Over the past years there have been many debates and controversy discussions around what Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is? Furthermore how it is diagnosed and what are all the options to treating the disorder?
The definition of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been updated in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This revision is based on nearly two decades of research showing that ADHD, although a disorder that begins in childhood, can continue through adulthood for some people.
Changes to the Disorder
ADHD is characterized by a pattern of behaviour, present in multiple settings (e.g., school and home), that can result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings. As in DSM-IV, symptoms will be divided into two categories of inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity that include behaviours like failure to pay close attention to details, difficulty organizing tasks and activities, excessive talking, fidgeting, or an inability to remain seated in appropriate situations.
Children must have at least six symptoms from either (or both) the inattention group of criteria and the hyperactivity and impulsivity criteria, while older adolescents and adults (over age 17 years) must present with five.
There are a number of treatment plans that are available to parents when making the appropriate decision when treating their child for ADD/ADHD. Nutritious meals, play, exercise, and learning better social skills are all part of a balanced treatment plan that can improve performance at school, improve your child’s relationships with others, and decrease stress and frustration.
Stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta and Adderall are often prescribed for attention deficit disorder. Such medications may help your child concentrate better or sit still, however there is a general debate as to whether or not medication is a ‘quick fix’ and what about the long term affects as well as immediate side effects of appetite suppression, insomnia and an overall change in the child’s personality? For some parents they have found medication to be the best result for their child, while others look for alternative treatments and see pharmacological treatment as the last resort.
There are many other effective treatments that can help children as well as adults with ADD/ADHD to improve their ability to pay attention, control impulsive behaviour, and curb hyperactivity. According to Dr Raakhee Mistry who is a Homeopath, commented that Homoeopathy has often been used to assist with ADD and ADHD and has been effective. But unlike conventional medicine, there is no one particular homoeopathic medicine for these conditions. The ADD and ADHD symptoms for that particular child and factors that aggravate or ameliorate the symptoms, are taken into account when selecting the remedy for the child. Homoeopathic medicines do not numb or block symptoms, instead they work with the body to re-establish a state of equilibrium. When the patient is in this equilibrium state, the symptoms ease and the patient is able to function better.
The aim of homoeopathic treatment is not to keep a patient dependent on medicine, but rather to bring the patient to the space where he/she can maintain this equilibrium state. Many homoeopaths also incorporate other modalities to their treatment such as supplements, herbs and probiotics. A child’s restlessness and ability to concentrate has also been linked to the state of the child’s gut
Good nutrition can help reduce ADD / ADHD symptoms. Studies show that what, and when, you eat makes a difference when it comes to managing ADD/ADHD. The following tips can be seen below
- By scheduling regular meals or snacks no more than three hours apart is a useful tip, which will help keep your child’s blood sugar level, minimizing irritability and supporting concentration and focus.
- Try to include a little protein and complex carbohydrates at each meal or snack. These foods will help your child feel more alert while decreasing hyperactivity.
- Check your child’s zinc, iron, and magnesium levels. Many children with ADD/ADHD are low in these important minerals. Boosting their levels may help control ADD/ADHD symptoms. Increasing iron may be particularly helpful. One study found that an iron supplement improved symptoms almost as much as taking stimulant medication.
- Add more omega-3 fatty acids to your child’s diet. Studies show that omega-3s improve hyperactivity, impulsivity, and concentration in kids (and adults) with ADD/ADHD. Omega-3s are found in salmon, tuna, sardines, and some fortified eggs and milk products. However, the easiest way to boost your child’s intake is through fish oil supplements
Tips for supporting your child’s treatment
In order to encourage positive change in all settings, children with ADD / ADHD need consistency. It is important that parents of children with ADD / ADHD learn how to apply behavioural therapy techniques at home. Children with ADD/ADHD are more likely to succeed in completing tasks when the tasks occur in predictable patterns and in predictable places, so that they know what to expect and what they are supposed to do.
- Follow a routine. It is important to set a time and a place for everything to help a child with ADD/ADHD understand and meet expectations. Establish simple and predictable rituals for meals, homework, play and bed.
- Use clocks and timers. Consider placing clocks throughout the house, with a big one in your child’s bedroom. Allow plenty of time for what your child needs to do, such as homework or getting ready in the morning.
- Simplify your child’s schedule. Avoiding idle time is a good idea, but a child with ADD/ADHD may become even more distracted and “wound up” if there are too many after-school activities.
- Create a quiet place. Make sure your child has a quiet, private space of his or her own. A porch or bedroom can work well too as long as it’s not the same place as the child goes for a time-out.
- Set an example for good organisation. Set up your home in an organised way. Make sure your child knows that everything has its place. Role model neatness and organization as much as possible.