On the shelf: ‘Reaching For A New Potential: A Life Guide for Adults with ADD From a Fellow Traveler’ by Oren Mason M.D.

reaching-for-a-new-potentialBy Karen Thoms, Main Library
I was gently spouting off my views about kids with ADD to a patron. It turns out that she was a teacher with an opposing view. She gently challenged me to read Oren Mason’s book Reaching for a New Potential.

Immediately I put the book on hold at the library, and to say my views have completely changed after reading it would be an understatement. Mason is no ordinary medical doctor. He suffered with ADD for years and made a surprising discovery while reseaching ways to help his two sons. Not only did his sons have ADD but he had the very symptoms he was reading about. He started medication and all areas of his life began to improve. He began treating more ADD patients as his passion for the condition and its treatment developed. Within three years he switched his practice over to exclusively treating ADD patients in Grand Rapids, Mich.

It is against this personal and professional back drop that Mason wrote Reaching for a New
Potential. The book is divided into three parts. The first third deals with medications. After years of homeschooling in the 1980s and 1990s and reading about the surge in children being diagnosed with ADD and put on medication, I was certain that doctors were too quick to label kids as having ADD. This was the opinion I was sharing with the library patron a couple of months ago.

Mason refutes that opinion right out of the gate. He states that not only is ADD not over-diagnosed, he believes it is under-diagnosed! And not only that, he believes that medication should be the first line of treatment once a person has been properly diagnosed, not the last resort.

I am not one to quickly change my opinions but Mason’s easy-to-understand arguments made complete sense. Mason unequivocally recommends that medications are the most important step to normalize the life of a person with ADD. He spends two chapters talking about the kinds of medications used in the treatment of ADD, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. After a lengthy explanation, he had me convinced that generic drugs are usually not the way to go when treating ADD.

The middle of the book covers the care team a person with ADD needs to assemble to live the best life possible. He assumes that the patient is now on medication and asking what more they can do to help their brain function optimally. Many who are opposed to treating ADD with drugs start here.

Mason believes all these pieces — diet, exercise, sleep, no smoking and definitely no drinking the first two years of ADD treatment are extremely important. But the main reason that he doesn’t believe in starting here in the treatment of ADD is because he feels an unmedicated person with ADD is going to have a hard time addressing these pieces because most of them require planning — something in a short supply with ADD patients.

His other supports for the ADD patients toolbox are: good physicians, support groups, therapists, coaches, professional organizers and financial planners. The chapters in this middle third of the book will give the patient hope for change. The last chapter in this section, ‘Learning How to Treat Others’, will jumpstart the patient’s social skills, a skill the
loved ones of ADD sufferers will welcome.

The last third of the book delves into how the patient can fit in with other people in their lives especially at home and work. One whole chapter is devoted to the kinds of jobs that a person with ADD may be best suited for. The last two chapters of the book cover topics near and dear to the author’s heart: faith and healing.

At the end of the book Mason cautions against impatience with the healing process timeline. Getting the medicines tweaked correctly, gathering a support team and implementing the many suggestions for living in a world as a person with ADD will take years.

But he says, “The first milestone in the healing of ADD is the appearance of hope… Your hope is the reason I sat down to write this book. Far more important though, I suspect it’s the reason you finished it.”