October is ADHD Awareness Month. Luckily for us, Dr. Ryan Thompson, the Founder and Medical Director of Mind Matters is an expert on the topic. Here, he will share the definition, the causes, and treatment strategies for those affected with ADD/ADHD. Attention Deficit Disorder with or without Hyperactivity, is a prevalent disorder affecting about 9% of children and 4% of adults in the US. Some features of ADD/ADHD include:
- Inattention: difficulty with focus & attention, organization, performing sequential or sustained activities, struggling in conversations or listening to instructions.
- Impulsivity: doing or saying things without considering the consequences, interrupting, blurting out answers, more accidents & risky behaviors, trouble controlling emotional responses, and/or appearing disobedient or rude.
- Hyperactivity: constantly moving, squirming or fidgeting, talking excessively, humming or making inappropriate noises, and/or playing too rough.
- Genetics: ADD/ADHD is often inherited. Siblings will have ADD/ADHD 32% of the time. A parent may be affected also 50% of the time. No single gene is identified as the cause and so there isn't just one type of ADD/ADHD.
- Environment: Pesticide exposures either directly or through foods, lead, food dyes, prenatal tobacco and alcohol exposure, or possible screen time and air pollution.
- Medical Risks: low birth weight/prematurity, head injuries, thyroid disease, iron deficiency, repeated ear infections, and some medications.
Treatment Strategies include:
- Creating a Strategy: A comprehensive and well thought out plan is needed. Create a team with the individual, family, educators, therapists, and doctors. Awareness of the condition being treated and educating those surrounding the affected individual(s) greatly reduces the negative responses a child, or adult, will face on a day to day basis. Look at and prioritize all the treatment options available.
- Family and Individual Therapy: Just making the diagnosis often creates conflict within the family; some are apt to believe and embrace the diagnosis, while others are resistant or resentful of their child being "labeled" with a disorder. Getting "everyone on the same page" is important to a successful strategy. Parent counseling to offer new approaches and to create consistency and harmony between parents is often necessary. Just knowing that the child has limited abilities to change his/her behavior and that it is not a defect in their moral being is helpful. Individual counseling to improve organizational skills and other "executive functions" are also useful.
- Educational Team: A child with ADD/ADHD is often first seen as having concerns when they enter the school environment; their struggles are different and more profound than their peers. Working closely with the teacher(s) in a collaborative way can be vital. The process of creating a plan can be initiated by either the parent or an educator. Once made, integrating the educational plan with the therapist and physician involved is very helpful.
- Nutrition and Lifestyle: Many relatively easy changes can be made that are often beneficial, often in combination. Effective diet modifications such as a high protein breakfast, avoiding artificial food colorings, and reducing processed foods are good places to start. Supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil, magnesium, zinc, pycnogenol, and more can be helpful. Lifestyle changes include simply reducing screen time such as TV, computer gaming, and smart phone use can all make a difference. Increasing exercise and unstructured outdoor activities are most effective.
- Medications: Medications can be a useful part of a treatment strategy. There are a variety of medications which act differently in the brain and require someone familiar with the "art" of using them to tailor it to the needs of the individuals.
- Other Treatment Options: There is a variety of other treatments available to including Cogmed, EEG Biofeedback, and Interactive Metronome Training.
Mind Matters is here to help with all of the above and more. Our team of professionals work together to provide comprehensive services to you. We understand the challenges that you are facing and are here to help. Please don't hesitate to call us at 209-728-2184. Learn more on our website www.mindmattersclinic.org.
If you don't face these challenges yourself, but, know someone who does, or just want to help others get the care they need, please donate to Mind Matters by mail, in person or via our website.