For the parents of a child with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, everyday tasks turn into battles—from getting the child out the door in the morning to getting him to bed at night. My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6, so I remember what it was like to have a daily tug of war with an attention disordered child all too well. Parents look for help everywhere. They may read one book after another and hear a parade of behavioral experts speak who give them parenting tips that don’t seem to work. The more books they read and experts they seek out, the worse their child’s behavior seems to get.
“ADHD is a ‘brain difference.’ Your child’s brain works differently than 95% of his peers. So ‘one size fits all’ parenting techniques won’t necessarily fit your child.”
In my practice and in my work with my own son, I discovered a number of techniques and strategies that can help parents of children with ADHD improve behavior. Here are 8 Secrets I have learned that can help parents improve their child’s behavior and school achievement:
A recent research study to be published in the August 2010 issue of Child Psychiatry and Human Development found that low blood levels for zinc and iron are associated with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder based on scores on the Conner’s Parent Rating Scale through the low levels were not associated with higher scores on the Conner’s Teacher Rating Scale.
There were 118 with ADHD (ages 7-14 years). While Conduct Problems and Anxiety were associated with lower zinc levels, increased Hyperactivity scores were related to both lower zinc and iron levels. It is known that these two minerals as involved with dopamine metabolism, one of the two neurotransmitters related to ADHD.
Parents may want to ask their child’s physician to check these levels and recommend supplements if they are found to be out of the normal range. Parents should be cautioned however, to not rush to some the supplement products on the market containing zinc and/or iron. Unless a child’s level is low for either of these two minerals, there is no evidence that boosting normal levels would be beneficial and could be harmful.
It is known that a healthy diet and regular exercise is good for brain development for all children and certainly beneficial for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. With the exception of fish oil with Omega 3 antioxidants, no other supplements containing mega doses of vitamins, minerals or other “natural” substances have been proven through rigorous scientific research to be beneficial for kids with ADHD.
Parents concerned about their child’s ADHD symptoms should rely on treatment recommended by professional organizations which are (1) behavioral interventions, (2) school interventions and (3) stimulant medication for severe symptoms that do not respond to the first two approaches.
Many parents find it difficult to find an effective, affordable and user friendly option for behavioral interventions. Total Focus is a comprehensive behavioral program using evidence-based techniques to improve behavior, learning, self-esteem and social skills. Parents and children work together as a team to bring about real lasting change involving activities that are fun and require less than an hour per day. Total Focus costs less than one visit to a mental health professional.
Many of you have been talking about the effects of diet and food additives on kids with ADHD, so I wanted to weigh in on this topic.
In a well-known UK study last year, the effects of artificial food color and additives (AFCA) on kids found that food additives make hyperactive behaviors more pronounced in children as young as 3 and up to middle childhood, around 9 years of age. The study found that a significant though small group of children exhibited hyperactivity as a result of drinking a specially concocted drink containing food colors and preservatives.
What this means is that some children react to substances found in many processed foods that may increase hyperactivity and inattention–to the extent of causing problems at school. In the study, 18% of the children were adversely affected by the drink.
So it appears that up to 18% of the child population may exhibit hyperactivity symptoms as the result of consistent exposure to food additives. The question is: Do these kids have ADHD, or something else?
In order to be diagnosed, the child must meet the criteria for the disorder plus not have any other conditions that might cause the symptoms. One could make that point that these kids have an allergy to these substances and should not be diagnosed as having ADHD. (There are other substances, such as lead, that can also cause these symptoms.)
If you suspect an allergy, it should be treated by an elimination diet. A well known program for this purpose is the Feingold Diet. I have always told parents who ask to go ahead and try this approach as it is not harmful at all. (One note of caution: It’s very time-consuming and has not yielded significant results when used with children who already havebeen diagnosed with ADHD.)