Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Sudden ADD Expert

Now see, this is why we go to the library so much. Last week, I picked up the only ADHD book they had on the shelf, which is called The A.D.D. Book: New Understandings, New Approaches to Parenting Your Child by William Sears and Lynda Thompson.

This book has completely changed the way I think about ADD, which stands for Attention Deficit Disorder (hyperactivity is not always part of it). Like most other people, I thought of it very negatively, as a disability with no cure, only lifelong drug treatment. I was completely wrong.

First of all, ADDers are not lacking in attention. They actually pay more attention to the things they find interesting. Their attention is all or nothing, so either they're completely obsessed or zoned out with something. They just have very selective attention. Of course, this can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Certain famous people are thought to have had ADD, such as Thomas Edison, Mozart, and Winston Churchill. I just read that the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was diagnosed with it as a child; his parents signed him up for swimming to expend his excess energy. Dr. Sears even admits that he could have easily been diagnosed for it. If he had been treated the way kids are treated today, it is doubtful he would have gone on to become a renowned pediatrician, author of 23 books, and father of 8 children. It was the ADD obsessive focus which allowed these people to succeed to the extent they did.

Kids with ADD also tend to be very impulsive, doing things before thinking them through, and easily distracted. Obviously, these are disadvantageous under normal settings. But these qualities also make them very spontaneous and creative. They are known for their original ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.

The authors state that the D should not stand for Disorder but rather Difference. They compare it to a person being left-handed instead of right-handed. Like left-handers, ADDers are a minority and face different challenges. These days, they don't even need to rely on drugs. Behavioral therapy works well for many ADDers, as does a new treatment called neurofeedback, which is like a computer game with EEG sensors. When the sensors detect resting brain waves, the computer game stops. This trains the person to stay focused for extended periods.

The book also goes on about nutrition, how eating a carbohydrate laden lunch causes the brain to relax more (bad for ADD kids in school) while a protein lunch rich in tyrosine will help wake up the brain. Useful stuff to know, even if you don't have ADD. In fact, I plan to tell my 7:00-10:00 pm class, as I don't want them all passing out during my lecture.

My son has all of these tendencies. Whether or not he will be diagnosed with ADD remains to be seen. But I'm okay even if he is. Because he is very creative, focused, energetic and just makes us all pause and smile with the funny things he comes up with. Like everything about ADD, raising him is a mixed blessing. Where there is enormous potential for success, there is also the possibility of catastrophic failure, small it may be.

I'm not to be too worried, though. He's got a caring family who is getting better educated all the time. More importantly, he's got a Father in heaven watching over and protecting him. I can hardly wait to see what neat things my son will accomplish in the future.

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