Q. My child’s teacher has told me that she thinks my child has ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Is there anything I can do other than medication? Malinda – Phoenix
A. One of the biggest concerns with a diagnosis of ADHD is lack of attention or ability to focus and “be still.” Having had a child who climbed through the Mount Everest of an autistic diagnosis then subsequent ADD/ADHD diagnosis, I know what it “looks like” to have a child who is unable to pay attention in class. However, this same child can attend to the most mundane and minutia of detail, when interested. He memorized details about the planets, distances from the sun and now has moved onto other interesting things such as sports. He’s a walking sports trivia manual; I seriously doubt anyone knows more than he does about the topic. Essentially, “attention” is relative. Watch any child with ADD/ADHD nail a video game with the attention of a chess champ in a sudden death game. But the ability of your child to direct his focus to the task at hand can be disruptive for learning.
In addition to lack of attention at school, a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD includes hyperactivity, impulsiveness, emotional instability, an inability to finish tasks, poor listening skills, speech and hearing disorders and EEG (electroencephalogram) irregularities.
I have reviewed more than 90 studies that confirm that dietary changes can positively affect the behaviors, increase attention and sleep of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Research indicates that 79% of hyperactive children showed improvements when sugar and artificial colors and flavors were removed from their diet. The research found 48 different foods to be allergy-positive which produced medical symptoms. Based on research, here are some facts about children’s nutrition:
• Nine out of ten children are addicted to sugar and refined flour by age 4.
• Only 1 of 10 children has the necessary gestational and early childhood nutrition (and studies show that adequate nutrition can improve IQ scores by 20 points).
• Food additives (which are the main ingredient in many foods children eat) are linked to hyperactivity.
• Food sensitivities and allergies cause mood swings, inattention, and a host of other symptoms that mimic ADD/ADHD and are difficult to diagnose as they are sporadic and can last for moments to days.
• The toxins our children are exposed to in a single day supersede anything our parents or grandparents were exposed to—perhaps in a lifetime.
In addition to dietary changes, there are many natural supplements that support the body and the brain to increase focus and attention. I used many with my own child with great success. Also, it is important to rule out any allergies that might be affecting your child’s ability to focus and “stay still.”
Another important consideration is to ensure your child is getting adequate water. Research shows that chronic dehydration can cause a shriveling up of brain matter. This can certainly contribute to aberrant behavior. Research also indicates chemical toxicity can be a factor in ADHD.
Lastly, there are some great brainy exercises to do to help your child focus. Brain Gym (www.braingym.org) can be very effective tools for helping your child learn self-regulation.
Consult your doctor on additional options. Medication does have its place in the treatment of ADHD but there are many other things to look at before making this choice.
Lisa Smith, Ph.D has authored 8 books, speaks around the country about Parenting On Purpose and is available for individual consultation. You can check out her website at monsterproofyourchild.com or email her at Lisa@monsterproofyourchild.com.