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From the Porch to the Printed Page: A Reader's Guide to Understanding This Book
Please don't skip this section! Although it's really a preface, we've written it as a separate chapter. We thought that many of our readers might approach a new book the way we do by skipping the miscellaneous pages and jumping right into the good stuff! But the information in this brief section is too important to gloss over. It will help answer some of the questions you may have as you go along.
Over two years ago, we sat on a porch swing and shared our vision for this book. Our original ideas took the form of a three page outline which became our framework throughout the writing process. Many long days and countless revisions later, our original Porch Swing Planning session evolved into the book you are about to read.
During the writing process, our vision changed little from our original outline. The chapter you are reading now is the only addition. We chose to add this section to share with our readers the underlying philosophy that guided our writing and the decisions we made regarding the book's format.
In the Introduction, we explained our goal of writing a book an ADD adult could use to understand and manage her disorder. We wanted this book to be practical and easy to read for anyone with specific reading and language deficits. To that end, we chose an informal writing style and worked hard to minimize the complexity of some rather complicated scientific concepts. We also included numerous cartoons to make the text more understandable.
We would like to comment on the organization of this book before you begin reading the three chapters that follow and question what we just said about ease of reading! During the editing process, we agonized over these early chapters that aren't as easy to read as the rest of the book. They are densely packed with rather technical information that is difficult to simplify. We didn't want to lose readers who might react in one or more of the following ways: 1. "Have I been tricked? Is this a text book? I thought it was going to be a practical, self-help book!" 2. "I've already read this information in several other books." 3. "How is this book going to help me if I can't understand the first chapter?"
We considered a variety of options from eliminating some of the information to reorganizing the format. We concluded that none of the options would solve the problem. We knew that our readers would have varying levels of knowledge about ADD and that some would need an in-depth introduction to the disorder. We were also keenly aware of the curiosity of ADDers who don't often accept suggestions without first asking, "But why?" We decided that without this background information, the anecdotes and practical suggestions that followed wouldn't make much sense. So we chose to leave the format alone and to offer the following guidelines.
If you've already done extensive reading in ADD, you might want to just browse these chapters. If you're new to ADD, just hang in there with the early chapters, taking them at your own pace and allowing time to digest the material. If you get really bored or befuddled, take a break! We promise the going will get easier and later chapters will take a look at the lighter, more practical side of ADD.
We also want to explain how we deal with the issue of sexist language in this book. The seeming erratic use of "he" and "she" isn't an editing error! We chose to alternate the use of male and female pronouns by chapters. As you will discover as you read this book, ADD isn't just a problem for boys and men. The assumption that the majority of ADDers are male has been challenged as knowledge about ADD has grown. Since this book is for all of you, men and women alike, we wanted to make the language as inclusive as possible. So, the odd numbered chapters use female pronoun references and the even chapters, male. By the way, there is no significance, other than a flip of a coin, for beginning with she instead of he! Paralleling this issue of sexist language, we have also tried to avoid stereotypes, including examples of both men and women in non-traditional roles. This seems appropriate, particularly since ADDers tend to be rather non-traditional folk.
Finally, we want to include a word of caution. In reviewing the book, a nationally known ADD expert raised an important issue. He voiced his concern that every adult who read it could identify with the described ADD behaviors and make a self-diagnosis of ADD. This concern is valid. In our work with classroom teachers, many report that the manifestations of ADD characterize every child in their classrooms!
We want to emphasize that ADD is a complicated syndrome with diverse symptoms of varying degrees of severity. It isn't surprising that educators observe ADD behaviors in many of their students because the symptoms of ADD are an exaggeration of behaviors and experiences that fall within the normal human range. Anyone can sometimes have lapses in memory, act impulsively or have difficulty concentrating. The problem with ADD is one of degree and persistence of the symptoms over time and across varying situations. ADDers have symptoms that begin in childhood and cause significant problems in school, work and relationships.
Another part of the diagnostic dilemma is that various mental health problems have symptoms that overlap those of ADD. For example, people with schizophrenia or depression have information processing problems similar to ADD adults but often to a greater degree. Virtually all mental health problems interfere with organization and information processing. So, it's not hard to imagine ADD becoming the new bandwagon everyone wants to jump on. We can picture the consternation of mental health professionals confronted with offices filled with people demanding treatment for the ADD they've self-diagnosed.
We can't emphasize enough that a diagnosis is not a do-it-yourself enterprise. A person with schizophrenia, for example, might have attention deficits but her treatment would be radically different from that of an ADDer. Using stimulant medication in her treatment would likely have the effect of dramatically worsening her condition. The point is, an accurate diagnosis is an essential component of treatment.
This book isn't a scholarly, diagnostic manual. Several excellent books of that kind are available and are listed in the appendix. If you're reading this book because you suspect you have ADD, follow the guidelines in Chapter 6. Develop a relationship with a professional who can provide a formal evaluation and diagnosis.
We don't believe, however, that an official ADD diagnosis is a prerequisite for reading this book. Individuals with other mental health problems and those without symptoms sufficiently severe to be considered ADD, can benefit from some of this material. Many of the self-help strategies are useful with or without a specific diagnosis. For example, a reader doesn't have to know why she is disorganized to benefit from some of our suggestions in Chapter 13. In addition, we hope that spouses, friends and colleagues of ADDers and other adults who struggle with related problems will read this book and develop greater sensitivity to individuals with special needs. We can all benefit from understanding how glitches in brain processes can wreak havoc in the daily lives of many people.
Finally, we hope that you'll find this book enjoyable and informative. If our readers have half as much fun reading it as we have had writing it, we will have accomplished our mission. We welcome your comments, personal experiences or anything else you would like to share with us.
Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo
Copyright © 1993 by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo