When writing, one way to check to see if a student’s work contains some original words is to see if they are NOT on this list: http://www.insightin.com/esl/1000.php
Truthfully, this brings up a deeper issue of personal originality. People who perceive themselves as “different from the mainstream” usually are (until they hit 35 years old). Many people find their identity in being different and unconventional. Some people with disabilities are so well-adjusted that they demand to be accepted as they are. I have been so impressed with the “Don’t Cure Autism Now” movement that came out as a response to the fundraising organization, “Cure Autism Now!” or CAN. http://winklett.com/about/jonahs-journey-a-journal-3272005-72808/dont-cure-autism-now-62806/ (This is an older blog post from 2006; I don’t know how to cite it correctly.).
Please let me clarify this — I’ve received a comment about it — I am not against research to understand autism, which is the basis of CAN’s work. (CAN is merged today with another organization, and they are called Autism Speaks.) What I admire about the “Don’t Cure Autism Now” is the sense of identity that some people with differences have. They don’t want to be “cured” — they want to be accepted as they are, and are comfortable being defined as “different” and not “neuro-typical”.
However, many people, especially adolescents, who have ADHD wish there was a cure for it. They wish there was a cure that did not mean taking medication for “it”. Having a disability means instantly not belonging to “normal”. Most kids fear this state of being. Particularly in early adolescence, they will do anything to fit in. We have witnessed dire consequences of this kind of thinking, such as taking drugs to fit in with a crowd — even a crowd a person is not really comfortable being in.
A more commonplace experience, though, is fitting in at school, which means (1) not asking questions, (2) not admitting that you don’t understand something, (3) not admitting that you have a learning difference, (4) never letting anyone know that you take medication, (5) not advocating for yourself when you have a 504 plan or IEP in place to support you, and the more than 1,000 variations on this theme of hiding your disability and suffering in silence.
An important process in dealing with ADHD — and any learning disability — is demystification. The family with a person who is different needs some help: the parents must mourn the child they thought they had, and embrace the one they do have. This wise saying has stayed with me for years, and I keep trying to spread it to as many parents as I can. Demystification means learn as much as you can about yourself as well as about a particular disability. Stop looking at it like an unpredictable monster. Start seeing what really is presenting itself. Find out… what is common about it! (I think the Don’t Cure Autism Now adherents also want to understand how their way of interpreting the world is *not* understood well by neuro-typical people. They help demystify the experience of autism by writing about it and sharing their understanding of themselves.)
Since I work with adolescents, I also see their burgeoning self-concepts develop, and they, too, need to know what a typical brain is like, what their brains are like, and how they can compensate when their atypicality interferes with success. Again, that is another, deeper conversation in itself.
But getting back to writing, which is so hard for people with ADHD to accomplish, be as original in your writing as you are in your person! Find some unusual, awkward, blurt-worthy words and use them in your sentences! Embrace that you’re not one of the 1,000 most common students, and thank the Lord/Creative Life Force for that!