“Well written, compassionate, interesting” are all words I’d use to describe Buzz, A Year of Paying Attention, A Memoir by Katherine Ellison. But even though I enjoyed it, I struggled with the concept of the book and came away feeling vaguely unsettled. Ellison describes her plan to devote a year in which she’d “put other work aside, making it my full-time job to seek the best path for a distracted parent intent on helping her distracted child.” I always appreciate well written books that combine information with a chance to really get to know the author’s experiences. Ellison, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has the ability and the connections to do just that. She meets experts such a Dr Russell Barkley, and authors like Dr Daniel Amen, and Blake Taylor. She quotes from Dr Ross Greene, Dr John Ratey and Dr. Edward Hallowell. (Greene and Hallowell even write blurbs for the for the book cover.)
It’s not surprising that an author who describes herself as having ADHD would take a creative and enthusiastic approach to exploring the different ways to manage ADHD. But it was also not surprising that this style resulted in a somewhat scattered attempt to solve a very challenging issue. I kept wanting more depth and focus, and I kept hoping the author would stick with something long enough to really give it a chance. I kept looking for more scientific inquiry and less anecdotal evidence.
So often I hear from parents that they’re looking for a clear cut diagnosis, with a solid recommendation on what to do to help their child. Unfortunately, it’s just not that straightforward. Although a one size fits all diagnosis and treatment plan might be comforting, it’s never going to work as well as something tailored specifically. There is no one path, or one best treatment, and dabbling in different solutions over the course of a year is not going to result in the best outcome.
As for Buzz, I’d still recommend it, but I’d suggest thinking of the book as a chance to understand someone else’s experiences with a challenging child, not as a way to learn how to help your own child.