Attention Deficit Disorder: ADD

Attention Deficit Disorder Discussion Report

Friday, October 22nd, Katherine Ellison, author of the recently published book, Buzz, was the speaker at Parents Education Network in San Francisco, CA.   A mother of a son who has ADD, her book vividly describes her family’s trials, tribulations and successes with the challenges her son faces. She was also very frank about herself letting us know that she, too, has the same brain aberration. 

A brief description of ADD culled from the field’s leading experts set the scene. The core problem is a weakness in the brain’s inhibitory system. She describes it as “faulty breaks”. The symptoms include impulsiveness, forgetfulness and distraction. 

Before reading a dramatic scene from her book, Ms. Ellison, a successful newspaper reporter and author, shared that Jack, her husband, and her two sons were torn apart with the tensions generating from challenges her oldest son, nine years old Buzz, faced. Writing her book was the only way she had to handle the family crisis. She described her inability to stop herself going into reaction, screaming at him, even spanking him when he said horrible things. Now, she understands that he was in his own world and didn’t see the cause/effect relationship of his comments.   

This drama heightened as she read a scene from her book, describing her efforts at 6 am to get Buzz up for his Spanish class, a class he enjoyed. Rising from bed, taking a shower, eating breakfast was chaotic ending in a verbal war between mother and son.  As Buzz exited, slamming the door, Ms. Ellison experienced an “ahha”. She realized she was bordering on not loving her son and was stunned!  She saw that her ADD and his were sparking each other’s worst side. She knew she had to be the one to change and turned her attention from her own distress and challenges with her ADD to her child. One of her strategies that had positive effect was finding ways to show Buzz that he was loved by her. This meant thinking twice before yelling when Buzz employed the “oppositional defiance kicker”. She reframed her feelings and took the advice of the writer, Toni Morrison: “Light up when a child comes into the room.”  At first, there was little immediate return. However, the more she released control the better the results. Slowly they were able to talk about what happened and sometimes he would respect her point of view if not accept it. 

Ms. Ellison enlisted her husband to become more involved and at this point her presentation Ms. Ellison’s invited her husband, Jack, a quiet, loving, somewhat distant husband to join her.  They shared they have clashed over different parenting styles on subjects such as TV, food, bedtime etc.  

The Ellisons then opened the morning session to questions.  Mothers and some fathers reported similar challenges and asked for advice. Topics covered a wide span:

  • ADD kids have a hard time with social interaction Most agreed that friends of an ADD student from Grade 1 and 2 had long disappeared, no more play dates.
  • Questions around the value of “consequences”: eg.” if you do this you will lose the use of your laptop” were brought to the fore. Most agreed that ADD kids are less sensitive to the concept of consequences and thus bribery doesn’t work.
  • More often than not the discussion moved to drugs, Ritalin and others.  Are they effective, are they damaging?  It seems these mood changing pills enable the distracted child to be comfortable with her or himself and they became more open to learning.  However, there was no agreement on the long term effect.  Ms. Ellison’s son did use drugs for a time, but then chose to stop. This topic kept re-emerging with no resolution.
  • There seemed to be a general consensus that private schools in Marin County are less effective in handling children with ADD than public schools.
  • The Ellisons encouraged parents to invest time helping their ADD child find something he or she is good at.  This effort does pay off.  Buzz discovered pleasure with  tennis. He is now coaching tennis with little kids and his social interaction is improving.

 Throughout the  morning Ms. Ellison suggested.

Outsource homework.  You have enough to handle in the house and need space from the battles over homework.

Find a way to become an ally – if it means taking the child out for pizza.

Choose your battles, Let some things slide. 

Do your best to balance attention with all children in your family. Those not affected by ADD need to feel that they are being fairly treated.

Try meditation and neuro-feedback. At first she used bribery to get her son to the sessions. But, they had some success with both.

Most important is reconnecting with your child, finding a way to let him or her know you love them, get back to a point where you can hug.

 Finally, Ms. Ellison urged parents who have a tendency to ADD behavior to get tested for diagnosis.  Don’t continue investing energy in covering up.  And, then find a way to slow down.

 The two hour morning session flew by.  Ms Ellison’s book, Buzz, is published by Voice, Hyperion, New York and is well worth the investment.