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Book Review: 'ADHD and Me!' by Claire Ryan

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

‘ADHD and Me!’ is the latest resource available through ChatterPack, which aims to help children and young people with a diagnosis to develop an understanding of what ADHD means to them, without the use of medicalised language and social stigmas.

‘ADHD and Me!’ is a user-friendly guide to exploring what ADHD means for young people and those close to them.

Written by Claire Ryan, who herself has a diagnosis of ADHD and is the parent of a child with SEND (Special Education Needs and Disability), this book is a clear and insightful guide for any child or young person struggling with difficult feelings surrounding their diagnosis. Claire is a senior paediatric Speech and Language therapist TI, and has worked in the NHS for 16 years, providing therapy for children and working with parents, carers and schools to ensure the child’s targets are understood and met. Claire developed ChatterPack as a means of sharing the knowledge gained through her work and lived experience to support parents and young people with SEND. Run entirely in Claire's personal time, ChatterPack provides information, resources and training to parents, carers, teachers and professionals working with children and young people who have learning differences. ChatterPack offers a wide range of resources to use with young people both online and through a free monthly SEND newsletter, such as tools for developing conversational and language skills, developing an awareness of emotions and triggers, and exploring ‘What makes a good friend?’

This specialised book on ADHD is the latest resource available through ChatterPack. The tone of the book is extremely positive, and seeks to reassure the young person about life with ADHD. The author celebrates the individual thinking that ADHD can inspire, and the positive sides to having a unique brain.

The book touches on many issues surrounding ADHD, such as emotions, impulsivity, hyperactivity and sensory processing, explaining them in a simple, easy to understand way. The guide emphasises that everyone with ADHD is different, and that it is important to understand how it affects each reader differently. The book also defines some terms associated with ADHD that can be confusing, such as ‘hyperactivity’. The author assures readers that their urge to move and feelings of both physical and mental restlessness are perfectly normal for people with ADHD, and that they should not feel bad for being unable to control these unconscious impulses. The key message throughout the book is a positive one of embracing difference rather than focusing on how to behave in a more ‘acceptable’ manner. The author emphasises that ADHD means differences on a neurological level, and an individual’s inability to focus on one thing or to sit still in a classroom is not a marker of their bad behaviour or lack of control – it is not a choice, nor is a it a bad thing.

Indeed, the focus of the book is on the positive side of ADHD, such as having a broad imagination, ability to hyper-focus for periods of time, and being able to notice things that other people may miss. The author sheds a light on the reality of ADHD, whilst also illuminating the positive factors to having a unique brain:

‘ADHD is a neurological difference or disorder, but it definitely doesn’t mean that you are broken, ill or faulty in some way. It simply means that your brain works differently’ (45)

Rather than focusing on changing behaviours that may be seen as socially unacceptable, such as interrupting and being impulsive, the author explains that these are directly linked to ADHD, and should not be changed but understood and accepted by both the individual themselves and their supporters. The book also includes practical advice for young people and adults, including how routines can be helpful for anticipating change and reducing stress, and how to overcome difficulties with reading and attention. The author also touches on the subject of medication, and answers questions young people may have, such as:

‘If I take medication for my ADHD, does that mean that I am ill?’

The final section of the book is targeted specifically towards adults, and how parents, carers, teachers and professionals can better understand and support individuals with ADHD. This section also provides practical advice to help engage and support individuals with ADHD, whilst stressing that every person is different and will therefore need support with some things and excel in others. The key message here is helping adults to understand that certain behaviour cannot be controlled, and whilst it may seem that the young person is acting impulsively at will, this behaviour is not within their control. It emphasises the importance of staying calm, particularly in situations where the individual may be dealing with difficult emotions such as anger, and struggling to regulate their impulses. The author encourages what we at Studio 3 would call a low arousal approach when interacting with young people with ADHD, and emphasises that our own actions and emotions as supporters can contribute negatively to what is already a difficult situation for the young person.

Understanding how ADHD can affect behaviour is important for understanding that some behaviours are outwith the individual’s control, and that they may need support to navigate more difficult emotions and situations, not to be punished for behaviours they cannot control. This is an incredibly important cornerstone of the low arousal approach, as ultimately the greatest support we can offer a young person with ADHD, autism, developmental disabilities or other additional needs is our empathy, compassion and understanding.

Overall, this book is a helpful guide for young people with ADHD and the adults who support them. The book really emphasises the importance of understanding ADHD beyond the behaviour that can sometimes come with it, and stresses that ADHD is not about behaviour, but about understanding what each individual needs to cope, particularly when it comes to learning. As well as addressing concerns young people might have about their diagnosis, the book also contains plenty of practical advice for parents and teachers on how best to facilitate learning using tools and methods such as mindmaps, sentence starters, thought diaries, routines and movement breaks. This is a guide not only to understanding ADHD, but to building meaningful relationships between young people and adults built on mutual respect and trust.

We recommend this as an incredibly useful tool to give to a young person struggling with difficult feelings surrounding their diagnosis, as well as a resource for teachers, parents and professionals.

If you are interested in learning more about improving outcomes in ADHD, our Educational Adviser Gareth D. Morewood is teaming up with Claire Ryan to provide a unique training day in January. Get your tickets for this exclusive event here, with a signed copy of 'ADHD and Me!' included in the ticket price!

Order your copy now!

Reviewed by Rachel McDermott

Studio 3 Digital Content Editor


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