It’s normal for children to occasionally forget their homework, daydream during class, act without thinking, or get fidgety at the dinner table. We all know kids who can’t sit still, who never seem to listen, who don’t follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them, or who blurt out inappropriate comments at inappropriate times. Sometimes these children are labeled as troublemakers, or criticized for being lazy, undisciplined, stubborn or “living in a world of their own”. Sometimes these children are functioning on a plane far beyond their grade level and their advanced intelligence has not yet been uncovered. However, sometimes they may also have ADD or ADHD.
Inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can be signs of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADD/HD can lead to problems at home and school, and affect your child’s ability to learn and get along with others. So it’s important to know what the signs and symptoms are and get help if you think you spot them in your child.
A diagnosis of ADD/HD should not be made quickly, lightly or without professional assistance. However, because there is no cure, per se, the more quickly you begin to manage the condition and work with your child, the more likely a child will progress into adulthood with a good understanding and grip on his/her condition.
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines ADD and ADHD in the following manner:
Attention Deficit Disorder (also known as ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are terms used to describe patterns of behaviour that appear most often in school-aged children. Children with these disorders are inattentive, overly impulsive and, in the case of ADHD, hyperactive. They have difficulty sitting still, attending to one thing for a long period of time, and may seem overactive.
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are disorders that interfere with the learning process because they reduce the child’s ability to pay attention. It is important to understand that ADD and ADHD are not disabilities in the learning process, although they may be present in addition to a learning disability. A learning disability is a neurological condition that affects the child’s ability to learn.
ADD and ADHD are difficult to diagnose because they affect all areas of a child’s life: family, school, friendships, team sports and work. 1
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
ADHD is simply ADD with the added element of hyperactivity (can’t sit still, running around, uncontrolled behavior, incomprehensible method and level of activity).
GETTING THE DIAGNOSIS
Because this is a lifelong diagnosis, it is important to work with professionals you trust when investigating the possibility that your child has ADD/HD. On reflection, this might sound like an obvious statement however sometimes well-meaning professionals will want to make things happen quickly for your child and that isn’t always the best option.
Take time to assemble a team of professionals whose opinions you respect (doctors, psychologists, teachers, counselors, faith-based professionals, etc.) and who will put your child’s best interests first. Certainly ask for their credentials and history but don’t ignore your feelings about a professional just to go with someone who is “more qualified” or less expensive. Pick the one you trust with your child.
And remember that you, as a parent, know your child best. Don’t be afraid to question the conclusion of a professional and get a second, and even a third, opinion. But also ask yourself why you are questioning the conclusion. It is more than natural for a parent to disbelieve that their child is anything less than healthy and happy. This whole process should be about getting your child the most appropriate and correct type of help they need.
|Set up a support network of individuals and organizations who are willing to be available to you at a moment’s notice. Choose from family, friends, religious affiliations and professionals.|
Your child may need an incredible amount of support during this process, but it’s not all about the child. Moving through the process of a diagnosis can be one of the most strenuous things a couple will go through in their married life. Make sure that you, as a couple, support each other through talking things over (no arguing please), scheduling “down time” together and maybe even some time apart to collect your thoughts and feelings. Set up a reliable support network. Include people who are willing to be contacted at any time just for a chat or to take your other children when/if necessary to give you a break or attend appointments. The best thing you can do for your child/children is to stay healthy, as a person and as a couple, so you can be there for everyone else.
CONDITIONS THAT CAN MIMIC ADD/HD
If your child has recently experienced a traumatic event and shows symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity, this could be situational behavior related to the event. This could indicate emotional problems that need to be addressed through individual and family therapy. Children with unidentified learning disabilities (LDs) may be frustrated in school and act out as a defense against feeling he or she can’t keep up with peers. If there are alcohol or drug problems in the home, the child may act in a way that seems to indicate ADHD; however, they are simply reacting to an unhealthy environment. This is also the case if the child is in an abusive home (physical or emotional abuse can lead to this coping behavior). Anxiety and depression often express themselves differently in teens. They may appear disruptive, hostile, or agitated, which could lead to an incorrect diagnosis of ADHD.
|Learning disabilities, ear infections, depression or anxiety can all be factors that could interfere with a child’s ability to focus. These should be ruled out before arriving at a diagnosis of ADHD.|
Other factors that can cause symptoms that might seem like those of ADHD are mild or moderate seizures or inner ear infection. A child with asthma or allergies may have difficulty with breathing, which could undermine the ability to concentrate. Diabetes and hypoglycemia can also cause a child to appear distracted, so these should be ruled out as well. Vision or hearing problems can cause a child to have trouble paying attention. Caffeine can over stimulate a child.
Remember that at certain ages it is perfectly normal for children to be very active and even impulsive. Preschool children and even teens go through phases where their behavior might seem excessively hyperactive or disorganized. A diagnosis of ADHD in your child should only be made by a mental health professional that specializes in treating children and teens, and should be based on a persistent pattern of problematic behavior over time. 2
ADULTS AND ADD/HD
Until about the last decade, it was believed that ADD was a disorder limited to childhood that would disappear in adolescence. Research and clinical work have proven otherwise. It is now known that many individual’s symptoms continue into adulthood and create significant problems in adult life. It frequently creates difficulties in managing the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of everyday life, such as work, school, marriage, running a household, parenting and interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, perhaps millions of American adults have ADD and have not been identified or treated successfully.
Symptoms and problems are often unique and may vary in type, number and intensity from person to person. ADD is complex and no two individuals are exactly alike.
Some indicators that can be suggestive of ADD:
- Easily distracted; forgetful; daydreaming
- Procrastination; inability to complete things
- Disorganization; messiness; clutter
- Difficulty with making decisions
- Behavioral or verbal impulsiveness
- Difficulty with expressing thoughts in speech or in writing
- Significant periods of depression; low self-esteem
- A sense of failure; not living up to one’s potential
- A sense of being different, unconventional
- A sense of internal restlessness; constantly active
- Difficulty with falling asleep or waking up alert
- Very sensitive to being told to do something, teasing, criticism, rejection or anger
- A sense that your mind is always active; thoughts jumping from one topic to the next
- Easily bored; intense need for excitement
- Difficulty with following rules
- Very impatient; low frustration tolerance
- Emotionally sensitive; easily upset, depressed, hurt or angered
- Difficulty with personal or work relationships
- Frequently late or rushed
- Difficulty in estimating how much time something will take
- Impulsive spending and money management problems
- Personal or family history of substance abuse, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty with reading comprehension or retention
- Frequently changing jobs, interests or activities
- Frequently losing or misplacing things
- Perfectionist tendencies
- Strong need to control or have things your way 3
It bears repeating that a diagnosis, even in an adult, must be made by a professional after an exhaustive and comprehensive evaluation to rule out co-existing conditions.
THE NATURAL APPROACH TO ADD/HD
Conventional treatments, including prescription stimulants and amphetamines such as Ritalin and Dexedrine, have many side effects. Naturopathic medicine offers excellent treatment alternatives for children with ADD/ADHD.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
An unbalanced body creates mental and emotional imbalance. For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine has restored harmony to body and mind, balancing yin and yang using foods, herbs and therapies such as acupuncture.
Naturopathic doctors often treat ADD/HD with homeopathic medicine, which uses tiny doses of natural substances to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanism. The right homeopathic treatments can relieve the symptoms of ADD/HD by balancing your child’s unique characteristics, tendencies and personality traits.
Diet and Nutrition
Good nutrition is crucial for health, especially for growing children. Many kids are sensitive to food additives such as BHA, BHT, salicylates, artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives. Also, children are more likely to suffer from ADD/ADHD if their diets are high in caffeine (including cola drinks), refined carbohydrates (including white bread, soda pop, chips, chocolate bars and candy) and trans fat (including margarine, shortening, fast food and convenience foods made with hydrogenated oil). Many of our children’s favorite foods are high in sugar, trans fat, caffeine and calories and contain no nutritional value. Even foods that are usually considered healthy, such as peanut butter, often contain trans fat-rich hydrogenated oil. Read labels carefully to ensure your child is eating healthy foods that are low in sugar and hydrogenated oil.
ADHD/ADD also occurs more frequently in children whose diets are low in omega-3 fatty acids, found abundantly in walnuts, fish and freshly ground flaxseed. The disorder may also occur in children with undiagnosed sensitivities to foods such as wheat gluten or dairy. To improve and maintain your children’s health, reduce their intake of sugar and trans fat, serve more fresh fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, fish and whole grains, and try eliminating foods they may be sensitive to.
How do you know what they’re sensitive to? Try keeping a food journal for two weeks listing what your child eats and any out-of-the-ordinary behavioral issues (hyperactivity, anger, insomnia) that might crop up afterwards.
Appropriate supplements for a child suffering from ADD/ADHD may include:
- Calcium and magnesium ~ calms the nervous system
- B-complex ~ helps relax a stressed nervous system and improves mental functioning and concentration.
- Salmon oil ~ contains omega-3 fatty acids that strengthen cognitive function in the brain
- L-Tyrosine ~ an amino acid that boosts mood-balancing hormones in the body and brain
RxOmega-3 Factors is a pharmaceutical grade liquid fish oil concentrate
providing one of the highest potencies of EPA and DHA available. Stringent
quality control standards ensure this highly purified fish oil concentrate is free
from toxic environmental contaminants and heavy metals like mercury.
RxOmega-3 Factors liquid oil has a pleasant orange flavor and is also available
in softgel capsules.
This is a highly concentrated form of omega-3 fatty acids, free from lipid peroxides, heavy metals, environmental contaminants and other harmful compounds. Each capsule contains 1065 mg of marine lipid concentrate, made up of anchovy, sardine and mackerel. The oil is tested using standards and methods that conform to NHPD (Natural Health Product Directorate) regulations and guidelines.
Herbal medicines have long been used to relax the nervous system, relieve stress and calm the mind. Herbs that relieve ADD/ADHD include chamomile, skulcap, oat straw, chamomile, catnip, lemon balm, hawthorn berry, gotu kolu, valerian and rosemary. Herbal medicine should always be administered under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor.4
Always consult your family medical professional about possible contraindications before beginning alternative therapies, especially with your child. Your family medical professional will counsel you on any existing health concerns or drug interactions that could result. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to keep all professionals treating your child’s, or your, ADD/HD in the same loop.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
1. Canadian Mental Health Association
2. 4 ADHD – Information and Resources for Parents of Children
3. Akron General Health System
4. The Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic
– Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine