March 03, 1997 12:00 PM

by Ann Colin

Shortly before their son’s third birthday, Ann Colin, a Manhattan writer and editor, and her husband, magazine editor Peter Herbst, began to suspect that Willie was not just a “normally” difficult child. He was subject to uncontrollable fits of rage during which his worried parents were unable to comfort or even reach him.

After Willie was asked to leave his preschool because of behavioral problems, Colin, her husband and son began a series of bewildering and occasionally terrifying visits to psychologists and neurologists before Willie was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, a syndrome now believed to affect an alarmingly high number (from 3 to 9 percent) of school-age children.

Written as a journal, Willie begins with its young hero’s birth and ends on a hopeful note; at 5, he seems to have surmounted many of his problems, thanks to medication, therapy—and a heavy infusion of patience. This straightforward account provides valuable information for families coping with ADD. It may fuel the controversy surrounding this syndrome. Though Willie’s treatment was clearly successful, some claim that the ADD diagnosis is responsible for the overmedication—and pacification—of too many children, mostly boys.

Colin skillfully conveys the sense of isolation, the uncertainty and the dizzying pressures that afflict so many middle-class parents as they struggle to find the way to do what’s right for their children. (Viking, $22.95)

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