Book Excerpt: ADHD and Me: what I learned from lighting fires at the dinner table

Health Writer

Below is an excerpt from the book, ADHD and Me: what i learned from lighting fires at the dinner table, by Blake E.S. Taylor.

Next week, as I complete the book, I will fill in with a review of the book, but in the meantime, if anyone has read it, please leave a comment, let us know what you think of the book.

Book Excerpt - ADHD and Me: what I learned from lighting fires at the dinner table

By blake e.s. taylor


Tied to the kitchen chair 2nd grade

I am building a section of a robot on the family room floor. It is dinnertime, and Gloria, our babysitter, calls from the kitchen.

"Blakey, come back and sit down and eat, na!" Gloria coos to me in singsong Trinidad accent. "You are eight years old. It is time to behave and eat yaw food."

I return to the table for one bite of steak. I chew it, then get up and leave the dinner table, again.

"Blake! Come and eat yaw dinner!" Gloria commands this time.

'I don't want to," I whine. I am thinking, "I don't want to sit down, and I have better things to do." I reluctantly return for another bite.

Finally, Gloria can't take it any more. She cooked this dinner and is determined to make me eat it. Frustrated, she takes a bungee cord and wraps it across my lap like a seatbelt. I struggle to escape, but being only eight, I'm not yet strong enough to do so. The steak is getting cold on its plate - it has been on the dinner table for an hour - and I have been continually leaving the table to play with my K'nex and Legos on the family room floor.

There is a pause for a minute or so. Madison, my five-year-old sister, looks across the table in shock. She looks at the bungee cord and then at Gloria standing behind me. I listen to the background noise of the television broadcasting Gloria's favorite late afternoon show: Oprah.

Finally, I give in and relax my body. I reluctantly eat the last pieces of meat. With the help of Gloria and her bungee cord, I am actually able to sit still long enough to finish dinner.

Living with ADHD

I have lived with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for my entire life-all seventeen years of it. I'm one of approximately four million young people in the United States who has ADHD (CDC 2005). I'm keenly aware of how I am different. I see things differently. I experience sights and sounds more keenly. I react more intensely. I can still look back and vividly remember what happened to me in preschool and elementary school and middle school, because those times are not so long ago and etching in my mind. Now that I am seventeen years old, I can tell you about what is still happening to me as a teenager. I wanted to write about ADHD and me. This is my story. But with a few changes of places and people, it could also be your story.

Have some of the following things happened to you-have you gotten into such predicaments with parents, teachers and friends? I know what it feels like when your mother gets really angry because you are just having fun shooting pebbles in the yard and accidentally shatter the sliding glass door. Or your father calls you disrespectful because you answer back, trying to defend yourself. Or your sister calls you "clueless" because you don't get the joke that everyone else is laughing at. Or your teacher singles you out for punishment because she figures you had to be the culprit, even though you didn't do it. Or when you have nervous tics and your schoolmates glare at you. Or when your friend doesn't call to go bicycling, even though he promised he would.

Guess what. You are not alone. You are not unusual. You just have ADHD. All of us are facing the very same things. And there are a lot of things we can do. First, we need to understand what makes us different, and second, we need to realize what we can do about it-and how we can use ADHD's gifts for a wonderful advantage! You don't need to apologize about ADHD; you just need to learn how to use it.

Perhaps I should start with a little background about myself. I was born on May 25, 1989, at 3:12 P.M. in Greenwich, Connecticut. I lived in Weston, Connecticut (approximately a twenty-five minute drive from Greenwich, one and a half hours north of New York), with my father, Stan (whom I call "P"0, and my mother, Nadine (whom I nicknamed Mimi). My maternal grandparents, Diana and Egildo (called "grandma" and "Popop")) and Uncle Vinnie were a constant presence in our lives. They came to visit us every Saturday. First, we would all have milk, coffee, and crumb cake together, and then I would build with Popop or garden with Uncle Vinnie. I had many buffer dinners with Papa T., my paternal grandfather, and old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinners with my uncles Milton and Saul and aunts Lisa and Mary. When I was three, I began going to a preschool at the Weston-Westport Cooperative Nursery School, and later I attended the Hurlbutt Elementary School.

In 1992, my sister Madison was born, and my mother took a leave of absence from IBM so she could spend time reading to us and taking us to apple orchards and museums. Later, when my mother returned to work, she hired Gloria, a caring black woman from Trinidad, to help look after my sister and me. My parents were often out of the house throughout the 1990s. My father worked hard building his furniture store business, and my mother worked as a global communication manager for IBM in New York, and so we would rarely have family dinners together.

When I was five, I went with my mother to one of her Vassar College reunions, at which her best friend, Carrie, took one look at me running around Lathrop dorm and told my mother I had ADHD and that she should take me to a specialist as soon as possible. My mother took me to see Dr. Jean Paul Marachi, who became my doctor for many years. He diagnosed me with ADHD as I entered kindergarten at Hurlbutt. Dr. Marachi advised my parents and teachers how to guide and help me. He first prescribed Dexedrine for my ADHD, and then he moved me to Adderall because I needed a longer-lasting medicine. Adderall worked extremely well, and I took it for the next ten years.

In fourth grade, when I began middle school at Weston Middle School, I developed tics. These included whirling tics and vocal tics, which came and went. Dr. Marachi prescribed a clonodine patch, along with my Adderall, to reduce the tics. It was also during middle school that my parents divorced.

In 2000, my mother married my stepfather, Ben (whom I affectionately refer to as "the Czar"), an executive at IRM. However, almost immediately after their marriage, Ben was offered a key job in California during the dot-com era. Since the new position enabled my mother to stay home with my sister and me, we decided to move to California. I was in the middle of sixth grade at this time, and I was reluctant to move three thousand miles west, where my father had warned me of earthquakes and mudslides. My grandparents were upset that we were leaving the New York area. As my grandmother said, "Why would anyone want to leave New York/" Since Gloria could not move with us, I had to say good-bye to the woman who had been like a second mother to me. On November 30, 2000, we moved to a suburb of San Francisco. I attended William Crocker Middle School a public school.

I managed to deal with the distance by talking daily to my father and weekly to my grandparents and by visiting Connecticut during summers and other vacations. My father and grandparents came out during the months I could not go back. As my mother said, "Just because you moved from Connecticut doesn't mean you leave it behind. It is always a part of you." Also, I kept in contact with my friends through IM and Facebook.

In 2002, Marjorie, a hardworking and dedicated woman from the Philippines, became our babysitter and joined us in many family predicaments.

In 2003, when Strattera, a nonstimulant ADHD medication, came out, my new doctor, Dr. Etta Bryant, changed my prescription, and I have been taking this medicine ever since.

After attending my eight-grade graduation, my grandfather, Popop died suddenly in June after having visited us in California. It was a crushing blow to lose my best friend and accomplice. In September, I began high school at the French-American International School in San Francisco, where one hears French as often as English and where I experienced city life, learned how to handle mass transit, and developed longtime friends. I began writing this book during the summer of 2005, when I was sixteen. I am now attending the University of California at Berkeley   where I plan to major in Biology and Chemistry.