TWO ferry boats cross over to an island every day.

The first ferry takes a direct route over the straight of sea that separates the island from the mainland. While there are sometimes issues with the weather which can hamper its passage, it’s usually a straightforward journey, especially when the weather is calm.

The second boat is a different matter. It never seems to take a direct route. For some reason, soon after it starts to head for the island, she often does a detour, roaring her engine and sailing in loops. She does this even when the weather is calm. She seems to have trouble lining up for the pier, making a drama out of it, keeping her engines on full throttle as she lowers her front doors. Sometimes she doesn’t make it all the way and must return. It’s such a contrast with the calmer and smoother docking the first ferry boat usually makes.

People watching from the shore make their judgements. Some say there must be a problem with the engine of the second ferry, others suggest her rudder and steering mechanism might be faulty, that the boat is to blame. Many also say the skipper must be unskilled or incompetent, that he’s not up to the job.

But the truth is, none of these things are true.

The second ferry boat’s engine and steering are strong and powerful, and in good working order. She’s a perfect boat. And her skipper is highly skilled, he’s the best in the business, he’s learnt how to navigate the seas in ways many other skippers wouldn’t understand.

If all this is the case, why does the second ferry boat use up so much more energy, why does she take detours and stray off course, with her engine roaring and looking like she’s floundering, even on a calm sea?

The answer is something that can’t be seen by those watching from the shore, making judgements. You see, the reason is hidden under the surface of the water.

While the first ferry crosses the straight at a point where the flow of the tide aids its voyage, the second ferry is not so fortunate. All along its route there are constant but unpredictable currents under the surface of the sea on her route. They can be wild and powerful.

The second ferry or her skipper cannot control these currents, of course, so they must navigate them every day. The currents are sometimes so forceful they spin the ferry round, forcing her off course. This is when her engine dramatically roars and she sails in a loop, and the skipper’s skill is essential in bringing his boat back on course.

Despite all these extra challenges, the second ferry usually makes it to the island. It takes a huge amount of extra skill and energy for her to be reliable and punctual. Boat and skipper are always exhausted after the trip. But every day, they do it, despite the massive extra challenges.

Of course, this story is not really about ferry boats, perhaps you’ve already got it; the second ferry boat represents a person with ADHD or someone who is neurodiverse in another way. The skipper is his or her coping mechanisms.

Above the surface, all seems usual, the weather may be calm, but under the surface, the sea doesn’t co-operate as it does with the first boat. Wild currents pull the boat from its intended route.

The second boat has to roar her engine and use extra energy just to keep on track, the skipper has to use all his skills and knowledge of the unseen currents and how they can disrupt the voyage. His skills, and the boat’s determination, mean they reach their destination.

What’s going on under the sea is a metaphor for how the make-up of the brain in a person with ADHD can pose extra challenges: the feelings of being out of control, the apparent disorganisation, the difficulty to focus and keep on track, the surge of emotions and pull of distractions.

In the story, the second boat has huge extra challenges on its voyage, but it’s not the boat’s fault, it’s not the skipper to blame either. It’s the sea that is the cause of the boat’s behaviour. Despite the challenges set by the sea, the boat and her skipper have found ways to overcome them and still arrive at the island.

I’ll be honest, I’m in awe of kids who have these challenges which ADHD can pose. I know many remain undiagnosed, leaving them on long waiting lists without intervention and support, and often without understanding from wider society, with people casting judgement instead.

But, just like the second ferry, they set off every day on a voyage over a sea of currents which will try to pull them off course. They need extra skills, energy and determination to navigate the day. They are often emotionally exhausted at the end of it.

They shouldn’t have to do it without understanding and support. The waiting lists for help and support are a disgrace. The overworked support staff in schools do their best, but it’s often a plaster.

Meanwhile, we have countless numbers of boats crossing that treacherous sea of emotions every day. But despite the extra challenges, they do it. They are brave and incredible and resilient. They are the skilled skippers and determined ferry boats, they deserve our recognition, understanding and support.

And, as I say, I’m in awe of them.