W. Ian Walker shares his story of growing up with ADHD. Discovering his strengths and pursuing his passions made all the difference. But the catalyst, as it so often is, was a teacher who noticed his potential.
Interview by Annette Tabor
The right teacher can make a big difference in a student’s life.
Misunderstood and Struggling
W. Ian Walker can testify to this. From the time Ian started school, he was bullied and misunderstood by his friends. Ian was a good student, but the bullying resulted in feelings of insecurity.
Ian was a “social butterfly” (as would be acknowledged on his report cards) and he would bother his other classmates when he had finished his work or was bored. He also had a severe struggle with math. This became enough of a problem that when Ian was 11 years old, he was given some tests to try to determine the cause of his struggles.
Ian’s parents were informed he had ADHD. In the early 1970s, educators would move children like Ian into a “special education classroom.” Ian was bussed to one of the tougher schools in town, forty-five minutes from home, where his dreams of being a singer and an artist resulted in bullying. Ian was miserable.
The Right Teacher Makes the Difference
After attending his Special Education class for a year, something happened that would change Ian’s life forever. A new teacher came to Ian’s school.
Mr. Roy Schmidt noticed Ian was easily keeping up with his class. When Ian shared a story with him, it flowed like water. Mr. Schmidt was stunned, “WHAT are you doing in this Special Education Class? You are so bright.”
Mr. Schmidt didn’t leave it there. He took steps to have Ian moved back to his original curriculum. Ian entered Grade 6 and continued his studies for two years when he moved on successfully to high school.
Discover Your Strengths
It was in high school that Ian discovered the real power of finding his passion. Ian had the chance to take classes that would become his favorite subjects in English, Visual Arts, Music, and Drama. He began acting in school plays, learning to play musical instruments, producing, and singing in a barbershop group and playing in the school band. Ian was happier than he had ever been.
His English teachers in High School noticed Ian had a problem with his writing, in sentence structure, sometimes he would leave out words or the syntax would not be correct. Sadly, this problem was not corrected until Ian went to university. A former Special Education teacher, Byron Humphreys, became Ian’s friend and mentor in 1997, and he would work with Ian to correct these problems. Mr. Humphreys was another of those special teachers and that friendship and mentorship, continues today.
Tell Your Story
Storytelling, music education and performance have remained an integral part of Ian’s life. Ian states “I didn’t know I was a writer. But I knew I had a story in me to share about my ‘overcoming ADHD with a song’, and I had to write about it.”
Ian’s book, Stirring My Soul to Sing, Overcoming ADHD Through Song was published in 2018. In 2022, he turned the book into a play which was performed this summer in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. Ian lives with his wife Elaine of 23 years and their dog Faith.
In “Stirring My Soul to Sing -The Play”, three actors play Ian, as they tell his story as a boy, later in his twenties to thirties, and then as an older man. Ian learns, grows, and realizes his ADHD has affected him and his career.
Pursue Your Passions
For Ian, music therapy and his passion for the arts have been the key to his success. Now in his sixties, Ian understands so much more about his ADHD, and he knows how to control it by flexing his creative skills in many different areas. He’s been inspired to speak, share, and mentor the next generation of people with ADHD.
“My turning point was when Mr. Schmidt told me I was intelligent, and I was important. Mr. Schmidt heard me, and he made a huge difference in my life and career. Thank you, Mr. Schmidt!”
W. Ian Walker
Connect with Your Community
Ian Walker has been an active ADDA member for 4 years. He greatly enjoys being a co-facilitator of ADDA’s Retiree Check-in Group and enjoys sharing ideas with his fellow ADDA members. In 2020, Ian was a sessional speaker at the International Conference on ADHD. If you would like to connect with Ian, you can do so at: firstname.lastname@example.org.