Facts About ADHD That Teachers And Doctors Never Tell Parents
Today, medical professionals are identifying children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, otherwise known as ADHD, more than ever, with four million kids diagnosed nationwide. With so many young children affected, parents are left wondering: Is this disorder actually harming my child? Ishyperactivity even a disorder? It’s easy to look at an active young child and slap them with the label of “hyperactive,” but how do we ensure proper diagnosis of this disorder?
Five Surprising Facts about ADHD
With as many as 10% of children now diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), even those without the condition or without an affected friend or family member are familiar with the signs. Doctors break them down into three main categories: impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity.
While these may sound fairly vague overall, chances are if you or someone you know has been diagnosed, you’ll recognize some of the signs (click for larger view):
Yet, despite widespread information surrounding the disorder, most people would be surprised to learn these five facts about ADHD. You’ll find them below, along with a more complete understanding of this increasingly prevalent condition.
#1. There are multiple risk factors for ADHD.
- Genetics: One of the most investigated links in conditions of ADHD is genetic predisposition. Research has shown that if one or both parents are diagnosed with ADHD, risks for the child developing the same condition will increase. Interestingly, this is especially true for fathers with ADHD. Statistics show one in three children born to fathers with ADHD will share this disorder.
- Gender: Though the cause of this phenomenon is still unclear, it seems that boys have an increased risk of developing ADHD. One study found that boys are diagnosed twice as often as girls.
- Environmental Toxins: One common explanation for the boom in cases of ADHD is environmental toxins. Perhaps, people say, it is no coincidence that disorders like ADHD and autism have increased along with the amount of toxic chemicals present in our environment. It has already been shown that risk of serious neurological and degenerative disorders will increase with a child’s exposure to mercury, lead, aluminum and pesticides. Frighteningly, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that one in six women has unsafe levels of mercury in her body putting any children she may have at increased risk of disorders like ADHD.
- Bruxism: While you may have suspected genetic, gender and environmental factors as causes of ADHD, Bruxism, or teeth-grinding, is a link that seems to come out of nowhere. However, the approximately 5% of Americans suffering from the condition are at increased risk of developing ADHD. It seems Bruxism is strongly linked with a type A (aggressive/ambitious) personality type. Doctors believe it is caused by a dominance of slow-moving brainwave activity a factor shared by ADHD.
- Problematic Pregnancy and Birth: Trouble during the pregnancy or birth of child is another factor which has been tied to ADHD. Mothers who smoke or drink alcohol during their pregnancy greatly increase their child’s chance of developing many different health problems, ADHD included. Interestingly, ADHD is also more prevalent among children whose mothers required bed rest or reported high anxiety levels during their pregnancy. Perhaps this explains why boys are more commonly diagnosed with the condition. One study found that for unknown reasons, mothers carrying boys reported higher anxiety levels, especially between 12-22 weeks.
- Television Viewing: Multiple studies have shown negative effects when infants and toddlers are exposed to TV and videos. Experts hypothesize that this is due to the way images are portrayed with rapid scene shifts and unnatural fast pacing that don’t occur in the real world. These aspects of TV, they say, may be over-stimulating them at a time when children are trying to develop an accurate understanding of their world. They believe television viewing may be rewiring childrens’ brains and causing changes in their still developing neural pathways. Evidence includes a jump in the number of children diagnosed, first in the 1950’s when TV became a common household fixture, and once again in the 1980’s when the VCR made watching videos possible at any time.
#2. There are 6 types of ADHD.
Traditionally, ADHD has been divided between just three subtypes: ADHD, Combined Type which includes both symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity; ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive which exhibits signs of inattention, but not hyperactivity/impulsivity (commonly referred to as ADD); and ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive which shows hyperactivity/impulsivity but not inattention symptoms.
However, increased understanding of the condition has allowed Dr. Amen, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, to identify six different manifestations and the best course of treatment for each.
- Classic ADHD: Classic ADHD is like ADHD, Combined Type. Affected individuals exhibit inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This type responds well to the stimulants normally prescribed for ADHD.
- Inattentive ADHD:This individual exhibits inattention and impulsivity, but shows low levels of energy instead of hyperactivity. This type is often referred to as ADD and responds well to normal stimulant medication.
- Overfocused ADHD: Affected individuals exhibit all the normal symptoms of ADHD, plus a tendency toward negativity, often resulting in arguments, opposition and other negative behaviors.
- Temporal Lobe ADHD:Similar to Overfocused ADHD, they exhibit all the classic symptoms of ADHD as well as negative behaviors. However they tend more toward aggressiveness and irritability and also have memory and learning problems.
- Limbic ADHD: Exhibits all the classic symptoms of ADHD, as well as symptoms of depression like lowered energy and motivation.
- The Ring of Fire: The Ring of Fire refers to individuals with a cross between ADHD and Bipolar disorder. Commonly manifested as moodiness, aggressiveness and anger, Ring of Fire individuals do better with anticonvulsants and antipsychotics than traditional stimulants.
#3 – You can ease symptoms without prescriptions meds.
- Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy is about identifying negative behaviors and finding ways to change them. The goal here is to directly change thinking and coping strategies. This can include help with organizing chores and homework, and handling powerful emotions through self-monitoring and self-praise.
- Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy can help the individual with ADHD learn to like themselves even with ADHD and to understand patterns of self-defeat and negativity so they can change and cope better in the future.
- Social Skills Training: ADHD can create social problems for some people. Here the focus is on how the individual perceives others and how others perceive them. The goal is to help the individual feel more comfortable interacting with others.
- Support Groups: Support groups allow people with ADHD to help each other through mutual understanding and support with experienced advice. It ishelpful in creating a sense of belonging and acceptance. Support groups provide a place to share the frustrations that come with ADHD, with people that truly understand the struggle, without fear of judgment.
- Parenting Skills Training: Children with ADHD benefit from parents who are not only knowledgeable about their condition, but are also knowledgeable when it comes to meeting their unique needs and dealing with common behavioral traits. Parenting skills training can help parents learn effective ways to discipline bad behaviors and to reward good behaviors. It can also help parent understand what their children need to be successful, including rules, consistent routines and organization.
- Diet Changes: Protein has been found to be especially important to individuals with ADHD. According to neuroscientist Richard Wurtman Ph.D, protein triggers the synthesis of alertness-inducing neurotransmitters. Yet studies show less than 5 percent of children are actually getting the recommended amount of protein for breakfast and lunch.
- Another aspect of diet that affects those with ADHD is food sensitivity. Studies have shown at least 30% of children and toddlers with ADHD benefit from the use of an elimination diet to determine food sensitivities. The Feingold diet designed for individuals focuses on food sensitivity and protein issues. Though experts remain unconvinced of its effectiveness, there are hundreds of testimonials from parents who say it helped their kids.
- Herbal Supplements: Though you should check with a doctor before introducing a new herbal supplement in your diet, many herbal remedies may help ADHD symptoms.
- Skullcap has been show to clinical research to work as a tonic on the nerves and promote calmness and balance.
- German Chamomile is used to relieve nervous tension and frustration.
- Gotu Cola helps improve circulation to the brain increasing memory and clarity and preventing mood swings.
- Gingko Biloba has been shown in numerous studies to enhance memory function and focus.
- Neurofeedback: A new treatment for ADHD, neurofeedback works with brain waves, especially those associated with inattention and focus. In neurofeedback, doctors fit patients with electrodes and create a map of the patient’s brain, checking against it during subsequent sessions. In each session, the child is taught to control brainwaves through the use of specially designed computer games. Though still new, the outlook of neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD is very good. According to one practitioner, after the year of neurofeedback therapy, some patients were able to reduce medication dosage by about 50 percent.
#4 – Several conditions are commonly mistaken for ADHD.
ADHD can share symptoms with several other conditions some benign and some very serious. Therefore, it’s important that your doctor rule these out as the cause for symptoms you or your child may be experiencing.
- Thyroid Conditions: Especially hyperthyroidism, which makes children susceptible to mood swings, short attention span and tremor, thyroid conditions can often be mistaken for ADHD.
- Sleep Apnea/Disorder: A lack of proper sleep can lead to ADHD symptoms in individuals with the condition.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: This condition is often confused with the hyperactivity of ADHD.
- Mental Illness: Depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder all share symptoms of ADHD. While these may occur concurrently, they may also be mistaken for each other.
- Brain Injury: Originally, ADHD was thought of simply as a brain damage disorder. We now know that this isn’t the case, but the idea may have been grounded in fact. Lead poisoning and cerebral palsy both share symptoms with ADHD.
- Learning Disability: Though ADHD can coexist with a learning disability, that is not always the case. Dyslexia, for example, is commonly misdiagnosed as ADHD.
- Hearing Problems: Hearing problems are often confused with ADHD because children who don’t hear instructions may seem like they are just daydreaming. They may also act out in frustration the way a child with ADHD might.
- Giftedness: Often gifted children become easily bored and are restless the way a child with ADHD is.
- Food/Chemical Allergies: Allergies can create symptoms that are similar to ADHD – in fact, several cases found symptoms were eliminated completely once the allergen was removed. However, ADHD can occur alongside allergies, and while removing allergens can help these individuals, it will not cure ADHD.
#5 – ADHD can have advantages!
Today, almost half of CEOs in major corporations, many successful entrepreneurs, and many members of the US Senate have ADHD! Many of the most famous people in history, including Leonardo Di Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein showed signs of ADHD. Of course ADHD can create difficulties, but for these special individuals it may have given them a real advantage. Individuals with ADHD often share these positive characteristics:
- Compassion: People with ADHD are often good at connecting with others and empathizing, because they are used to being different and have experienced both compassion and intolerance from others.
- Creativity: The connection between creativity and ADHD is very strong. While studies are still being conducted to understand the link completely, it has been suggested that sporadic thought patterns lead to connections that might not have been made otherwise. It has also been suggested that perhaps ADHD is a symptom of creativity, not the other way around.
- Drive: With ADHD, completing a task the individual is bored with can seem like pulling teeth, but if they are interested in what they are doing, they can have an incredible drive to do their best and get it done.
- Problem Solving Ability: ADHD can help us make connection between different concepts with more ease than most. Many inventors show symptoms of ADHD.
- Hyper-Focus: While some individuals with ADHD may have a hard time focusing at all, other are hyper-focused on the task at hand and have a hard time letting it go until it’s complete. This helps the individual to stay controlled and directed to accomplish long-term goals.
- Sense of Humor: ADHD is common among comedians. ADHDers tend to be creative, and have a knack for understanding others and making connections – all important to well developed sense of humor.
- Resiliency: Despite the challenges of ADHD, people with the condition are notoriously resilient and adaptable.
- Intuition: It may be because of their insight into human nature or their ability to notice patterns and make connections, but whatever the reason, ADHD seems to fine-tune the individual’s intuition.
- Idea Generating: Though people with ADHD prefer to avoid minutia, they excel in big picture thinking and have a skill for coming up with ideas quickly.
- Unique Perspective. People with ADHD are good at remaining objective and have a gift for seeing things from multiple perspectives.
Facts about ADHD that teachers & doctors never tell parents
Putting a child in a classroom for 8 hours a day, for more than a decade, and expecting them to listen while remaining ‘obedient’ is very unrealistic. From day one we are taught that this is the only path to success and we are shown the consequences of not paying attention. It’s important to recognize that it’s perfectly normal for children to struggle with paying attention to something that they are not even remotely interested in; this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a disorder and it doesn’t mean they require (potentially quite harmful) prescription medications.
It’s Okay If Your Child Struggles With Attention – This Does’t Mean They Have A Disorder
Many doctors and teachers are already aware of this, but I would like to reiterate the point — just because your child struggles with paying attention in school or sitting still in the classroom does not mean there is an underlying disorder to blame. It’s perfectly natural for your child to want to be active and to want to focus on things which actually interest them. Sure, low grades might come as a result of not paying attention, but it is possible for a 2.0 student to know more than a 4.0 student; grades don’t necessarily equate with intelligence. In many cases, they reflect an ability to follow rules and memorize information — both important skills, but perhaps less important than critical thinking and creativity. Some students may have a better ability to buckle down, pay attention, and do their work, while other, equally as intelligent students, may struggle with this model. This, again, is perfectly normal, and could actually be a marker of something really positive. If your child is being held back and being denied even the possibility of entering a gifted program based on the fact that they have attention issues, then there is problem.
New data from the National Center for Learning Disabilities shows that only 1 percent of students who receive services for their apparent learning disabilities (some of which are completely and unquestionably valid) are enrolled in gifted or talented programs. The report concluded that“students with learning and attention issues are shut out of gifted and AP programs, held back in grade level and suspended from school at higher rates than other students.” (source)
Disorder Or Creativity?
The last point in the above paragraph is pretty disturbing, particularly given the fact that recent work in cognitive neuroscience shows us that both those with an ADHD diagnosis, and creative thinkers, have difficulty in suppressing brain activity that comes from the “Imagination Network.” There are no school assessments to evaluate creativity and imagination; these are admittedly difficult to measure and, accordingly, receive very little attention in the education system. Yet a lot of research is pointing to the fact that people who show characteristics of ADHD are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement compared to those who don’t show these characteristics.
“By automatically treating ADHD characteristics as a disability – as we so often do in an educational context – we are unnecessarily letting too many competent and creative kids fall through the cracks.” – Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania (source)
While brain scans of people diagnosed with ADHD do show structural differences, it is a scary reality that a large portion of ADHD diagnoses are derived from the observations teachers make in school. Too often, children are diagnosed based on perceived behavior alone, and then encouraged to take medication right away. These children are not actually tested or scanned; they and their parents are simply told that they have ADHD.
“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.” – Stanley Kubrick
Did They Tell You This About The Pharmaceutical Industry?
The quote to your left comes from Harvard Medical professor and the former Editor-in-Chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell. She joins a long and growing list of some very ‘credible’ people within the medical profession who are trying to tell the world something important. She has said on several occasions that it is no longer possible to believe much of the published research, or even to rely on the judgement of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. (source)
Another great example is Dr. Richard Horton, who is currently the Editor-in-Chief ofThe Lancet, which is considered to be one of the top ranked medical journals in the world. He said that “the case against science is straightforward, much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. . . . Science has taken a turn towards darkness.” (source)
The reason why these professionals are saying such things is because, as Dr. Angell puts it, “the pharmaceutical industry likes to depict itself as a research-based industry, as the source of innovative drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is their incredible PR and their nerve.”
“The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.” – Arnold Seymour Relman, Harvard Professor of Medicine
The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis continues to increase; it went from 7.8 percent in 2003 all the way up to 11.0 percent in 2011. According to a recent analysis, ADHD in children has surged by 43 percent since 2003. (source)
The quotes above aren’t just opinions, clearly these few (out of many) examples are from people who know a thing or two about the industry, and it is troublesome to think that people still believe pharmaceutical corruption and manipulation of scientific literature are conspiracy theories.
The most recent real world example of this comes from a few months ago, when an independent review found that the commonly prescribed antidepressant drug Paxil is not safe for teenagers — all after the fact that a large amount of literature had previously suggested this. The 2001 drug trial that took place, funded by GlaxoSmithKline (also maker of the Gardasil Vaccine), found that these drugs were completely safe, and used that ‘science’ to market Paxil as safe for teenagers. The study came from John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Ioannidis is also the author of the most widely accessed article in the history of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” In the report, he stated that most current published research findings are false. And this was more than 10 years ago.
ADHD is classified as a mental disorder, which is interesting because the definition of these types of disorders in particular have been shown to be heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. American psychologist Lisa Cosgrove and others investigated financial ties between the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. They found that, of the 170 DSM panel members, 95 (56%) had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry. One hundred percent of the members of the panels on ‘mood disorders’ and ‘schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders’ had financial ties to drug companies. The connections are especially strong in those diagnostic areas where drugs are the first line of treatment for mental disorders. In the next edition of the manual, it’s the same thing.
“The DSM appears to be more a political document than a scientific one. Each diagnostic criteria in the DSM is not based on medical science. No blood tests exist for the disorders in the DSMN. It relies on judgements from practitioners who rely on the manual.” – Lisa Cosgrove, PhD, Professor of Counselling and School Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston
The very vocabulary of psychiatry is now defined at all levels by the pharmaceutical industry.” – Dr. Irwin Savodnik, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles (source)
These are definitely some facts to take into consideration when it comes to dealing with your child’s ADHD diagnosis. It’s a ‘disease’ — one which I was also diagnosed with — that I personally don’t even think is real. I think it was made up strictly for the purpose of making money.
There Are Other Methods To Help Your Child Focus & Improve Your Child’s Ability To Pay Attention
It’s becoming clear that we need a new approach to ADHD. Apart from examining the truth behind that label, as I hope I have done in the above paragraphs, it’s important to note that there does not appear to be much room in our school system for children who do not fit the ‘normal’ mould of the majority. The fact that we basically point a finger at them and label them does not really help anything. As much as we’ve been marketed to believe that medication can help solve the problem, I really believe they only worsen it. Many of these medications seem to dull the emotions and energy of the children taking them, ultimately making for a less positive and rich life experience.
One great way to improve your child’s ability to focus is to change their diet. It’s a shame that hardly any research has been published examining the relationship between mental ‘disabilities’ and diet, since many medical professionals strongly believe there is a direct link between them. Some studies have, indeed, emerged which show a link between a gluten/casein free diet and improvement in autistic symptoms, and some parents have already seen the benefits of implementing this research. (source)
The Mayo Clinic claims that certain food preservatives and colourings could increase hyperactive behaviour in some children. It would be best to avoid these, regardless of whether they are linked to ADHD or not.
It has also been suggested that EEG biofeedback (electroencephalographic) could help. It’s a type of neurotherapy that measures brainwaves. You can read more about that here.
In 2003, a study published in the journal Adolescence looked at how regular massages for 20 minutes twice a week could improve behaviour in the classroom. This is interesting because studies have also suggested that tai chi and yoga may also help improve ADHD symptoms. According to the studies, children with ADHD that practiced tai chi became less anxious or hyperactive. (source)
So, one thing you could try is observing what your child is eating. You can limit their intake of harmful, hormone disrupting, disease causing foods like sugar, limit their exposure to pesticides, and encourage their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole foods (rather than processed foods).
When it comes down to it, developing methods for your child to pay attention to something they find boring and/or useless is a difficult task, and for parents who struggle with this, it’s important to remember that most likely your child is perfectly normal. It will help to choose to look at it in a positive light.
The fact that children are forced into these institutions, told how the world works, made to follow certain rules, and pressured to complete education out of fear of not having a job, is a truly unfortunate reality of today’s world. It is not the best environment for a child. Perhaps things will change in the future, but right now it seems children are encouraged to complete education out of fear, out of necessity, and out of the mentality that “this is just the way the world is.”
“When we can’t say ‘No,’ we become a sponge for the feelings of everyone around us and we eventually become saturated by the needs of everyone else while our own hearts wilt and die. We begin to live our lives according to the forceful shouldof others, rather than the whispered, passionate want of our own hearts. We let everyone else tell us what story to live and we cease to be the author of our own lives. We lose our voice — we lose the desire planted in our souls and the very unique way in which we might live out that desire in the world. We get used by the world instead of being useful in the world.” – Dr. Kelly M. Flanagan, a licensed clinical psychologist, Ph.D. in clinical psychology (source)
Perhaps sitting down and talking to your child, letting them know that there is nothing wrong with them and that they don’t have a ‘disorder’ is a good start, at least for those who have already been labeled. Again, just because one person struggles with paying attention does not mean they have a disorder. If the information above is any indication, it could actually mean the opposite.
Having your child even believe in that type of label could be harmful. Given the recent developments in neuroplasticity and parapsychology, it has become clear that how a person thinks alone can change their biology.
Speaking with educators and finding a differentiated type of instruction more tailored to your child’s needs and interests could also be a solution. One of the biggest solutions, in my opinion, is not accepting labels for your children in the first place.
This is a big problem in modern day education, and solutions are limited. The issue here really seems to be the environment the children are surrounded by, not the children themselves.
Another thing parents could address are the feelings of the child. Part of growing up is learning to handle our emotions and tackle whatever challenges life throws at us, but in school we are only taught content, and that is all we seem to focus on. Humans are made up of more than just bits of learned information; we all perceive a certain way and if emotions and thoughts are not openly discussed and dealt with, it can create problems in other areas.