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Attention Deficit Disorder Presents Challenge for Ray

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Jeremiah Ray was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) in second grade. Like many people with ADD, he shows symptoms of inattention, such as having difficulty staying on task and often making careless mistakes at work, homework and play; being easily distracted by extraneous stimuli; being forgetful; having difficulty being organized; and appearing not to listen when addressed directly.

His disability affects him greatly. Said 30-year-old Ray in a telephone interview, "For instance, I've never driven a car. My mom wouldn't let me get my driver's license when I was 16 because my mind wanders and I would have been a major danger to people if I was driving."

Today, due to having ADD, he tends to dissociate (daydream) quite a bit, which could be problematic given his occupation as a supermarket meat cutter. Holding a job has been challenging at times because of his tendency to become easily distracted and forget work assignments. But he does well cutting meat.

In terms of communicating with others, he said, "When first meeting new people, either I get really anxious, say a whole lot at once and vomit out information on them, or I don't say anything at all. It's one extreme or the other. I don't know why that happens, it just does. What I do can be very overwhelming to another person. It's like a train wreck in that I can't stop." He said his communication challenges have affected his eight-year marriage, which likely will end soon. After feeling relational anxiety, he often becomes emotionally detached and dissociates.

At one point in his marriage, during a major depressive episode, he wouldn't leave his apartment for three months. He thought for a while he was losing his mind. What has kept him sane since fifth grade has been a strong love and natural affinity for art. His mother sent him to a special art school, and by focusing there on his talents he redirected some of his frustrations towards life. His exceptional art drew crowds and many friends.

He said, "Art and music are the only ways I can communicate effectively with the world. I am useless without them. As for art, I do comics, abstract expressionism, and surrealism. I use ten different mediums, but mostly pen and ink, water color, and gouache." With art, he uses his ability to dissociate as a tool to help him paint.


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Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at www.danieljvance.com