Book Review: Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté


scattered-mindsGabor Maté’s book Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder is one of the rare books about ADD that along with providing advice to parents of children with ADD also provides advice to adults who are suffering from this disorder.  As someone who has been diagnosed with ADD himself, Dr. Maté is able to provide a unique perspective as both physician and patient, and provides many personal stories to strengthen his arguments.  It does not provide a cure, but gives an understanding of the origins of ADD and provides advice to help alleviate the condition.  Readers who are looking for quick easy answers will not find them here.  They will however find a deeper understanding of people with ADD written in a compassionate and eloquent voice.

ADD is an area in which there is still ongoing research.  Dr. Maté hypothesizes that it is the result of the relationships in infancy, most specifically with the mother, that are experienced by a hypersensitive child.  As I started the book I thought that parents who are looking for advice in parenting their ADD child may take offense to having the finger pointed at them.  I think if it is approached with an open mind, the advice given will benefit the child, whether the parents agree with Dr. Maté’s hypothesis or not.

Before my son was born a friend recommended that I read this book.  She told me that this was a great book for parents and parents-to-be, even if you do not have a child with ADD.  I am so glad I finally took her advice and read the book.  It provides a great deal of insight into infant brain development and child psychology that is written in an accessible way.  It is geared towards providing an understanding of the origins of ADD, while providing parenting advice that can be of benefit to any parent.  His use of metaphor provides an esthetic value to the text that is unexpected in health related non-fiction.  My copy is now full of post-it notes and I found as I was reading it I frequently read passages aloud to my husband so that we could discuss them.  Since reading this book, I have found myself being more aware of my parenting style.  I will consider his advice of always thinking of the long term objectives for my son’s development when parenting him, rather than using short term approaches to controlling his behaviour.  This will be a book to keep on the shelf for future reference.

Dr Gabor Maté is a Vancouver physician whose other titles include Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. The latter is his most recent work won the 2009 BC Book Prize for Non-Fiction.  He is also a former medical columnist for the Globe and Mail.


Erika Anderson is the manager of Coho Books, where she will happily resume providing oral book reviews once she is back from her maternity leave. She has a B.Sc. in Natural Resources Management.