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Distracting the Distractions ~ Reviewed by Annie Vigna

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Distracting the Distractions by Joanne SieppertDistracting the Distractions: Raising a Child with ADD, A Parent’s Decision to Medicate
by Joanne Sieppert
Calgary: Jo-Anne Sieppert Publishing, 2010
73pp. $14.95

Reviewed by Annie Vigna

Jo-Anne Sieppert is the author of a series of youth fiction, Nystars, and a self-published reference book titled Distracting the Distractions.

Sieppert was 22 when she was diagnosed with Adult ADD; her youngest son Tyler was diagnosed with ADD in Kindergarten. Sieppert and her husband Scott have an older son Michael who does not suffer from ADD.

In her introduction, Sieppert writes:

Finding out your child has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) can be an extremely confusing and frustrating time.

You have some big decisions to make—decisions that will dramatically affect your life, your child’s life and your family life, not to mention your child’s future.  People you talk to about it will give you their opinions; they will tell you exactly what to do, but the truth is that unless they are actually in your situation, they are in no position to say what they would do.

The answer seems so simple, doesn’t it?  Medicate your child or don’t medicate your child. . . .

In this book I will tell you how I made my decisions as a mother of a child with ADD, who also happens to be living with ADD herself.

Son Michael certainly served as a standard against which Tyler’s activities were measured.  “He had no trouble at all at focusing; in fact, he was at his happiest when he was being intellectually challenged” (p11).  Still, siblings are different even if they are the same sex.  She noted that “the first child is usually quieter and calmer. . . . As my second son got older, I noticed that he became very easily distracted and frustrated”  (p11).

It became clear to Sieppert that securing a successful future for both her and her son meant quelling the distractions.  The title tells it all—“Distracting the Distractions”.

Our family doctor carefully laid out for us all of the options available for managing our son’s ADD and supplied us with informational pamphlets which included different ways of managing it.  Over the years we have tried all of these treatment options” (21).

They tried controlling their son’s ADD through diet and exercise.  Easier said than done.

The list of prohibited items is long—no sugar, no salt, no artificial colours or flavours or sweeteners, no msg, no processed food, and on and on, including foods containing “Salicylates which occur naturally in many fruits” such as apples, apricots, berries, cherries, . . . potatoes, raisins, tomatoes (p 22-23).

They tried “coaching him through his distractions” but with Tyler in school, this turned out to be impossible.

They tried keeping the child’s mind occupied, for example with stress balls.  Try to imagine the scenario.

They tried “Naturopathy” otherwise known as alternative herbal medicines.  “[W]e were, and are willing to do anything for our child.  A narrow mind, I truly believe, leads to a limited life” (26).  The results were not impressive.  Sieppert then supplies a long list of these “alternative medicines and techniques used to manage ADD” (p26).

Finally, they tried “Pharmacological Drugs”.  Sieppert was already taking medicine for her ADD, and it seemed a logical treatment for Tyler.  However, she notes that this option is often viewed with great apprehension by parents of children with ADD.  And adds, “If something is wrong with you, you go to the doctor, and sometimes the doctor gives you medicine and that helps.  Why was this any different?  Why is ADD the only disorder you shouldn’t take medicine for?” (p28)

ADD medication had been in use since 1937.  It is, in fact, safer, I’ve learned, than Aspirin.  Before the use of ADD medication, ADD was simply called something else.  It was known as “Minimal brain usage disorder”, or was misdiagnosed as another ailment.  Sadly, ADD is still being misdiagnosed as depression, anxiety or thyroid problems. (Meyer, 2009) (p29)

Included in this research are interviews with two teachers who work with the Calgary Catholic school board and who have taught Tyler.  Annette Parte, when asked what was the most important thing teachers should know when teaching a child with ADD, responded, “That this is not a choice, that they just can’t do the work, and it’s not because they’re choosing not to.  Teachers need to be more patient with them” (p62).

And teacher Mrs. Cartair Aries’s response to the same question was “That these kids can learn, and our job is to teach them to learn and celebrate their own gifts” (p67).

In this book there are lists of  “Symptoms in Children” and “Symptoms in Adults”.  And Sieppert says in chapter 11 “On a Positive Note”: People with ADD are also full of enthusiasm and spontaneity, interested in so many different things.  With their lively personalities, they can be a lot of fun” (p57).

Sieppert wrote this little book of 73 pages with candor and conviction based on careful research and personal testing of the options presented by her family doctor.

After trying to manage Tyler’s ADD through Diet, Coaching, Keeping the Child’s Mind Occupied, Naturopathy, and Pharmacological Drugs, she chose to medicate.  “[She] felt fear, relief, guilt, and more relief” (p31).

Although the subjects are close to her, Sieppert writes in a restrained tone that conveys information and adds depth to an issue experienced by so many others still searching for remedies. For herself and for her young son Tyler, Jo-Anne Sieppert manages daily to “[Distract] the Distractions”.

Annie Vigna is a former bookstore owner. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

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