Student writes personal account of ADHD

January 29, 2008 11:36:59 AM PST
A UC Berkeley student has become the youngest American to write a memoir about living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - or ADHD. Scientists say his book could be the breakthrough that reaches patients and skeptics alike.

18-year-old Blake Taylor says focusing in French class without medication would be like watching a slide show about every subject - except French.

"A way you can think about it is if you're taking a TV remote and somebody else is just changing it uncontrollably and your mind is floating from the History Channel to HBO to the Discovery Channel - its like you can't really stay concentrated," said Blake Taylor, author.

It's a simple explanation of ADHD that's easy to relate to - yet it's rare for someone to give such a personal description. But Blake Taylor has now told his story - and his story is officially hitting bookstores this Saturday.

"I feel exposed but in a good way, because I get to share my stories with other young people and help them," said Blake Taylor.

"ADHD & Me" is a personal account of what it's like to live with this mental disorder. The UC Berkeley freshman fills the book with his stories - like the time when he decided to use contact lens cleaner to set fire at the dinner table.

"I poured it on the candle and this one little candle fire became almost immediately - the table was engulfed in flames," said Blake Taylor.

But he also includes he suggestions on how to harness compulsive behavior and how to deal with teachers and peers who don't know how to deal with people like him.

"No one in this country to my knowledge has, at this age, written such a revealing, compelling, honest account of how much darn trouble he got into, but also how treatments and how a family's understanding and doctors' understanding can really make a difference," said Stephen Hinshaw, Ph.D., UC Berkeley Psychology Dept. Chairman.

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw has studied ADHD for 25 years. But he says his scientific knowledge can't reach everyone the way a personal story like "ADHD & Me" can. He plans to use the book as a textbook in his classes at UC Berkeley.

"Teach it and promote it and have people realize that many people with serious mental disorders are now coming out of the closet making their stories known and this is going to provide I think a sea change for the whole society," said Stephen Hinshaw.

Blake Taylor started writing the book about two years ago and he said he is already receiving feedback from people who are so appreciative that he is speaking out.