Thursday, September 18, 2014

Helping Your Child Out of an ADD/ADHD Diagnosis

The first thing to understand about ADHD is that it is listed in the American Psychological Association's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" as a neurodevelopmental disorder.  To be diagnosed with it, you must be under 12 years of age and have at least 6 of the 9 inattentive and/or hyperactive symptoms for at least 6 months to a degree that is judged to be inconsistent with an individual's developmental level.  If over 17 years of age, you most only have 5 of them, because it is generally recognized that ADHD symptoms subside with age. 

The 9 inattentive symptoms are:
  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or during other activities (e.g. overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish school work, chores, or duties in the work place (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).
  • Often avoids or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g. schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses and mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (e.g., for older adolescents and adults may include unrelated thoughts).
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
The 9 hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are:
  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate (e.g., in adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly;
  • Is often "on the go" acting as if "driven by a motor" (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed (e.g., completes people's sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations, games, or activities. may start using other people's things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing).

I don't know about you, but I don't know a single child that doesn't have some of these characteristics.  It is my opinion that the view that these characteristics are in some way indicative of a disorder is a product of our modern education system as well as the unreasonable expectations that adults have of children in our society.  

In today's Western industrialized society, children are expected to sit at a desk, be quiet, and concentrate for long periods on subject matter they have no interest in.  In centuries past, children's learning opportunities were more geared toward their natural inclinations and were hands on, included movement and active interaction, and had practical application to their daily lives.  They worked with adults doing daily activities that actually mattered and that were not purely intellectual or theoretical.  Most children are very concrete thinkers, and the level of abstract or theoretical knowledge we expect of them in today's society is simply not constructive. We are creating environments in which children cannot succeed and in which their only recourse is to behave in ways which cause us to label them as dysfunctional.

The first step to helping your child out of ADHD is to realize that THEY DON'T HAVE A DISORDER. They are children.  They are loud, boisterous, easily excited and have trouble concentrating. That's part of the definition of childhood!  Your first job as a parent of such a child is to restructure their environment so that they can succeed, rather than trying to restructure the child so they fit into the environment.  The fact that the "professionals" recognize that these symptoms subside with age indicates that this is not a disorder. It's a developmental issue.  Would you say that your 9 month old's inability to walk yet is a disorder?  No, because it subsides with age and experience.  They LEARN to walk, just as your child will learn to concentrate and perform other tasks appropriately. 

Part of your job as a parent of such a child is to realize that you and perhaps the child's whole social circle has had unrealistic expectations about how children should behave.  You can either force your child into social conformity, which will be a painful and unpleasant process, or you can realize that children are bastions of creativity and energy and you simply need to find an environment where that can flourish. 

I don't recommend most public schools for this process, as in most classrooms the child will be forced to study subjects that they have no interest in and that don't respect their individual interests and abilities.  I do not believe in expecting all children to reach the same arbitrary and artificially constructed standards.  I believe that children need to be free to explore their own education freely and without coercion from adults.  I recommend schools like The Sudbury Valley School, or that the child be allowed to study at home and choose their own subjects, methods, materials and pace.

There are two types of people:  those that change themselves to fit into society's expectations, or the movers and shakers, those who demand society change in creative and extraordinary ways. Do you want your child to change the world, or do you want them to settle for allowing the world to change them? 

The second step to helping your child out of ADHD is make sure you are giving your child's body the best possible chance to function in a healthful way.  Hyperactive behavior can be triggered by food sensitivities and a chemical-laden diet will be obstructive to the ability to concentrate.  Your child's diet should consist ONLY of REAL food.  See my page "Make Sure You're Using Unleaded" for an explanation of what constitutes real food. Then make sure your child's diet includes no artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, flavor enhancers, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars, trans-fat, brominated vegetable oil, or anything with a name you can't pronounce and can't recognize as real food. It's also a good idea to avoid the common food allergens until you know if your child is sensitive to them, such as: 

1.  Pasteurized dairy products 
2.  Wheat products which includes, wheat, oats, and barley. 
3.  Meat, fish, or poultry 
4.  Oranges 
5.  Chocolate 
6.  Refined sugars which include white table sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, and honey. 
7.  White flour or anything made with white flour 
8.  Corn 
9.  Potatoes 
10. Eggs 
11. Soy

Make sure your child drinks water purified by reverse osmosis to avoid chemicals like chlorine and fluoride which are linked to a myriad of health conditions that really could interfere with your child's health and behavior. 

If your child has ever had head trauma of any kind, even as little as falling out of bed and bumping his/her head, this can be enough to induce some ADHD symptoms in some children.  

If your child has ever had treatment with antibiotics, they can have a yeast overgrowth condition in their intestinal tract that can contribute to ADHD symptoms.  Supplement the child's diet with acidophilus cultured bacteria capsules that are enteric coated and try a super antioxidant supplement. 

The third way to help your child is to develop a partnership relationship with your child rather than a punitive, authoritarian relationship.  

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Copyright 2014  Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living

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