At one time or another most healthy children show symptoms such as distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity – these are all considered normal behaviour of young children. It’s quite normal for young children to have short attention spans and to be unable to keep busy with one activity for long. Young children are naturally full of energy, especially boys, and some children are more active than others. An older child’s attention span can also vary depending on his/her level of interest with the task at hand. It’s normal for children to occasionally forget schoolwork at home, to drift off during a lesson and fidget at the supper table. A child should never be classified as having ADD/DHD just because they are different from their siblings or their friends.
So when a child is diagnosed, the suggestion is that he/she is more distractible, impulsive, or hyperactive than he should be for his age. Their restlessness, impulsiveness and inattentive are persistent and are seen in more than one activity i.e. not just at school.
While the exact cause of ADD/ADHD is not clear, research continues. Among the factors which may increase a child’s risk for developing ADHD are:
- Genetics – ADHD can run in families and studies indicate that genes may play a role
- Oxygen deprivation at birth
- Smoking, drug use or drinking during pregnancy
- Birth complications or very low birth weight
- Exposure to neurotoxic chemicals, lead or other toxic substances such as organophosphate pesticides which are chemicals sprays on lawns and agricultural products
- Extreme neglect, abuse, or social deprivation
- Food additives like artificial dyes and preservatives might make hyperactivity worse
Medication doesn’t cure ADD/ADHD but it can help reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsivity in children and adults whilst it is being taken. Once the medication is stopped, these symptoms will come back. Medications come with side effects and risks and works better for some people more than for others. It’s important to learn the facts about ADD/ADHD medication so that you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you or your child.
ADHD – ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS
Medication has its place, but it can also create more symptoms than we are aware of. So it is always advisable to read the leaflet and inform yourself about what you are taking.
I see more and more clients who have severe side effects from medication or who do not want to take medication, and would like to heal their mind, brain and body with help of more natural therapies. Fortunately, science has progressed incredibly and there are different options out there that have been proven to work successfully. People are also increasingly wanting to avoid the chemical route and are looking for more natural solutions such as those discussed below.
1: EAT THE RIGHT FOODS TO BOOST YOUR BRAIN
Making a few dietary changes can improve symptoms of hyperactivity, concentration and impulsivity as well as any defiant behaviour.
- Avoid artificial colourants, flavourants, and preservatives
To identify which foods affect hyperactivity, impulsiveness or concentration, follow the elimination diet. Some ADHD symptoms can be a result of food sensitivity.
- Eat brain boosting foods
- Protein is used by the body to make neurotransmitters allowing brain cells to communicate with each other. Start the day with a breakfast including protein to kick-start those neurotransmitters. Protein also helps in the production of serotonin (creates a feeling of well-being) and dopamine (creates a feeling of enthusiasm).
- Good Fats provide energy for the brain. Stay away from trans-fats and saturated-fats as these are like sludge in the circulation system of the brain slowing the flow of oxygen. Omega-3 is a great fat and is found in fish, nuts, seeds and dark leafy greens.
- Carbohydrates are also an energy source for the brain but choose low-GI foods to avoid the rise in sugar levels which are followed by drowsiness and low energy levels.
- Micronutrients especially Vitamin B, Zinc and Phytonutrients assist with focus and concentration as well as the formation of memory and remember to “Eat your colours”.
- Water avoids the brain from overheating which causes cognitive decline and even damage. Dehydration leads to fatigue, dizziness, poor concentration and reduced cognitive abilities. Keep your brain hydrated.
2: NEUROFEEDBACK/ BRAIN TRAINING
An individual’s brain is assessed first with a mini QEEG, which identifies areas in the brain which do not function optimally. Those areas are then trained up or down. This trains the brain to eliminate symptoms like depression, anxiety, concentration problems (ADD/ADHD), insomnia and many more. Neurofeedback/Brain Training is like going to gym for the brain. It requires a number of sessions, but once the brain is trained up it works more permanently at an optimal level and helps with:
- Better focus, attention and concentration levels and memory
- Improved task completion and organisation skills
- Aids relaxation and better sleep
- Enhances moods and emotions
- Helps the brain to function at its optimal level
- And has NONE of the adverse side-effects associated with medication
Neurofeedback can be combined with medication. Research results show that in the majority of cases where children on medication participated in a Neurofeedback programme, they either no longer required medication, or the dosages required could eventually be reduced considerably. Initially, sessions occur frequently, preferably two sessions per week. Sessions last approximately 45 minutes. Since neurofeedback is a learning process that involves training, results occur over time. For most conditions, progress is seen within about 10 sessions. For ADHD, 40-60 sessions may be needed, depending on severity, medication, etc. Once the brain learns to regulate itself properly, it remembers what it has learned and works more efficiently.
The desired outcome of Neurofeedback is the reduction of symptoms and a calmer, happier, more balanced state of mind. By challenging the brain, in much the same way as you challenge your body in physical exercise, we can help the brain learn to function better.
3: SUPPLEMENT YOUR DIET
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are essential fats important for normal brain function, and they assist with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and concentration. People with ADD/ADHD typically have low levels of Iron, Zinc and Magnesium. These are the keys to normal neurological function.
4: EXERCISE REGULARLY
Exercising is an effective way to reduce the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Physical activity boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. Running with your hyperactive child also helps to reduce energy levels.
Professionals who specialise in ADD/ADHD can help you learn new skills to cope with symptoms and change habits which are causing problems. Such therapies focus on controlling stress levels and impulsivity. Guidance can be given in organisational skills and reaching goals.
6: STAY POSITIVE
Some ADD/ADHD children can be very demanding and exhausting, but always try to see and enjoy their positive behaviours and interactions. End each day on a good note discussing with your child what you really appreciated that day.
7: CORRECT BEHAVIOURS
Instead of only telling your child to stop a particular unwanted behaviour, tell him/her in detail which behaviour he/she can replace it with. For example, do not just say “Stop jumping around on the furniture” but also add “Go to the garden and jump on the trampoline instead.
8: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Ask your child to describe how he/she feels, this may involve him/her learning to name his/her emotions and draw them. Acknowledge his/her feelings and guide him/her on how to work though his/her emotions.
9: LOOK IN THE MIRROR
Challenging children don’t always bring out the best in their parents and siblings. If you lose your temper, apologise and explain your emotions to the child. This sets an example as children learn more by what you do than by what you say.
When choosing a treatment, be sure that you make an informed decision on what you want to do. You might find that only medication or only one kind of treatment is not sufficient for you. Your body and mind has the ability to find a stable balance when treated correctly and by a professional therapist who uses the right treatment method.