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Delivered from DistractionReview - Delivered from Distraction
Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey
Ballantine Books, 2005
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H.
Apr 11th 2006 (Volume 10, Issue 15)

   For those tossing and turning in the tempestuous seas of attention deficit disorder ("ADD"), the uplifting raft of hope inspiring information and counsel, imparted by the book entitled Delivered From Distraction, may have a calming, and indeed salutary, effect.  One of the coauthors (Dr. Edward M. Hallowell) was formerly an instructor, at the Harvard Medical School; the other coauthor (Dr. John J. Ratey) is presently an associate professor of psychiatry, at the same institution.  Both have ADD themselves.  Writing with rather intense passion and robust vigor, which pleasingly creates a visceral sense of rhythmic beauty resonating mellifluously through the length and breadth of the text, Hallowell and Ratey work very hard, and successfully, to burnish ADD, so as to enable its bright side to glow and sparkle.

   The philosophic bent of Hallowell and Ratey is that the world of ADD is veritably wonderful.  At the heart of ADD, as conceptualized by Hallowell and Ratey, lies a mélange of traits that define a way of being that may potentially have positive as well as negative aspects.  The way of being of a person with ADD, is not a "disorder" unless the negative forces become disabling.  The goal for the person with ADD should be to learn to take optimal advantage of the wonderful gifts and special talents sewed into the fabric of the ADD mind.  These special talents may include enormous creativity and also an ability to selectively hyperfocus on things perceived as being particularly important.  For persons with ADD who succeed at whittling away non-helpful parts of ADD, the condition may, in real life terms, be a great asset, rather than a debilitating liability.

   In real life, it is, in fact, possible for a person with ADD to have an extraordinarily fulfilling and successful life.  One of the book's coauthors, for instance, is a husband and father of three children, has written twelve books, gives seventy-five to one hundred lectures per year, and has an active private practice in psychiatry.  The book is replete with hard-earned nuggets of clinical wisdom, based in important part on the day-to-day work of Hallowell and Ratey, in the demanding trenches of clinical practice.  Quite a few fragments of true stories are interestingly and informatively grafted into the textual body, thus imbuing the text with the great power of sobering truths drawn from real life.  This wonderful book is a brightly shining beacon of hope for persons with ADD as well as an invaluable contribution to the burgeoning medical scientific literature relating to ADD.

   The book's forty-three chapters are very strongly supported by an unshakeable foundation of infectious optimism and hope.  And, congruently, over the course of these many chapters, Hallowell and Ratey, overall, do a excellent job of explaining, in terms tilted steeply towards practical, rather than theoretical, aspects of ADD, how persons, with ADD, can optimize their lives.  True to the book's practical focused roots, only carefully measured doses of academic language are injected into the textual corpus.  Indeed, the book, stylistically, has been brewed using a predominantly plain English.  In a related vein, prospective readers are forewarned that they may be happily drenched by the emotional intensity soaking the pages of the text.

   The gamut of particular topics falling within the reach of the net of Hallowell and Ratey is wide.  Tests of brain function, bipolar disorder, the dyslexic brain, knotty genetic roots possibly entangled with ADD, and environmental related factors which may be tied to ADD are some of the areas covered, within the over arching context of diagnosing ADD.  In the kindred realm of treatment, potential interlinkages binding ADD and nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids, physical and mental variants of exercise extending to cerebellar stimulation, stimulant medications and nonstimulants, the phenomena of "spinning" and "SLIDE-ing", and intrafamily tension (the "big struggle") possibly associated with ADD are some of the engrossing, treatment centric strands craftily knitted together by the skilled hands of  intellectual artisans Hallowell and Ratey.

   Critics may carp that the anecdotal snippets which suffuse the textual body deplete, at least to some degree, its academic strength and scientific discipline; and that the manner of writing, of Hallowell and Ratey, is tinged with a palpable measure of seeming indifference to academic formality.   Moreover, even though Hallowell and Ratey exuberantly proffer a panoply of ideas, germane to the diagnosis and treatment of ADD, which may evince plausibility, there is no acceptable substitute for solid scientific research, and it is simply not known, at this time, whether the postulations of Hallowell and Ratey will meet the exacting demands of unfolding scientific data and scrutiny, tethered to ADD.

   This reviewer's trenchantly held view, however, is that the assiduous efforts, of Hallowell and Ratey warrant praise.  The multitude of subjects have impressively and instructively resulted in the constructing of a roadmap, designed very helpfully for persons with ADD aspiring to navigate the challenging labyrinth of life and to optimize the quality of their lives.  The body of medical scientific research on ADD is far from being fully developed, and is being fed, on an ongoing basis, vital morsels of significant new information, such a roadmap, if it is to retain its timeliness, must necessarily be periodically reworked.

 Readers intent on learning about ADD, perhaps especially if they approach the book with open mindedness accompanied, as well, by traditional scientific skepticism, will likely be quite enriched  by the multitudinous insights, suggestions, and  ideas offered by Hallowell and Ratey.

The body of prospective readers who may profit greatly, in an intellectual sense, from the book's immense richness, is actually quite expansive, and extends to: child and adult psychiatrists, psychologists and neuropsychologists, neuroscientists, general and developmental pediatricians, pediatric neurologists, internists, family practitioners, geneticists, nutritionists, and social workers.

 

© 2006 Leo Uzych

 

Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare. 


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