One of the most common questions I get is: “One of my kids has ADHD. What books should I read to learn more?” Today, I pulled together my top 10 books on ADHD for parents.
Some of these are highly targeted to ADHD kids. Some of them deal with ADHD in all ages, child through adult. Many of them deal with common co-occuring issues you may have noticed in your child, like sensory processing challenges, pathological demand avoidance, or oppositional defiance disorder. And, I included a couple of parenting books that are written for a general audience, but that I think apply particularly well to mixed-neurotype families.
- Want more parenting support for your neurodivergent child? Check out my These Books Will Make You an Expert on Collaborative and Gentle Parenting list on Bookshop.
- We talk about parenting all the time on the Neurodiverging Podcast.
- I also offer Parent Coaching sessions. Learn more about collaborative parent coaching and training.
- Looking for more books on neurodiversity in general? Check out my list here!
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My Top 10 Books for Parents to Understand a Child with ADHD
1) 8 Keys to Parenting Children with ADHD by Cindy Goldrich
“Combining expert information with practical, sensitive advice, the eight ‘key’ concepts here will help parents reduce chaos, improve cooperation, and nurture the advantages―like creativity and drive―that often accompany all of that energy. Herself the mother of an ADHD child, Cindy Goldrich’s methods are tested not only in her daily work counseling other parents but also in her own home. Tactics for calm, collaboration, consistency, establishing consequences, and ‘parenting the child you have’ deliver effective support for out-of-control children and overwhelmed parents alike.”
Danielle’s note: I would highly recommend this book to folks who are relatively new to what ADHD is, what it looks like, or how to handle and support a child with ADHD. The book is laid out well, easy to understand, and based on the current science and educational psychology of ADHD. I can personally attest that a lot of these methods work astonishingly well.
2) Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser
“Transforming the Difficult Child brings to life a new way of shifting intense children to a solid life of success. The Nurtured Heart Approach puts a refreshing spin on both parenting and teaching and reveals new techniques and strategies that create thoroughly positive behaviors.”
Danielle’s note: I have mentioned this book in so many podcast episodes and other recommendation lists now that a lot of you are probably sick of hearing about it. If it’s new to you, though, let me just let you read this quote from a review I wrote on Goodreads when I first read it in 2018:
“I have one kid who’s autistic and one kid who definitely has sensory issues and may very well be diagnosed with more things when she is older (update: combined type ADHD as of 2020). [We struggle with] a lot of defiance, a lot of testing, control issues, high anxiety, many screaming tantrums that can last an hour, etc. I’m autistic with SPD and anxiety too, so we all ended up triggering and exhausting each other, and the older the kids got, the worse it was all getting … I was at the end of my rope last year, right before she turned 3 years-old, and feeling very hopeless about being able to parent her at all, much less parent her successfully. Nothing I tried worked, a lot of what I tried made things worse, and I was just exhausted and burned out all the time. It was affecting our whole family, and I felt lucky if we made it 5 hours without an hour-long tantrum over something unexpected and insignificant.
[This book] totally saved our lives. I implemented some of the simpler suggestions, like using fewer words and gentle, but direct command-form language, right away, and they worked! It was amazing! She started doing the things I asked her to do at least some of the time! Over time, I was able to change how I was responding to the tantrums and other challenges, and we saw huge progress in my daughter’s ability to talk through issues, and tell me what was making her anxious, instead of just immediately tantruming. Since we listen to her and try to work with her to solve the issue once we know what it is, she’s begun to have more trust that we’re on her side and will help her, and since she feels more connected, her overall behavior is so much better. I would not have been able to make these changes without this book, and I’m really grateful for it.”
I recommend this book to every family. It saved mine.
3) The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children by Ross W. Greene
“An experienced therapist offers groundbreaking and compassionate techniques for helping chronically inflexible children, who suffer from excessively immoderate tempers, showing how brain-based deficits contribute to these problems and offering positive and constructive ways to calm things down.”
Danielle’s note: I had already recommended this book to several people even before I’d finished it way back in 2017, and have continued to recommend it widely. The author assumes that kids are doing their best, and that kids who “explode” are missing the skills that help them to adapt to changing situations. The book then offers methods of problem-solving so that parent and child can work together to improve the situation for everyone, reducing tantrums.
The method is similar to those I’ve seen in other books, but the explanations of what’s going on from the child’s point of view are superior. The book also has very good, accessible advice for how to apply these methods to neurodivergent kids (ADHD, autism spectrum, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.), and kids who don’t speak, generally assuming that all kids can contribute to identifying and solving their problems themselves, which I deeply appreciate.
4) Conquering Chronic Disorganization by Judith Kolberg
Buy on Amazon
“Chronic disorganization is disorganization that undermines a person’s quality of life and recurs despite traditional self-help efforts. Conquering Chronic Disorganization is filled with real-life stories of people who used simple, innovative and fun organizing methods proven in the field to end clutter, mismanagaed time and paper pile-ups in the home or office.”
Danielle’s note: This is a slim, older volume that you can often find used. The author, Judith Kolberg, is the founder of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, and her book is full of creative advice for creating and maintaining organizing systems that you and your child can actually use. This book is 100% neurodivergent friendly and there’s no shaming here. I love it and recommend it to clients literally every week.
(Bonus Book) Add-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life: Strategies That Work from an Acclaimed Professional Organizer and a Renowned Add Clinician by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau
“A professional organizer and a renowned ADD clinician join forces to present this guide that addresses the unique needs of adults with ADD. It offers organizing advice that ranges from self-help to utilizing the help of nonprofessionals to using professional assistance.”
Danielle’s note: By the same author as Conquering Chronic Disorganization above, this book is more recent, easier to find and certainly specifically targeted toward ADHD/ ADD folks. I have not personally read this one, but if you can’t find the original title, this is probably worth checking out!
5) Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time by Victoria Dunckley
“Dr. Victoria Dunckley has pioneered a four-week program to treat … Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS). Dr. Dunckley has found that everyday use of interactive screen devices — such as computers, video games, smartphones, and tablets — can easily overstimulate a child’s nervous system, triggering a variety of stubborn symptoms. In contrast, she’s discovered that a strict, extended electronic fast single-handedly improves mood, focus, sleep, and behavior, regardless of the child’s diagnosis. It also reduces the need for medication and renders other treatments more effective.”
Danielle’s note: I offer this recommendation with many caveats, so read on:
Author Victoria Dunckley wants to claim that all screen time is dangerous, and although she has some science to back her up, most of it is from tiny studies with tiny populations and who knows what funding or controls. Although I agree that extended screen time can dysregulate all of us to some degree, Dunckley really doesn’t want to talk about all of the ways that screens (and the apps running on them) are literal lifesavers for a lot of disabled folks.
I barely functioned for years because I couldn’t keep track of a physical calendar, to do list, phone numbers, addresses. Now I have a smart phone, and I’m not going to claim that it’s good for me in the sense that good food and exercise are good for me, but I also couldn’t be a person in the world with friends and a marriage and children who are fed and clothed and well-loved without that phone.
If you are struggling with your family’s screen time, or considering that screens are causing your kids some behavioral issues, read this book, get some ideas, and figure out how to reduce or remove screen time from your day-to-day, whether you use Dunckley’s exact plan or not. I do believe that some people, and especially kids, are much more prone to screen addiction and screen-related behavioral issues than others. But is the science behind this overwhelmingly convincing? No. And Dunckley’s personal experience, while very valuable, is with an at-risk population with comorbidities, and so can’t translate to a general population.
I don’t feel like this is a very balanced approach, nor honestly particularly helpful in a society (where educational systems and work environments and even mall directories) depend on screens. But if you’re struggling and other approaches haven’t worked, you might be exactly the audience for this book.
6) How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
“Here is the bestselling book that will give you the know-how you need to be effective with your children. Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals around the world, the down–to–earth, respectful approach of Faber and Mazlish makes relationships with children of all ages less stressful and more rewarding.”
Danielle’s note: This book has been around for almost 40 years, and there’s a reason that this is a classic! This is a general book that’s not specifically for neurodivergent families, but it has some great tips for working with children who are demand-avoidant, anxious, or rigid. I highly recommend this book to all parents, along with Faber’s other classic book, Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too (buy on Amazon | Bookshop), if you have more than one child.
7) Scatterbrain: How the Mind’s Mistakes Make Humans Creative, Innovative and Successful by Henning Beck
“Remember that time you screwed up simple math or forgot the name of your favorite song? What if someone told you that such embarrassing ‘brain farts’ are actually secret weapons, proof of your superiority to computers and AI?
In Scatterbrain, we learn that boredom awakens the muse, distractions spark creativity, and misjudging time creates valuable memories, among other benefits of our faulty minds. Throughout, award-winning neuroscientist Henning Beck’s hilarious asides and brain-boosting advice make for delightful reading of the most cutting-edge neuroscience our brains will (maybe never) remember.”
Danielle’s note: Many parents struggle with shame around their neurodivergent traits, and can inadvertently shame their children for those traits as well. It can be easy to become caught up in all the things we can’t do, and all the ways we fail. But many of the executive functioning challenges ADHD folks have are just magnified versions of normal brain functioning, not failures at all. I love Scatterbrain for being an accessible, easy-to-understand explainer for why our brains do the things they do. It’s a reframe that we all need to hear sometimes.
8) You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo
“There is much literature about children with Attention Deficit Disorder. This work focuses on the experience of adults with the disorder, combining practical information and moral support. It explains the diagnostic process and distinguishes ADD symptoms from normal lapses in memory, lack of concentrations, and impulse behavior, and addresses: how to achieve balance by analyzing one’s strengths and weaknesses; how to get along in groups, at work, and intimate and family relationships – including how to decrease discord and chaos; mechanical aides and methods for getting organized and improving memory; and professional help, including medication and therapy.”
Danielle’s note: If you’re new here, you may not know that I was identified with autism as an adult, after my first child was diagnosed. Many, many neurodivergent adults are learning their identities quite late in life, after a child, friend, or family member is diagnosed. This book is a classic for explaining what ADHD is and what it isn’t, and it offers a lot of ideas around treatment options that are helpful for adults as well as children. Like Scatterbrain above, it also offers a much-needed reframe; your “failures” are not happening because you’re not trying hard enough! You just don’t have the tools you need for success . . . yet.
9) The Out-Of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Kranowitz
“The Out-of-Sync Child broke new ground by identifying Sensory Processing Disorder, a common but frequently misdiagnosed problem in which the central nervous system misinterprets messages from the senses. This newly revised edition features additional information from recent research on vision and hearing deficits, motor skill problems, nutrition and picky eaters, ADHA, autism, and other related disorders.”
Danielle’s note: Sensory processing disorder, aka sensory integration disorder, sensory overwhelm, or sensory overload, commonly co-occurs with ADHD, ADD, autism, and several other neurodivergent profiles. If you ADHD-er is easily overwhelmed by lights, sounds, or touch, is excessively clumsy, has trouble eating, or stims constantly (ADHD-ers stim too!), they may be dealing with sensory challenges. Read this book and Sensational Kids below, and get an occupational therapist involved as soon as you can. We also have a short explainer on SPD here, with further resources for adults.
Although I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, the same author has also written The Out-Of-Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder, and several friends have reported enjoying it. Buy on Bookshop or Amazon.
10) Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Lucy Jane Miller
“Imagine, for a moment, that you are a parent of a child with no visible disability, but whose experiences of everyday life present constant challenges. What may be typical activities for most people-eating, dressing, making friends, taking a spelling test, responding to a hug-are a struggle, often resulting in social, emotional, and academic problems.
This is the bewildering and largely uncharted world of Sensory Processing Disorder-a complex brain disorder affecting one in twenty children. Dr. Lucy Miller, the best-known SPD researcher in the world, is that voice: warm, clear, and upbeat, Dr. Miller identifies the disorder and its four major subtypes, provides insight into assessment and diagnosis, and suggests treatment options and strategies, including the importance of occupational therapy and parental involvement.”
Danielle’s note: Along with The Out-of-Sync-Child above, this is THE recommended book for parents supporting a child with sensory processing challenges, and if you have an ADHD-er, you probably also have a child with sensory processing challenges.
What books would you recommend to parents who want to understand a child with ADHD? Let me know in the comments below!