Andrew K. Smith's hooligan pranks and social impulsiveness paints a picture of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) before medication, and it would seem that the little orange pills could cure his mischief. But listeners will furrow their brows as they enter The Adderall Empire, traveling with Andrew K. Smith through the chemically conflicting mind states. Is working-memory training a feasible alternative? Listeners will beg for the answer, hoping Andrew stops getting into trouble before his parents disown him or he winds up in jail. Again.
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Someone wrote my biography
- Oliver Nielsen
Not the Whole Story
I would recommend this book as a launching point for discussion about parental involvement in a child's education, teacher responsibilities in a child's education and the use of medicine as a tool for non-life-threatening, non-physical health issues diagnoses.
If I was reading rather than listening I would probably skim over certain passages rather than read every word because there are chapters/sections that simply to not seem to add to the story which would lead me to want to brush over. The narrator "forces" me to pay attention to every paragraph.
First the disclaimers... I received an audio version of this book for no charge in exchange for an honest review. Also, I have no experience whatsoever with people, younger or older, diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. Finally, I am a stay-at-home mother of three, the oldest going into high school and the youngest entering middle school, and I have volunteered 400 or so hours to their elementary school for each of the last 8 years. I am not an educator by education, but have given my time to my children's teachers and classmates to help their education in any little way I can.
So, onto this book! I will not take the time to rewrite a summary of the book -- the author and other reviewers have done this already. Suffice it to say, this is the author's account of his experiences before and after his diagnosis of ADHD, and before, during and after his experience of taking medication, specifically Adderall, to manage his ADHD.
Rather, I would like to share my reaction of what is included in the book and what is excluded from the book. I think Andrew's story was well-enough written to share his point of view, but his criticisms of Adderall, society's dictates of "normal" and the summary of his life on Adderall is simply one side of his story and, IMHO, a skewed point of view. One might think that a first person point of view is authentic, true and accurate, but I am far from being convinced in this instance.
I feel no sympathy for Andrew with regard to his diagnosis and the path that he, his parents and his doctors have chosen to take to manage the impact of ADHD on his life and I do not understand then ultimate message he is attempting to convey with his story. This story begins with Andrew at about age 5 -- not yet ready to enter kindergarten and held out for a year (so very normal for so very many 5 year old boys who may need an extra year to work on social development) -- to about age 23 with his graduation from college. Andrew shares a few scenes/memories from elementary school, middle school and high school -- before diagnosis, and with diagnosis and with attempts at finding the right medication and the right dosage. These scenes/memories seem absolutely "normal" to me and I do not understand the point being made sharing them in detail. Mischievousness in each of these school levels, and those particular ones Andrew went though, seems "normal" to me. Still I do not understand to what end these events being described support or refute Andrew's message.
What is missing and what I am wanting from this history is knowledge of his parent's and his teacher's efforts to help this young boy, then this adolescent boy, then this young man.
From this very one-sided, one person point of view tale, this reader feels that Adderall is not the problem. It seems to me the parents failed big time to be involved in his schooling, his developing learning habits, his social habits. And later on, they failed to be involved with his after-school free time -- and what friends were up to in the basement. Had they took time to oversee his homework efforts and his grades, they might have learned long ago that this child needed help learning how to learn and with learning fundamentals, such as in math, that seemed to plague him for many years. Had the parents been more involved, the ultimate outcome, using medication to regain focus, may not have changed, but in the meantime, this boy/young man may not have felt so awkward, "unnormal", an outcast, a freak, and seemingly alone in his youth.
The parents have three sons. Did they just give up on the youngest? Were they so focused on the older two that they neglected the youngest? Children need supervision, guidance and involved parents, from age 3 to 13 to 23 and beyond! I don't see from what was included in this history that this occurred.
The parents were able to send the boys to private schools, but from this one-sided point of view, how helpful were the teachers? School-going children spend more waking hours in the company of their teachers than with anyone else. The teachers are supposed to be knowledgeable in terms of figuring out how best their individual students learn (this is 1996 to 2009 we're speaking of) -- it's their responsibility to help figure out what the students need in order to achieve. When parents and teachers work together, children can receive productive guidance and can flourish! Why is this story silent regarding the teachers reaching out to help Andrew?!?
Do I feel sorry for Andrew? No. We all have our limitations that we need to manage and learn to deal with in order to succeed with whatever our goal is. Some of us have physical limitations we need to learn to live with. Some of us have mental limitations we need to learn to live with. Some of our attributes can be managed with medicine, or exercise or vigilance.
Do I feel I am more aware of the effects of prescribing Adderall or other similar prescriptions? Not really. We don't have the full picture in this story. I want to know what the parents did or didn't do throughout these twenty years. Yes, mom attended a few meetings at the family center, but that amounts to about three sentences and no impact on the situation. Including patient paper from the family center does not fill in these missing gaps -- they add little to no relevant information. I want to know if the teachers were truly negligent with regard to Andrew's education. Neglecting to include their efforts doesn't mean the teachers didn't make an effort.
I am glad that Andrew was able to make it successfully through college, even if it was with the use of Adderall to help him focus and learn. I am glad that Andrew plans to use sites such as Luminosity to help his boost his mental capabilities. We all have our challenges and we all have to learn how to work with them. This makes us all NORMAL!!! Being diagnosed ADHD or ADD or with high cholesterol or with dyslexia or whatever doesn't mean we are not normal (a concept Andrew seems to be concerned with for ever). It means we are individuals and we need to learn how to manage our attention levels, our cholesterol levels, our mathematical abilities/inabilities, our reading fluency or whatever limitations we have with our bodies or our minds.
Conclusion? Should you, reader of this review, spend time reading this book? Of course, it is a great launching point for discussion. Recommend it to your book club; it may lead to very animated discussions among the book club members. Read this if you are related or friends with someone diagnosed with ADHD or ADD or some other learning challenge that is managed with a prescribed drug. Read it as a parent. Read it to broaden your horizon. Read it to determine if this review is loony!
Just read it. Doing so should only take about four hours of your time, but be warned! Reading this book may also cause you to think, too! About your reactions, about parenting, about the educational systems, about medicine for non-life-threatening use, about what is "normal" and what is not, about being an individual with individual quirks and needs.
- Pemberley Proud "I'm a 40-something SAH mom who has come to "read" more audio books each year. They work better as my days are active and mobile."