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SHADES OF TRAUMA, by Jane Uttley Adelizzi, Ph.D.

Review: SHADES OF TRAUMA, by Jane Uttley Adelizzi, Ph.D. Published by Jones River Press, Plymouth MA.

Patricia O. Quinn, MD – Having worked with girls and women with AD/HD for quite some time now, I was very excited to discover this book on my desk. I went home and devoured it the first evening. This brief, powerful book deals with the shades of trauma as they exist in the everyday lives of girls and women and describes how traumas large and small can step in the way of ordinary getting about in school, home, friendships and work. Presented as a collection of stories drawn from the life experiences of many women who share their thoughts, insights, and hope about surviving psychological trauma, Dr Adelizzi illustrates how psychological traumatic events affect learning and functioning in women with LD/ADD.

Dr. Adelizzi defines classroom trauma as … “a significantly unpleasant (or horrific) external event or stressor that occurs within the confines of an educational environment (e.g., a traditional or non-traditional classroom, a small group, or a one-to-one tutorial). This type of trauma that is psychological traumas, may leave the student with diminished self-esteem, and in a state of fear, humiliation, or learned helplessness to the degrees where similar situation(s) will be avoided by the student in the future (page ix).”

Most traumas, as described by Dr. Adelizzi, seem to not only affect daily functioning, but also how the girls and women who suffer them cope with learning, especially within a classroom environment. She further points out that the classroom in particular presents an already traumatized individual with many challenges:

  1. Just getting out of bed in the morning to go to school becomes the symbolic first step toward the feared experience.
  2. Socially, if a student experiences difficulty in the classroom she may have lost the support and friendship necessary to survive and feel a sense of belonging.
  3. She must still face the authority figure in the classroom, whom she may perceive to be the individual to fear; it is the authority figure that can make or break a learning experience. “I never felt good enough to go to college. I thought I was stupid.” “Walking in the class and having my desk dumped is like the most vivid memory.” “Being locked out of the room weekly and sent to this other room to write was continually traumatic.” “I remember I never wanted to go outside for recess.” “I have to work extra hard to catch up, I can take the same test as my friend, and she will get a better grade. I have tutors and I still have the same trouble in school. That is trauma.” “I felt a lot of sadness, a lot of shame.”

Dr Adelizzi reports that these victims of classroom trauma go to great lengths to avoid similar situations; just as do victims of other shades of trauma, and that ultimately these symptoms impair learning and functioning.

This all raises a very interesting question: Are the diagnoses of posttraumatic stress disorder, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder the result of the trauma histories, or the other way around?

For women with AD/HD who have suffered in the classroom or socially because of their diagnosis, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It may open doors and guide you down paths that lead out of the darkness.

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