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Book Review: ‘The Elephant in the ADHD Room’ by Letitia Sweitzer

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I am neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist, but I have seen the effect a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) can have on a child; chances are, you and I are in the same boat. My experience has been overall negative; the diagnosed children have, for the most part, been labelled as unable to function unless on medication. When potential non-biological contributing factors were suggested, such as a diet high in sugar or a lack of discipline, they were swept aside. Many of these children, who, as you might have guessed, were and still are my friends, grew up without the necessary skills to discipline themselves and have been paying the price since then.

This seems to be a typically North American reality. In Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD, pediatric therapist Marilyn Wedge discussed how in the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD and are taking pharmaceutical medications, while the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than 0.5% in France. This is directly related to the fact that ADHD is considered a biological-neurological disorder in the United States while in France, it is viewed as a medical condition that has psychosocial and situational causes. Instead of treating behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying social issue that cause the child distress, which they treat with psychotherapy or family counseling. She concludes that it makes perfect sense “that French children don’t need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids — instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa.”

ADHD is a disorder that affects children and adolescents, and can sometimes continue into adulthood. For reasons we have yet to understand, three times more boys than girls are diagnosed with it. The behaviors exhibited include acting without thinking, hyperactivity, and trouble focusing. The behaviors exhibited interfere with a child’s ability to function; adults may have difficulty managing time, lack organizational skills, cannot meet goals, and, consequently, have difficulty holding a job, sustaining relationships, have low self-esteem, and are more prone to addictions. Even if they understand what is expected, they have trouble following through as they cannot sit still, pay attention, concentrate, or attend to details. They are easily bored or frustrated with tasks.

This is what author Letitia Sweitzer focuses on in her book The Elephant in the ADHD Room: Beating Boredom as the Secret to Managing ADHD. She explores the relationship between boredom and the diagnostic criteria of ADHD, inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. In light of this relationship, she presents age-appropriate strategies to help those with ADHD beat boredom so that they can instead engage with tasks to achieve their goals. One of the unexpected benefits of this book is that many of the strategies can be applied by someone who does not have ADHD, but would like to simply increase their ability, in a world filled with distractions, to spend more time focused on specific tasks.

Books such as this one not only give extra tools to those working with, living with, or suffering from ADHD; they also help enrich the conversation surrounding this disorder. This is all the more important because treatment is never simple. Medical research seems to be increasingly indicating that there just might be as many treatment options as there are patients, which implies that just because the French have such a high treatment success rate, it does mean that none have underlying biological-neurological factors.

As the pace at which the world advances continues increasing, there are more and more things competing for a piece of our attention. Combined with the fact that we are being encouraged to become passive recipients of entertainment, those suffering from ADHD do not seem to be the only ones who become easily bored and do not have the ability to focus on tasks. Perhaps this is related to the fact that these days, the most pervasive forms of media are mindless. This has consequences in many, if not all areas of our lives. Something as simple as cooking has become a chore that comes between us and the pleasure of eating. We are encouraged to bypass the cooking process and immediately go to the eating part, rather than to create and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

If you feel like you can’t focus on your life’s goals and that you are not achieving anything, you might want to pick up this book and apply some of the insights in contains to your own life.

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  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Nutritional Healing by Balch has an excellent section on ADHD.The authors recommend a lot of things like a high fiber diet to discharge toxins, caffeine elimination, elimination of gluten from the diet, moderate exercise and eating more but smaller meals. Specific vitamin recommendations include calcium, magnesium, choline, Co Q 10 and Gingo Biloba amongst others. Gingo Biloba is a powerful free radical destroyer that protects the brain. There are other steps you can take like having an Immunologist test comprehensively for food allergies and environmental toxins. High quality nightly sleep is another condition precedent for enhancing overall health and psychological functioning.

    The current efforts to introduce Pre-Kindegarten into the schools may help by getting children into school earlier so that these types of problems can be identified and dealt with before they evolve into much more difficult issues for administrators to deal with later on.

    Parents should be aware that there is a fundamental difference in the medical community with regard to treating ADHD. Conventional physicians are more prone to treat ADHD with drugs; whereas, complementary medicine physicians use natural vitamin and herbal protocols to deal with the individual cases.

  • bliffle

    Joe Maresca is NOT a Medical Doctor, in spite of his use of ‘Dr’ as a title. Nor is he a scientist. I mention this so you are informed before you credit him with any special knowledge of medicine or chemistry or psychiatry.