What Is ADHD And How Is It Treated? by Annette J Dunlea
Published In The Carrigdhoun Newspaper 24th Nov 2012 p.18
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a treatable neurobiological condition, resulting in difficulties with impulsiveness, attention span and often, but not always, hyperactivity. It is estimated to affect between 3 and 5% of children.While many children have lots of energy and can find it hard to concentrate, a child with ADHD will display this behaviour constantly and the problem is much more extreme. As a result they may find it difficult to fit in at school. The problem may continue into adulthood if a child with ADHD does not get the help they need. Onset of ADHD may be from as young as 18 months; however the condition is often not noticeable until around age 5, when the child starts primary school.Genetic factors are thought to be involved as ADHD tends to run in families. Head trauma or complications at birth resulting in injury to the brain have also been implicated in the development of ADHD; however these are only thought to be factors in a few cases. Cigarette smoke and alcohol abuse during pregnancy may also be linked to development of ADHD in the child. Food allergies, excess sugar, poor home life and watching too much TV are not thought to be factors in the development of ADHD. The following behaviours are characteristic of ADHD and usually occur before the age of seven.Fidgeting,restlessness,difficulty remaining seated when asked to do so,easily distracted,difficulty awaiting turn in games or group situations,often blurts out answers to questions,difficulty following instructions,difficulty sustaining attention,often shifts from one incomplete activity to another,difficulty playing quietly,often talks excessively,often interrupts or intrudes on others,does not seem to listen frequently,loses things alot and engages in physically dangerous activities without considering the consequences.ADHD is a disorder that can co-exist to a greater or lesser degree, with any or other disorders such as dyslexia, autism, learning disorder, dyspraxia, conduct disorder, oppositional defiance disorder.ADHD would seem to be more prevalent among boys than girls. Girls would more often be diagnosed as having ADD.A great support group is available to Cork people.Cork’s local support group is at HADD Child & Family Support Group (Cork) 021-4515032 and there are a number around the country.
Treatments for it include: diagnosis/early Intervention,Educate child and family,behaviour therapy,medical therapy,educational interventions,multimodal therapy,complimentary therapies and support Group.Medication is only a part of the programme for children with ADHD. Getting support for you as a parent through a support group, books, with teaching staff and carers are all part of making life easier for the family and child with ADHD. Other specialists include occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, behavioural management therapists and educational psychologists.Medication is only a part of the programme for children with ADHD. Getting support for you as a parent through a support group, books, with teaching staff and carers are all part of making life easier for the family and child with ADHD. Other specialists include Occupational Therapists, Clinical Psychologists, Behavioural Management therapists and Educational Psychologists.Early diagnosis and treatment has a major psychological, social and educational impact – it can help to spare your child the distress of inappropriate social skills and deflated confidence.There is no single, simple treatment. Instead, treatment comprises a combination of medication (mainly psychostimulants and antidepressants), parent training, child and parent counselling and a special education environment.Some parents worry that medication may sedate their children or make them feel ‘dopey’. However when used correctly, this should not happen. In fact, it will often make children more focused and alert. Medication may not help in a small number of cases.If your child does experience negative side effects, this may be because the medication itself does not suit them, the dosage is wrong or the interval between doses is wrong.Drug-free interventions that have been shown to be effective include educational interventions, behaviour modification, parent training and anger management.
The parents should: accept that your child may always be intrinsically active and energetic. You may never eliminate your child’s hyperactivity but you can bring it under reasonable control.Provide an outlet, such as sport, for your child’s excess energy. In bad weather try to provide a room where he/she can play with minimal restrictions and supervision. Encourage your child to play with one toy at a time. Try not to encourage hyperactive behaviour, for example, chasing games or other noisy play.Organise your home. Household routines help hyperactive children to accept order. Maintain regular times for wake-up, meals, snacks, naps and bed Try not to let your child become exhausted, as this will affect their self-control and the hyperactivity may become worse.Initially you may want to avoid places where hyperactivity would be inappropriate and embarrassing (such as churches or restaurants). Your child can gradually be introduced to these situations when they develop their self-control.Remain firm and be consistent. Children with ADHD are difficult to manage. Enforce a few clear, consistent, important rules and add other rules at your child’s pace.Aggressive behaviour should not be accepted, but avoid unattainable rules, for example, don’t expect your child to keep his/her hands and feet still.Don’t use physical punishment, as this will suggest to your child that physically aggressive behaviour is acceptable. Instead try to use a neutral tone of voice and isolate them in a chair or time-out room if a show of disapproval doesn’t work. The time-out should last about one minute per year of your child’s age.Consistently encourage and praise attentive behaviour at home. Try to set aside several brief periods each day to teach your child listening skills by reading to them. Teach your child to play with building blocks and progress to puzzles and card or dice games. Matching pictures is an excellent way to build your child’s memory and concentration span. When your child becomes restless, stop and return for another session later.Be your child’s advocate. Ensure that relatives, teachers and peers understand the disorder and don’t label your child as ‘bad’. Promote the attitude that your child is a good child with excess energy. If your child always feels loved and accepted within the family, their self-esteem will survive.Medication can be helpful. Some stimulant drugs can improve a child’s ability to concentrate, but you must discuss the use of drugs with your doctor. Medication without special education and home management programmes will have no long-term benefit.Make some time for yourself. Periodic breaks and evenings out can provide much-needed breaks and help you to tolerate hyperactive behaviour.
Foods to avoid are : All fizzy drinks including tonic water,red drinks,apples and apple juice,anything with sugar in it (cereals, biscuits, cakes, chocolates),alcohol (especially beers, red wine and spirits, gin is about the only clean alcohol),processed foods – i.e. most freezer food, burgers, pizza etc this includes breakfast cereals and bread,Chewing gum,Coffee,Cocoa Wheat and Dairy.Good foods include:all nuts especially walnuts – these are good for balancing the omega 3 oils proven to help with ADD /ADHD,All fruit and vegetables (best eaten raw),All meat especially fish (avoid processed meats like chicken nuggets,sausages, rashers or sliced meat from the deli), Coconut fat (this is supposed to be the best to cook with),Oregano, cinnamon and other spices (good for balancing the bacteria),Live yogurts (these have a reduced load of lactose),Garlic,Butter (avoid margarine) and Olive oil.People with ADD/ADHD often have sugar imbalances too and this can lead to them feeling ‘starving’ and then exhausted’. To combat this, sugary foods and processed carbohydrates (white bread, breakfast cereals, white rice and white pasta) need to be removed or reduced to a minimum.The person will need to eat little and often and each time they eat they must include a small bit of protein e.g. a few nuts, a piece of cheese, some meat or beans.Starting the day with a big bowl of porridge made on water with fruit,nuts, cinnamon and seeds mixed in is a good way to balance out the blood.Rice cakes are a moderately good introduction to the diet, with nut butter (sugar free) or cheese can do for snacks. Rye bread can be lovely toasted with butter and marmite.Experiment, find out what foods are safe and give them all a go.Supplements which might be beneficial include:Digestive Enzymes,Fish oils (Eskimo oils do a good one),B-Complex especially B3 and B6,Magnesium (one study showed that supplementing with B6 and Magnesium was 10 times as affective as Ritalin!) REF , Holford, P, Optimum Nutrition for the Mind,Probiotics e g Bifidus and Acidophilus (Udo do a good one),Slippery Elm,Milk Thistle (only when there is no constipation).Keep in mind that it takes time and patience to get the diet right but it can be well worth it. Once the gut heals and the bacteria are right, it’s possible to ease up on some of the restrictions.
It takes from one year to three years for parents to access a consultant to get the much needed diagnosis.If you have the money get a private assessment to speed up a diagnosis and help.Then they give an opinon and then at least the parent knows the problem and can start treating it.It makes them aware of what the child can and cannot do.By then the kids have often being suspended many times in schools, beat up their friends and parents.Parents are at breaking point by the time the child gets a consultant appointement for evaluation.It is a tough life for both the child and parent.Often, the kids are trying to do the right thing, but their brains will not allow them to.Society needs to be better informed and tolerant.More than six in 10 parents of children with Attention Hyperactivity Deficit Disorder (ADHD) feel the condition isn’t properly recognised by society.There’s a lot of stigma associated with ADHD.60,000 Irish children suffer from this condition.If you think your child suffers from ADHD speak to their teacher and ask him to monitor the child at school.I would advise you speak to your family doctor who may then refer them on to a child psychiatrist.Alternatively, the child may be referred to NEPS, the National Educational Psychological Service. This is a free psychological service available to primary schools.Greater education is needed among educators especially secondary school teachers as they have more teachers for less time and they are more exam driven.it is important to remember that the child have a biologically-based condition that disrupts self-regulation. Simply applying more discipline, without treating the ADHD,doesn’t work.People fail to realize it is a lifelong condition however the profile of the condition changes throughout the lifespan.