Fast Minds by Surman and Bilkey is a very useful book for those who have ADHD, or think they might.
This book describes just what life is like for those with fast minds, the things that can go wrong, and just how to change what you do to have life work much better if you have a fast mind. It describes many stories of how badly things can go wrong for people who may have many talents but who mismanage one aspect of their lives and it spoils their plans. It is written for adults who have, or suspect they have, ADHD, and it is reassuring for people to read about how it feels for others. This is especially so when adults may have put up with having a ‘fast mind’ yet may not have had a diagnosis of ADHD. For those who have had a diagnosis it is still very useful as it shows that ADHD problems persist and that trying to do all that is advised in childhood does not make ADHD go away in adulthood. Many of the people described are doing fairly well in their jobs and personal life so are understandably frustrated when they do something that may spoil their plans.
This is a book that acknowledges that having a fast mind is there for life, but gives hope that it can be well managed. It is enjoyable to have handy to read a little at a time. The ideas about living are many and varied and help make the reader review what is important in their lives and how to have personalised strategies to achieve much wanted goals. You as a reader can enjoy being reminded to note, in yourself, or someone you love, gifts and talents as well as the limitations of a fast mind. Another writer called ADHD the ‘hidden handicap’ and so it is. Most people are told often that they could do much better if they just applied themselves better, or tried a little harder. The ideas in this book recognise how difficult it really is but give various suggestions that allow ADHD people to move much closer to become the individual person they are trying to be. The authors, who have worked with many who have fast minds, stress that each person is different. Parents of ADHD children could find much that will help them, and all those from teens up can read the stories and helps for themselves.
I have worked with thousands of ADHD children and the families that are trying to help them. I like especially the section where they encourage you to ‘be your own scientist’ considering yourself as your own research project. I have helped families investigate a role for diet and this is the idea I use too. I call it being a ‘diet detective’. You can lower all the suspect substances for four weeks and then be your own scientist putting them back in one group at a time, each for one week, or until a reaction occurs. I have made investigating diet in ADHD my own research project using what families found with all that other researchers found. I completed a Masters degree on the topic and have reviewed the many studies that have been done in a review published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health in Australia.
I love the amount of time and effort the authors have suggested is worthwhile when getting any medication right. They emphasize that everyone is different. So it is with diet. Investigating diet is also about how the body varies in how it metabolises different additives and the other suspect natural chemicals. It is not just colours and preservatives that may be suspect. It is artificial flavourings as well, and they are used in ten times the amount of colours! You can note that it is difficult to do a double-blind study where flavours need to be investigated. As well as additives there are other natural substances that are somewhat similar chemical compounds that can cause reactions. These include salicylates [very high in tomato products, herbs and spices], amines [high in chocolate], added natural flavours, and monosodium glutamate. A much smaller number are also sensitive to wheat or dairy foods as well, but there is a way to reduce these without completely excluding them. Diet investigation can sound overwhelming but like many of the problems dealt with in Fast Minds, it can be very well managed. People with fast minds are often tempted to start several good ideas at the same time. One of the useful suggestions in Fast Minds is to change only one thing at a time, and that applies to investigating diet. If diet is begun with nutritional supplements or medication it is not clear which one is helping. Diet is complicated enough. It involves having to cope with symptoms getting worse before improving, with mood changes and cravings. At some time it is worth taking three months, to investigate diet. Only some ADHD people are food sensitive, and diet may reduce other symptoms besides, or as well as, ADHD. I have spent years recording what foods cause reactions and how to sneak as many foods back into the diet as possible. Diet can be an effort but it is so wonderful to reduce the ADHD problems you have been putting up with, and to see what you are really like when you are not reacting to food. Yes, diet is not a cause of ADHD, but it can make a useful to great difference that allows all other treatments to work better. As I read Fast Minds I thought it the perfect companion for diet management in anyone with a fast mind. And I suggest that my books: Are You Food Sensitive? and Tolerating Troublesome Foods are the perfect companion for Fast Minds, for those who want to investigate diet. Joan Breakey Dietitian specialising in food sensitivity