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Pamela Fagan Hutchins | Not Up For Debate

Half Ironman Triathlon Training Program from Trifuel

Clark has discovered a new passion: debate team.  Up until now, Clark’s top passions have been arguing and gaming.  His passions cause great household consternation — arguing with Clark can make you insane, and we are always arguing with him, whether because he wants us to or because we nix the gaming.  We are all really tired of arguing with Clark.

Debate — arguing with non-family members, on purpose — gives us hope.  Might this be the outlet we need to distract Clark, or tire out his arguing mechanism?  We’re praying…but we also fear it will simply whip him into a perpetual arguing frenzy, with the added irritant of specialized debate terms and rules applied to our household discussions.

So far, it’s looking more like the perpetual frenzy than the outlet.  Lord help us.

Clark is the first debater in the family.   He gravitated to debate naturally, probably thanks to his ADHD and argumentative nature a la paternal genetics.  He assures me that his father’s contribution notwithstanding, he wants to be a lawyer, like me.  This was supposed to make me feel better.  However, despite my misgivings about the perpetual frenzy of arguing, last weekend we attended our first debate tournament.

Clark and his partner competed in the finals of the  Novice Cross Examination category.  The match took over an hour and a half.  The knowledge of these kids impressed me — they debated on the question of whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Okinawa.  The intensity and helpfulness of the judges surprised me.  Clark’s team lost, mostly due to novice errors in how to score winning votes.  I can’t pretend to understand it all.  But none of that is really what interested me.

What hooked me?

I was completely taken in by the stream of consciousness vocalization/demonstration of the ADHD mind by Clark the ADHD Wonder Kid.  While Eric marveled that Clark could apply any organization to his thoughts at all, I was blown away by his words.

In the middle of making a point and without taking a breath Clark would add, “I can’t remember what I was going to say,” and then go on to a new topic.  Partway through it, he would interrupt himself with, “But I don’t know what comes next,” and then bounce to another point.  And just when he was on a verbal roll, he would cut it short and announce, “And I have no idea where I was going with this.”  One after another, he made excellent points and jumped willy nilly to his next thought, with these funny admissions/transitions.


I sneaked a glance at the judges when he would blurt out his admissions.   They loved it, and they seemed to love him.  Despite his rapid-fire delivery of a multitude of nearly-finished thoughts, his intelligence and flair for the dramatic stood out.  Most of their post-match critique was a dissertation on how he can take his game up a notch.  The other debaters came up to me afterward and said, “Your boy is going to be a rock star.”

Will he?  Can he overcome the ADHD enough?

The main critique of the judges was that Clark made excellent points but never followed through on them.  The ability to come full circle and tie together all the information that flows through his mind is his daily struggle. He lives in the moment, and that wonderful info he blurted out  in the debate was in the present.  Tying it to something he had already said or should say later would be a monumental challenge.

Take chess for example.  Clark likes the idea of playing chess.  If he is in the middle of a chess game, Clark is astoundingly good at looking at the move and making the move for the best possible outcome at that moment.  But chess is a game of strategy about many, many moves, of thinking ahead to what your partner will do 5, 6, or 7 steps ahead to set something up.  He gives zero thought for the upcoming moves.

He’s a natural speaker with great intelligence, and the bouncing ball feel of debate matches the flow of his thoughts.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I felt like I knew him in a way I never had.

Can he apply rigor, organization, and planning to his delivery?  Can he master his mind?  He’s debating with a very organized female partner, which helps.  But,  don’t know.  I suspect he can.  I doubt many people will realize how hard it is for him, though.

After the match, we asked him why he made all the remarks about not knowing what to say next.


“You know, all those times you told us you’d lost your train of thought?”

“Um, I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom.”

Seriously.  The kid had no recollection at all of saying any of them.  I don’t know what blew me away more — hearing him say them or hearing him say he had no consciousness of saying them.


“Well you did.  And you were great!”

“If you say so.  And thanks.”

That boy.  But you know what?  He didn’t argue with me about it.


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23 Responses to Not Up For Debate

  1. Yes. he IS going to be a rock star. In fact, it sounds like he already is! What a cutie! Love this telling. I’m glad it went so well!

  2. How impressive! My experience, as an educator, is that children who have ADHD have above average intelligence. If anything, they are so bright that they often have a wealth of intelligent ideas and comments floating around in their heads. The problem is that they have difficulty categorizing these thoughts and comments into their internal “file cabinet.” This frustrates them as it very well should. I think it is fantastic that your son has positive outlets to channel his creative genius and to tap into his talents. There is such a stigma attached to having learning disabilities that it is wonderful to focus on the positive attributes and experiences of these children.

  3. Sounds like he did fine to me, especially for the first time. My daughter is going to start law school next year, possibly. She’s got a small debate going on in her mind about becoming a paralegal, or full blown lawyer.

  4. Pamela says:

    Thanks, Maria! He is amazing.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maria , PamelaFaganHutchins. PamelaFaganHutchins said: Not Up For Debate […]

  6. runningfairy says:

    Brilliant. Am SO happy he’s found something that stimulates him and he loves. Excellent.

  7. Ann Brennan says:

    Awesome. This was a nice glimpse into where he might actually go in his adult like. A friend and I used to both joke that our two kids would get married when they grow up except they would never be able to find their house together. In the pass few years we have watched them both with fascination as they take on new challenges and make it through them. I love the Clark Chronicles

  8. I read books for a while but now I changed it to great blogs, your place is one of the examples why I began to pay attention to internet resources. Good luck!

  9. admin says:

    I’ll check into it. Thanks for letting me know.

  10. Susie says:

    A great blog!! I am so proud of and for Clark. What a kid!!!

  11. Pamela says:

    These 13 comments are from this posting at its old host:

    Sounds like the perfect outlet for him – something that challenges him while teaching him new skill sets all at the same time! And since it’s right up his alley for his future career choice, all the better. It’s always so humbling for me to see my kids excel at their hobbies/teams…fills me with pride, makes me sad that they’re growing up, and puts a smile on my face that they’re doing so well with it. Enjoy it!

    A Mother…Again

    You should be really proud of him, especially with the ADHD! I would hope this might force him to focus and keep his thoughts straight. He’ s more mature than you think. It’s a relief when you see your child finding a niche in life.


    Sounds like the Clark I know (and love). Glad he is enjoying debate.


    I’m happy you wrote about this Pamela. I knew we talked a little about it, but I think it gives such a great insight into how Clark’s brain works. The more I learn, the more I wish we’d had a debate team at my high school! What a great opportunity to learn to speak in front of others, think on your feet and balance the concepts of “learning & planning” with “fast thinking & decision-making”.


    Great blog. Great kid. Go Clark. I am so proud of him.


    After having watched Clark during this debate and having judged a tournament with Pamela last week I have an all new respect for Clark and for the thing that is “debate”. What these kids do with relatively little supervision and direction (and that is no slam on the wonderful adults that help organize and instruct) is truly amazing. It has a language and pacing all its own. Some of what they were doing was so foreign. To me I had this odd sensation that I was back 30 years ago watching a game on dungeons and dragons. I was an outside observer to a ritual that I knew very little about, but was complex and fast moving. If Clark is able to connect the dots and tie his points together from beginning to end, this is something that he will excel at. The other thing that struck me was how easily Clark fits in with this group and how comfortable he seems. This is RARELY the case for him in any other group situation that I have seen him in.

    Eric Hutchins

    This kid sounds more and more brilliant everytime I read about him – and I suspect he is going to take the world by the tail and twirl and shake it until it conforms to his standards and ways! It is exciting watching him bloom!

    That is EXCELLENT! Way to go! Great post and I love that he got up there and did so well. It take courage to get up in front of so many people and speak and debate. I’m sure you are a proud Momma….I’m proud of him!

    Mommas Soapbox

    Haha wow! Debate team is the perfect outlet 😛 Thanks for visiting my blog!

    ana patricia

    Exactly — right back into the gaping jaws of the wolf! I love your comments 😉


    If anything, it’ll give him confidence to stand in front of people and speak. I couldn’t do it. It’s amazing to watch your children in action, isn’t it? Watching them develop and become mature. Of course, they’re going to stumble along the way (sometimes those stumbling moments are better left unremembered) but that’s why we’re here…to pick them up and throw them back out into the wolves of life!


    We are all surprised each night that the boy survives another day, and that his arguing doesn’t get him killed. By one of us. But it was an amazing thing to watch. I really hope this is something he can excel at.


    I absolutely love this post. I love how you describe the way his mind works and how focused he is in an unfocused way. I really love how he didn’t argue with you!

    Blogging Goddess

  12. glenda says:

    What an awesome thing that he tried st all! My ADHD kid is too cool to do try. He has the sk8tr boi down pat. I just want him to make it thru high school!

  13. Heidi Milton says:

    Awesome post! I love that he’s stretching himself, trying new things, and that you are 100% behind him. Kudos to both of you!! Love the new site!!

  14. Nina says:

    I actually think ADHD boys are very interesting with wonderful personalities. I also think for the most part they are intelligent and extremely creative. I have a now adult son that had (has) ADHD and is has both served him well and caused him struggles. He gets bored very easily and so can lose interest and concentration easily. But if it is something he is really interested in he can hyper focus and he won’t even hear you talking to him. He loses all track of time. He’s very intelligent, creative,athletic and a perfectionist. Anyway, he is now a father of three and this has taught him much about patience and focus. He is also a recruiter and photographer for the Air Force. He has been a wonderful son, but also a source of great worry through the teen years. Terrible times for ADHD boys! We opted to not medicate him when he was young, even though it was recommended to us. We didn”t want to stifle all of the good and positive traits he has. And I’m glad of our decision. I guess I’m going on and on because your son reminds me so much of my wonderful son.

    • Pamela says:

      Oh man have we struggled about the medication decision. We didn’t start meds until he was 14, and he just was failing everything in high school. It has helped him tons, but he didn’t like it at first, because he felt contained. He has grown to appreciate the structure it helps him with him, but it has been difficult. And, it would have been no matter what, I suspect, because, like you said, teenage years are hard on an ADHD kid.

  15. […] he blew us all away with his dramatic, aggressive, freaky intelligent, and ADHD-like style.  See “Not Up For Debate.” In this, his first year, he missed qualifying for the state tournament (Texas “5A”) […]

  16. […] he blew us all away with his dramatic, aggressive, freaky intelligent, and ADHD-like style.  See “Not Up For Debate.” In this, his first year, he missed qualifying for the state tournament (Texas “5A”) with his […]

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