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Attention Deficit Disorder: The “Funny” Disability

Most people have heard it before-your friend, after too many cups of coffee, starts talking a mile a minute and decides to change the subject from school to work to Lady Gaga. “Oh, ha-ha, sorry guys, I’m so ADD.” However, ADD isn’t really a laughing matter.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neuro-biologically-based developmental disability that affects 4.5 million people in the United States.  Some research indicates the disorder may be genetically transmitted.  The cause is believed to stem from a chemical imbalance in the brain or deficiencies in the chemicals in the brain responsible for regulation of behavior.  Put simply, people with ADD struggle with inattention and impulsivity.  Common symptoms include:  being forgetful in daily activities, not seeming to listen when spoken to directly, propensity to not follow through on instructions and being easily distracted by “extraneous stimuli”  (i.e., Facebook).

For many people who aren’t affected by ADD, the condition can be considered either an amusing joke or an irritating personality flaw. Unlike the example above, ADD is not something that happens once or twice in a personal conversation.  People with a history of ADD are almost 10 times as likely to have difficulties that interfere with friendships, and professional relationships.   Imagine a life time of losing friends because you forgot they’re birthday, of bosses saying you have a lot of enthusiasm, but you’re fired, and professors and teachers saying that you have so much potential, so why don’t you get your work in? People begin to avoid you because they think you are flighty, ignorant, lazy and a liar.

So why is ADD so funny? Perhaps making a joke of it is a coping strategy that makes it more palatable for those affected by it.  But I argue that making jokes which belittle and trivialize a serious problem is ablest.  Cracking such insensitive jokes show a lack of knowledge and understanding of able-bodied­­—or perhaps “able-brained”—privilege.

So next time you are feeling “ADD,” think twice, maybe you’re just momentarily distracted!