We are students living with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. We disagree with the "Abuse of ADHD drugs creates uneven playing field" (Open Forum, March 16), which compared ADHD medication with performance-enhancing steroids in sports and asked: "Is ADHD (medication) use cheating as well?"
While the author rightly criticizes student use of any stimulant or ADHD drug by those who are not diagnosed with ADHD to enhance their performance, and points out that the drugs don't work unless one has ADHD, she suggests that drug use even by those diagnosed with ADHD somehow gives an unfair advantage.
Accommodations and allowing the use of medication are legally required for students with disabilities. Accommodations are like supplying ramps for wheelchairs, assistive listening devices for the hearing-impaired, glasses for those who need them, or software that reads text aloud for the blind and dyslexic.
Accommodations give students with learning disabilities and ADHD an equal opportunity to succeed in an educational environment that caters to a narrowly defined learning style. They level the playing field. They keep us in school.
Medication is no "enhancer" for us. As one of our students with ADHD put it, those who do not have ADHD "only see the drug as a drug, and nothing else.
They don't see the fight that rages on inside me, my constant struggle to focus, my inability to stay organized, and my tireless efforts to complete tasks others would view as easy." For those with ADHD, medication is a tool, not a solution.
Attending school as a student with learning disabilities or ADHD is hard enough. Fighting the stigma is even harder.
Many students, fearful of the stigma, don't seek help, don't want to be identified and are fearful of being different.
Without good support, without the right accommodations (sometimes including medication), without understanding how we learn or discovering our strengths, we fail, we drop out, and society loses out on valuable contributors.
We now know that a disproportionate number of our most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs have dyslexia or ADHD. They think outside the box; standardized education and high-stakes testing does not hinder their brilliance.
So, please: Learning disabilities, including ADHD, are real. It's really hard to be a student with learning disabilities and ADHD. It's harder yet when people talk about us, not with us.