Retained in Second Grade: Undiscovered ADHD

Officially diagnosed with adult ADHD in my late 50s, I had wondering all my life what was wrong with me. Why was I so different from other people? Why did I have such trouble learning?

As an adult in my late 30s, I chanced upon WGN 720, Chicago, a talk radio interview with Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of Driven to Distraction. He described me to a T–and he had never met me. I was astounded. I bought his book, identified myself on almost every page, and sighed with relief. There was a name for my problem, and other people had the same difficulties.

Retained in second grade, long before ADHD became a commonly understood term, I

was humiliated. I can admit it now, but at the time, I was mortified by my failure to learn to read. Teachers thought I was a rude and naughty boy who daydreamed the day away instead of paying attention in class. My clever ideas got me into trouble almost every day. I reacted to the constant teasing about my poor reading, my gangly body, my moppy red hair, and my overabundance of freckles on every part of my body. I responded the only way I knew how–with a poke, a punch, a kick, or an insult. Playground incidents occurred daily. One frustrated teacher pronounced that I would be in jail by my teenage years.

The rest of my school years were not much better. The teasing continued, and although I stored the taunts in my head and heart, I learned to  outwardly ignore most of them. I developed a sensitive nature and became a champion for the underdogs of the world.

To be honest, I don’t know how I made it through high school, but I did. I met a few solid friends and caring teachers along the way, and that made a world of difference.

Despite my failures in school and my early career, I have been successful in life. One gift of ADHD is the ability to hyperfocus, and I used that ability to pursue a career in emergency medical technology and later pastoral ministry.

Now retired, I serve as associate pastor in a church in Boqueelia, Florida. My bigger mission to work with people going through tragic emergency situations. Being semi-retired, I have the flexibility to respond to emergency situations around the country. I have counseled brokenhearted people at Ground Zero after September 11 terrorist attacks, after hurricane and floods in New Orleans, shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Parkland High School, Pittsburgh synagogue, and in Virginia Beach. This has become my mission and passion in life.

Being retained in second grade seemed like the end of the world at the time, but over the long haul, that embarrassment contributed to the person that I am. In today’s educational climate, retention might not be considered for a boy like me. Individualized, focused attention from a caring adult would have made a major difference.

Read more about Bob Ossler’s journey with ADHD in


This entry was posted in A.D.D./A.D.H.D., attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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