An Indepth Look at ADHD

The Energetic Brain: Understanding and Managing ADHD
by Cecil Reynolds, Kimberly Vannest, and Judith Harrison
(Jossey-Bass, 2012 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

The Energetic Brain: Understanding and Managing ADHD is neither a short nor quick read, at just over 400 pages, but it is packed with a lot of good, general information about ADHD and the brain. The three authors write from experience. All three live with ADHD and have worked with ADHD in different capacities — as a teacher, as a neuroscientist, and as a counselor. The three viewpoints give the work a rounded perspective on ADHD and what it’s like to work and live with individuals who have this disease.

The book is divided into three major parts: Getting to know ADHD, Getting Help, and Managing ADHD from Childhood Through Adulthood. The first two sections make a strong argument that ADHD is a biological condition and not the result of poor nutrition or poor parenting. The authors emphasize the importance of an accurate diagnosis and provide a great deal of information on how to get one. Because of this, these first two sections seemed a bit redundant.

The chapter on ADHD and the brain (Chapter 5: How Medication Affects the ADHD Brain) is straightforward and easily understandable. In this chapter, the authors do a very good job of describing simply how ADHD, and medication for it, affect neurotransmission of signals in the brain.

The practical issues

The third section of the book is the part that interested me the most, as it addressed the practical issue of working and living with individuals with ADHD. Chapter 7 addresses family relationships, while Chapter 8 addresses strategies for teachers, and Chapter 10 focuses on strategies for college and the workplace.

While the authors do a good job of explaining why persons with ADHD behave the way they do, and why they experience the challenges that they do, their strategies for helping these individuals seemed a bit vague.

For instance, in the chapter on strategies for teachers, the authors explain that persons with ADHD have difficulty maintaining focus during a lecture and could benefit from guided notes. They go on to say that while providing guided notes initially, the teacher should teach these students how to remain focused and take notes during a lecture without the guided notes, because this is what they will face in college. They tell us that this teaching should include gradual release, but they do not give any specific examples of how this might be accomplished.

As a teacher, and the parent of children who suffer with ADHD, I wanted to see more detail about specific interventions to use in my work and home life.

A good starting point

Despite the vagueness of the suggested strategies, the authors do a good job of describing the changing needs of persons with ADHD as they move from childhood to adulthood, as well as providing an insightful look at ADHD as a biological disease of the brain. Reynolds, Vannest and Harrison also provide a thorough overview of the complicated issues associated with ADHD.

I would keep this book on the shelf to share with parents or even teachers struggling to work with students with ADHD as it provides an excellent starting point in understanding and working with the Energetic Brain.

Laura Von Staden has a Ph.D. in Molecular Immunology and a Master’s in Special Education. Dr. Von Staden has worked as a middle school Special Education teacher for eight years. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her Florida school district and works closely with the local university where she serves as a mentor for special education pre-service teachers. Both of her children suffer from ADHD.

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