Attention Dificit Hyperactivity Disorder, usually referred to as ADHD, has received quite a bit of attention in the media of late. I was told that Noo, at the age of about 5 or 6, most probably “suffered” from ADHD and that the school system would insist that he be put onto medication before he started Grade 1. This “diagnosis” was given by his, then, nursery school teacher and I was mortified that, instead of finding an alternative to his disruptive behaviour in class (he was finishing his classwork before his peers and would get bored and cause chaos), she practically insisted I speak to our doctor have him prescribe medication. Our story isn’t unique, I’ve heard of conversations with teachers about this from others and as a result, have done extensive research on the subject.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
Hyperactivity means a person seems to move about constantly, including situations in which it is not appropriate when it is not appropriate, excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.
Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.
What are the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Symptoms of inattention in children:
Doesn’t pay attention to details
Makes careless mistakes
Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
Appears not to listen when spoken to
Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
Symptoms of hyperactivity in children:
Constantly fidgets and squirms
Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”
Symptoms of impulsivity in children:
Acts without thinking
Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
Can’t wait for his or her turn in line or in games
Says the wrong thing at the wrong time
Often interrupts others
Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem
How is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnosed?
In general, a child shouldn’t receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder unless the core symptoms of ADHD start early in life — before age 12 — and create significant problems at home and at school on an ongoing basis.
There’s no specific test for ADHD, but making a diagnosis will likely include:
Medical exam, to help rule out other possible causes of symptoms
Information gathering, such as any current medical issues, personal and family medical history, and school records
Interviews or questionnaires for family members, your child’s teachers or other people who know your child well, such as baby sitters and coaches
ADHD criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association
ADHD rating scales to help collect and evaluate information about your child
Diagnosing ADHD in young children
Although signs of ADHD can sometimes appear in preschoolers or even younger children, diagnosing the disorder in very young children is difficult. That’s because developmental problems such as language delays can be mistaken for ADHD.
So children preschool age or younger suspected of having ADHD are more likely to need evaluation by a specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, speech pathologist, or ons/adhd/diagnosis-treatment/diagnosis/dxc-20196188>Source
How is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder treated?
Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has two important components — psychotherapy interventions (for both the child and the parents; or the adult with ADHD) and medications. There is a significant amount of research demonstrating that medication alone won’t help address all of a patient’s attention and hyperactivity issues. So while medication may help with some immediate relief from some of the symptoms, the person with attention deficit disorder still often needs to learn the skills needed to be successful while living with the disorder.
This treatment article is divided into two major sections — medication treatments for ADHD are covered in the rest of this article, while psychotherapy and other treatments for ADHD are covered in the next section.
In the past, ADHD treatment has typically focused on medications. The specific class of medication most commonly prescribed for ADHD is stimulants. These stimulant medications — like Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Adderall (an amphetamine) — are commonly prescribed, well-tolerated, act quickly (usually soon after a person takes them), and in most people, have few side effects. These medications also have a robust research base supporting their effectiveness in treatment of attention deficit disorder.
Stimulant drugs are often beneficial in curbing hyperactivity and impulsivity, and helping the individual to focus, work, and learn. Sometimes the drugs will also help with coordination problems which may hinder sports and handwriting.
Under medical supervision, these stimulant drugs are quite safe and do not make the child feel “high”, although they may feel slightly different. To date, there is not convincing evidence that children risk becoming addicted to these drugs, when used for ADHD. In fact, a study at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that substance abuse rates were lower among teenagers with ADHD who stayed on their medication than those who stopped.
6 Natural Remedies for ADHD
1. Forgo food colorings and preservatives
Alternative treatments may help manage some symptoms associated with ADHD, including:
difficulty paying attention
The Mayo Clinic notes that certain food colorings and preservatives may increase hyperactive behavior in some children. Avoid foods with these colorings and preservatives:
sodium benzoate, which is commonly found in carbonated beverages, salad dressings, and fruit juice products
FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow), which can be found in breadcrumbs, cereal, candy, icing, and soft drinks
D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow), which can be found in juices, sorbets, and smoked haddock
FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine), which can be found in foods like pickles, cereal, granola bars, and yogurt
FD&C Red No. 40 (allura red), which can be found in soft drinks, children’s medications, gelatin desserts, and ice cream
2. Avoid potential allergens
Diets that restrict possible allergens may help improve behavior in some children with ADHD.
It’s best to check with an allergy doctor if you suspect that your child has allergies. But you can experiment by avoiding these foods:
chemical additives/preservatives such as BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), which are often used to keep the oil in a product from going bad and can be found in processed food items such as potato chips, chewing gum, dry cake mixes, cereal, butter, and instant mashed potatoes
milk and eggs
foods containing salicylates, including berries, chili powder, apples and cider, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, and tomatoes (salicylates are chemicals occurring naturally in plants and are the major ingredient in many pain medications)
3. Try EEG biofeedback
Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback is a type of neurotherapy that measures brain waves. A 2011 study suggested that EEG training was a promising treatment for ADHD.
A child may play a special video game during a typical session. They’ll be given a task to concentrate on, such as “keep the plane flying.” The plane will start to dive or the screen will go dark if they’re distracted. The game teaches the child new focusing techniques over time. Eventually, the child will begin to identify and correct their symptoms.
4. Consider a yoga or tai chi class
Some small studies indicate that yoga may be helpful for people with ADHD. Research published in 2013 reported significant improvements in hyperactivity, anxiety, and social problems in boys with ADHD who practiced yoga regularly.
Some early studies suggest that tai chi also may help improve ADHD symptoms. Researchers found that teenagers with ADHD who practiced tai chi weren’t as anxious or hyperactive. They also daydreamed less and displayed fewer inappropriate emotions when they participated in tai chi classes twice a week for five weeks.
5. Spending time outside
Spending time outside may benefit children with ADHD. There is strong evidence that spending even 20 minutes outside can benefit them by improving their concentration. Greenery and nature settings are the most beneficial.
A 2011 study, and several studies before it, supports the claim that regular exposure to outdoors and green space is a safe and natural treatment that can be used to help people with ADHD.
6. Behavioral or parental therapy
For children with more severe cases of ADHD, behavioral therapy can prove beneficial. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that behavioral therapy should be the first step in treating ADHD in young children.
Sometimes called behavioral modification, this approach works on resolving specific problematic behaviors and offers solutions to help prevent them. This can also involve setting up goals and rules for the child. Because behavioral therapy and medication are most effective when used together, it can be a powerful aid in helping your child.
Parental therapy can help provide parents with the tools they need to help their child with ADHD succeed. Equipping parents with techniques and strategies for how to work around behavioral problems can help both the parent and the child in the long term.
Conditions that resemble Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
There are many biological, physiological, emotional, and medical conditions that may cause symptoms similar to those ascribed to ADHD. Here are just a few of the issues that might be influencing ADHD-like behavior.
3. Learning Disabilities
4. Hyper- or Hypothyroidism
5. Hearing and Vision Issues
6. Lead Poisoning
8. Heart Disease
10. Bipolar Disorder
11. Spinal Problems
12. Toxin Overload
13. Metabolic Disorders
14. Sleeping Issues
17. Taking Prescription Medications
18. Brain Disorders
19. Intestinal Imbalance
20. Lack of Exercise
If you, or someone you know, suffers from depression, or any other mental health issues, and needs help, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. On this website you will find comprehensive mental health information and resources to help you, a family member or loved one.
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