I’ve always been an average to above-average student. That is, except for in math. Once I hit university, though, it was all I could do sometimes to keep my head above–and sometimes, not even that helped.

In the Winter of 2013, after a lengthy wait period, I underwent a psychoeducational assessment to see if I could ascertain a deeper understanding of what could be causing my difficulties academically–some of which I felt spilled out into other areas of my life. Following several lengthy testing sessions, I was relieved to find out I’m not actually just dumb–and, I’m not actually dumb at all! My intelligence is average or higher in all areas, but other factors compound how I am able to attain, express and apply that knowledge.

The assessment pinpointed a wide variety of areas and broke them down into concrete scores representing my abilities–overall, I am actually achieving at a level that is better than what would be predicted based on my scores, which goes to show what persistence, supportive education and self-adaptation can do. While many highlighted areas that I struggle with made complete sense immediately, others took me awhile to figure out, but once I put the pieces together, the accuracy of my assessment was astounding. (Hey, it did say I have “superior” language abilities and I am “rather gifted” in these areas!).

The following is a very brief overview of my results.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – Primarily Inattentive subtype [ADHD-PI]

Initially I was diagnosed with “possible” inattentive ADHD–I also tested as possessing higher levels of impulsivity than average. My assessment recommended I consider discussing “pharmaceutical intervention” with my doctor, and though I wasn’t sold on the idea, I brought it up to my primary care doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist. After she and I discussed my life story following 3 more pages of questionnaires and the doctor taking a highlighter to my report, she agreed that with the collaborative information that the diagnosis of ADHD was highly likely. Following this discussion, we opted to trial

While my initial ADHD diagnosis from the psychologist indicated “possible” inattentive ADHD, I also tested as having higher levels of impulsivity than average. After discussing the assessment and my life story with a psychiatrist followed by trialling the psychostimulant Concerta, the diagnosis has become more clear-cut.

I began Concerta in August 2013, and it has made a huge difference in my life–academically, at work, and socially. Some days, I legitimately don’t know how I went for so many years thinking things were fine because the difference is so profound. I can’t say I forget my keys any less, or that my room is any cleaner–I can say that I am now truly able to focus on what people are saying in conversation, I do realize when I’m talking too much, and I can keep slightly better track of what needs to be accomplished, and organize a plan to accomplish things . . . that actually [mostly] get done.

Other relevant results

Lowered/Slow Processing Speed

Simply, processing speed indicates how efficiently a person can conceptualize information presented to them. In people with lowered processing speed [like me], tasks that should involve immediate recall take longer than average. Among hints contributing to my ADHD diagnosis is my processing speed index [PSI] score(s)–because attentional focus is required for efficient processing, lowered processing speed can indicate attentional difficulties. My processing speed tested to be “extremely low”, in the 2nd percentile [AKA only 2% of females my age are predicted to have lower processing speed scores than I do].

For more straightforward information on processing speed and other correlated factors in PSI and ADHD, this resource is helpful.]

Visual Memory

Lower than my PSI is my visual memory–while auditory memory is a relative strength I am also not considerably strong in remembering things in general (Yes, Mom, when I forget to empty the dishwasher . . . I am not trying to be difficult. Usually :].). My visual memory charted in at the 1st percentile, which explains extremely well why I failed anatomy twice prior to being assessed. The primary area I have experienced difficulty with this, is of course, academics–specifically anatomy–and it is recommended I acquire new information through auditory means (a staggering 8% difference in the 9th percentile).

To learn more about visual memory, check out page 17 in the previous resource.

Working Memory

Working memory is the ability to take in information and then manipulate it purely inside your head. Like my auditory memory, I scored in the 9th percentile on visual working memory–while this is comparatively higher than my visual memory scores, I have only recently realized that in order to effectively be able to manipulate information in my head . . . I have to be able to hold on to that information first–to do this effectively, of course, is something I find extremely difficult.

Learning Disabilities: A Grey Area

For simplicity, I refer to myself as having a learning disability, which is overall the most accurate descriptor I can use that is familiar to the general world. Specifically, I would guess affected by a perceptual disability related to comprehension (at least per the Government of Canada’s Copyright Act), meaning my ability to comprehend information acquired visually is not a strength. This spans from reading comprehension [when I take in an overabundance of text, see also: working memory] to understanding/retaining/recalling visual information.  In everyday life, this explains my difficulty orienting myself in unfamiliar spaces, reading a map, and telling time on an an analog clock.

Whatever it’s called, this is also probably is why I find certain types of puzzles [i.e. jigsaw] very difficult, and also why I never can figure out how the map works in Mario Party. And why my coworkers have now provided me a digital clock to live by the sign-out sheet so I am not constantly looking at my pants fitbit.