In writing this particular post, I’m going to get a little personal, so I hope you don’t mind. By that, I mean that I’m going to divulge some of the difficulties I’ve faced as the parent of an ADD child, and the books that have helped me or are helping me in that journey, and I hope that by doing so I might be able to help someone else know what they can do if they think or know that their child has ADD/ADHD. I’m the mother of a 13-year-old boy who was diagnosed with ADD in fourth grade, but who was more dynamic, stubborn, fun, impulsive, and forgetful than other kids from the day he was born. In those thirteen years, I have gained first-hand knowledge that ADD isn’t just a fancy name for the combinations of traits that can make a child harder to handle than others; it is a real-life disorder–a difference in brain structure–that manifests itself in an impaired ability to focus, to control one’s impulses, to handle transitions, and to organize. My son really wants to be able to focus, to be less forgetful and more organized and successful in school, but these things are hard for him, even despite years of training and mentoring. He’s getting better, but it’s probable that he’ll always struggle with these things more than other people.
That being said, I believe that ADD is also a blessing in his and our lives, in a way: he is incredibly interesting and fun and “in charge” (although that last trait may be more attributable to his personality and birth order than to the disorder itself). It’s very possible that he’ll be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company some day, if he can learn to focus on the positive parts of the disorder and compensate for the negative parts. I see my role as guiding him in that process, and I’m doing that with the help of several books, which I discuss below:
- Smart But Scattered by Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD: helped me understand the relationship between ADD and executive skills, which are certain “life skills” like response inhibition, working memory, sustained attention, time management, goal-directed persistence, and flexibility. When I realized that, helping my son manage his ADD became more a matter of focusing on the development of those life skills than on treating a disorder. It’s not like I hadn’t been trying to help him develop life skills before than, but this book better helped me realize which ones I needed to focus on.
- Parenting the Ephraim’s Child: Characteristics, Capabilities, and Challenges of Children who are Intensely MORE: by Deborah Talmadge and Jaime Theler. This is the book I got before Jonah was even diagnosed because, as I mentioned, he has definitely been always more. He refused, on pain of throwing up all over himself and crying for 5 1/2 hours, to sleep through the night until he was almost a year-and-a-half old, for example. The well-researched recommendations the authors make for managing these children have become some of my bedrock parenting skills, and have popped up–cloaked in more technical jargon–in many other ADD books I’ve read. I especially connected with the authors’ discussion of control and routine and of the potential that ADD brings to my son’s life, and with the fact that all of this is done within the context of LDS (“Mormon”) theology and culture. Since I and my family are Mormons, that was especially helpful.
- Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents (Third Edition) by Russell A. Barkley, PhD. This one was recommended to me by a social worker recently, and it has been by far the most helpful. It sensitively dispelled some of the guilt and worry that I’ve felt about failing my son. The techniques that it prescribes are different than a lot of the other ones I’ve read, but they make so much sense, and seem to bring the whole family into the efforts to help the ADD child overcome his or her particular challenges and create a positive family culture.
- Get Out of My Life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall? by Anthony E. Wolf, PhD. This one is actually not about ADD/ADHD at all, but about helping parents know to handle their teenagers. It helped me grasp better which behaviors I can attribute to my son’s dominant personality, which to the surge in his quest for freedom, and which to his ADD.
- Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder From Childhood Through Adulthood by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D. I’ve read this one the least, as it’s geared toward the people who actually have the disorder, debunking common myths, providing coping tools, and a deeper discussion of the positives, which can include high energy, intuitiveness, creativity, and enthusiasm.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, by Sean Covey. This book, too, is geared toward teens themselves, those sufferers of adolescence, and is not about ADD either, but provided me with a good sense of what’s really important (i.e., my son’s happiness and understanding of the world as opposed to his grades).
- ADD/ADHD Behavior-Change Resource Kit by Grad L. Flick, PhD. Of all these books, this one is the most technical, in-depth, and “hands-on,” to be sure. It’s a workbook. It has whole sections on social skills, homework issues, and for teachers. It explored executive functioning in depth, which helped me realize that I needed professional coaching myself in the implementation of the many behavior-modification techniques it provides. It can be kind of overwhelming to implement all the possible recommendations from all of the books, let alone keep track of which book recommended what technique, so if there’s anything that I really credit this book for, it’s for helping me realize that I can’t do it alone, which is, ultimately, a good thing.
- Positive Discipline Parenting Tools by Jane Nelsen, which I reviewed here, seemed to me to the most grounded in reality, even if its recommendations were somewhat unique.
Notice that I didn’t rank any of these books, even though some have definitely been more helpful than others to me. I describe them here so that you can have some of the tools you need to better parent your child with ADD/ADHD, if you have one, and to have more happiness and joy in the process.