me about my needs. In the 90s people were intrigued by ADHD, but not in a positive way. If I were to go back now I’d throw the book at them.
Trouble with the police
“I took a stand when I was 13 and refused the medication. I was starting Aberdeen Grammar School and thought ‘I’ll turn over a new leaf’. At first it was fine, but I started slipping and became angry and demanding. All I wanted to do was talk and I couldn’t cope with being told what to do, so I was the unruly kid with ADHD, again. The teachers didn’t understand the condition. They weren’t cruel or insensitive, they just didn’t know how to deal with it. Some subjects I had no problem with, but other stuff like physics I couldn’t process in my head. I would throw things around or walk out of class.
“The worst age was from 13 to 16 when I got into major trouble. I’ll never forget when I was arrested for fighting, Dad looked at me and said: ‘Where did I go wrong?’ I got a £1000 fine, probation and a criminal record for causing actual bodily harm. That’s behind me now, the conviction’s spent and luckily I didn’t get into more serious mess with the law.
“I was expelled when I was 15. At least they let me sit my Standards (Scottish equivalent of GCSE). I worked quite hard on the subjects I liked in class, but rarely did any homework.
“I got straight A’s in music, art, drama, business studies and English. From there I went to college and did music Higher, which was brilliant. I was happy and felt as though life was righting itself. When I finished my Higher I took time off, set up my own business and got a band together. Then I went back to college, did English Higher and an HND and now I’m in my second year at GAMTA.
ADHD is me. I am ADHD
“I was secretive about it when I was a kid, but now if my behaviour concerns anyone, I tell them. I don’t get into fights any more – but I will question authority. I need to know why I’m being ordered or asked to do something.
“ADHD is me. I am ADHD. I embrace life and I’m not repressed, which is what Ritalin does. I think now, if kids weren’t medicated, some of those guys could do amazing things.
“It’s important for educators to understand people with ADHD. We learn differently - it’s like adjusting to another culture. What I needed was permission to pay attention to what was happening to me when I felt the urge to move around, or change state and take time out. If I’d been allowed to go and pick up a book from the other side of the classroom and look at pictures, I’d have been fine. But no teacher could allow for that, so I had to fight for it.
“I‘ve never felt labelled or victimised, I was just considered strange. Friends know I get frustrated – I’m always up for doing something – but not everyone has my energy levels.
“Drama school’s perfect for me. Practising allows me to make mistakes and I like that ‘fail, fail again, fail better’ means I can throw my whole self into the work. My first love is singing, that’s my destiny.”
Advice and support for parents and children
NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) recommends:
- Behaviour and stress management, and educational support for children
- Parents should be offered training to help manage their child's behaviour
- Medication for children with severe ADHD, which disrupts all aspects of their life
- Medication not to be used in children under five
Hyperactive Children's Support Group has been helping ADHD children and their families for over 30 years. HACSG is Britain's leading proponent of a dietary approach to hyperactivity.
Tel: 01243 539966
ADDISS Attention Disorder Information and Support Service provides information, training and support for parents, sufferers and professionals.
Tel: 020 8952 2800
Academy contact details
Glasgow Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (GAMTA)
Tel: 08700 111818
Get in touch
Do you have a child with ADHD? What advice would you offer to other parents?