The centers for disease control and prevention (CDC1) calls ADHD “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.” Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or CHADD2, a program funded by the CDC, says that an estimated 15 million people in America have ADHD.
The prevalence of this ‘behavioral disorder’ and accompanying ‘learning disability’ is startling. The diagnosis can cause concern for many parents. It also affects the self-esteem of a child, their parents, and someone going through adult ADHD. It can be difficult to deal with a diagnosis telling you there’s something wrong with you. And when 15 million people in America alone are dealing with it, something is going wrong.
It’s not something with the people, though. It’s something wrong with how we handle healthcare, and what we expect out of people.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
The American Psychiatric Association3 explains that there are three types of ADHD. They also break down what usual healthcare providers look for to give a diagnosis of ADHD. CHADD4 shares that, according to DSM-5, several symptoms need to be present before the age of twelve. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH5), is an offshoot of the NIH. They say that many people experience some of these symptoms. For children with ADHD, though, there are differences. Symptoms may be more severe, occur more often, and can interfere with how they function.
Let’s look at a few of those symptoms.
Does your child or adolescent make careless mistakes? Do they not pay attention and seem to be daydreaming or have their mind elsewhere? Maybe they don’t like tasks that take a lot of mental effort such as filling out forms or preparing reports. Does your child not complete schoolwork? Lose things often? Have trouble organizing tasks and schoolwork?
Who knows any child or adolescent who doesn’t do some of these? Some adults do this regularly. And yet these are the sorts of symptoms that could land your child a diagnosis of ADHD.
Does your child squirm and fidget? Do they interrupt and finish people’s sentences or have a hard time waiting their turn? What about running and climbing at times when it’s not appropriate to do so? Do they talk too much? What about having a hard time waiting in line or staying in their seat?
These, too, aren’t uncommon for even adults. Yet these are supposedly impulsive behavior and symptoms of hyperactivity.
Does your child’s behavior include all of the above? Then they may have a combined type of ADHD.
The NIMH5 says that researchers aren’t sure what causes ADHD. As usual though, studies suggest genetics play a role. That’s the common answer for when there isn’t a clear answer.
But it isn’t completely true.
There is no ADHD gene, just as there is no ‘you will get cancer’ gene. A ‘your child will have autism’ gene, doesn’t exist, either.
The NIMH5 goes on to say that:
Like many other disorders, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors that might raise the risk of developing ADHD and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and social environments might play a role in ADHD.
ADHD is more common in males than females, and females with ADHD are more likely to primarily have inattention symptoms. People with ADHD often have other conditions, such as learning disabilities, anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, depression, and substance use disorder.
Are we Serious?
How is this neurodevelopmental disorder treated? With ADHD medications of stimulant and non-stimulant drugs. These drugs are used to try and change the biochemistry of the body. Why do that if it’s how the brain develops that supposedly causes symptoms of ADHD?
It’s because ADHD isn’t a neurodevelopmental disorder. It’s a neuro-excitatory disorder. And, it’s over diagnosed. This is why there are environmental factors that doctors are looking into. It’s not a problem with the way the brain develops. It’s a symptom of the way we handle health care.
Kids are Designed to Play and Run
Have you ever asked kids what their favorite part of the school day is? How many of them will say some variation of lunch, recess, or ‘when it’s done’? The design of school is best for well-behaved little girls. Not girls that have a bit more energy in them, and certainly not little boys. Kids are supposed to run around, play, and explore. It’s how they learn and grow. They have too much inherent energy to stay in one seat all day.
Are we any Better?
How many of us, as adults, could focus on advanced algebra for a full hour before 10 AM? Or anything we’re not interested in? You’d be hard-pressed to think of any work environment where everybody is focused all day. Normally, there’ll be periods of distraction or breaks throughout the day. As adults, it’s far more usual for us to get up and wander around. Walk to the water fountain and talk to our friends. On our way back to our desks, we’ll likely swing by the restroom. Why? Because sitting in one spot and working all day is boring. Even if you enjoy what you’re doing.
Beyond that, sitting in one place and position all day isn’t good for your physical health. It’s not good for your physical health nor your mental health. It puts strain on your neck, back, hips, and butt. Sitting hunched over a paper, a book, or a computer puts unneeded stress on your body’s structure. This then causes problems for other systems in your body.
ADHD Treatments Aren’t the Solutions They Claim to be
When a child gets an ADHD diagnosis, they get put on ADHD medications. A common drug given to young children is Adderall, which is an amphetamine. Adderall is a stimulant drug. Non-stimulants are also common ADHD medications, as is methylphenidate.
The treatment plan these drugs are often part of is to change the biochemistry of the child. This can include trying to impact their dopamine or norepinephrine.
These drugs are touted as being able to help kids focus. People who have been on these drugs, though, have mixed reviews. Some think it’s wonderful, the amount of focus they have when they take their meds. Some report feeling far more like zombies or robots. Family members notice the change, too. There’s a difference between who this person is, and who they are after they’ve taken their meds. There are other side effects, besides that. Read the product insert here. These side effects include things like seizures, serotonin syndrome, serious cardiovascular events, psychiatric adverse effects, and long-term suppression of growth, just to name a few. Don’t just take the word of a doctor or article for it, though. Read the product insert yourself, and decide the risk/benefit ratio that best fits for you.
Notice, too, that they communicate that Adderall shouldn’t be used long-term, and should be combined with other factors. Psychological, educational, and social measures are recommended in tandem.
Furthermore, what is the treatment plan going forward? Does your child’s healthcare provider have a plan for getting them off these meds? No. The plan is for them to be on these ADHD medications forever. They’re not a health care provider; they’re a sickness management provider.
A Diagnosis of ADHD Isn’t the End of the Story
The human body is made for wellness. It is constantly trying to return to homeostasis and balance. The symptoms of ADHD are simply a sign that they need help getting back to wellness. This is also the case with many other behavior disorders and health conditions.
ADHD doesn’t have to last forever. Just ask Travis Frisque6.
How to Treat ADHD
The human body can only handle so much stress. Physical, mental, and emotional. It registers all the stresses the same way. Eating something you’re allergic to and having your body fight off what it sees as an intruder is reacted to. Being on the run for your life from an angry tiger that somehow escaped from the zoo is reacted to. A looming deadline for a book report is reacted to. And they’re all reacted to the same way, within the body.
Say your child is eating a lot of things they’re allergic to. That’s going to increase stress in the body. Then, say your child ate a lot of sugar. Sugar feeds the inflammation those allergies cause, making it stay around longer. Add several schoolwork deadlines to the mix. That’s a lot of stress for your child to be under.
Every person’s body is different and reacts in different ways to these stresses and triggers. Does this mean the causes of ADHD are just allergies, schoolwork, and sugar? No. Other environmental factors may be stressing out your little one’s body. That doesn’t mean these contributing factors don’t compound with those environmental factors.
How do you tell the stresses that may be causing your child’s symptoms of ADHD? Get your child’s gut and allergies tested. There’s a lot that happens in the gut. This includes neurotransmitters and a majority of the immune system. Once you’ve found what in your child’s body is needing help, support it in getting back to proper function. To do this, it’s important to work with someone who knows how the human body works.
Cut the Sugar
Attention deficit disorder and similar diagnoses signify something that needs to adjust biochemically. Similar diagnoses such as anxiety disorders. But it’s not that they have a deficiency of Adderall or any of the other medications.
As mentioned above, your body reacts the same way to all stressors it comes in contact with. The main way it reacts is through inflammation. Inflammation is part of the immune response; it’s not inherently a bad thing. The chances of it causing issues come when the inflammation becomes chronic.
Sugar feeds into inflammation, which can cause longer-lasting stress on the body. This can lead to that chronic inflammation. This is far from the only way eating a bunch of sugar can harm your body. While cutting the sugar you take in can feel daunting, it’ll make the stresses you do encounter easier to handle.
Let a Child be a Child
What’s wrong with a child squirming and fidgeting? Especially if it helps them focus. People worry about the inattentive presentation of ADHD. Then they take away what helps a child pay attention and learn. People complain about the impulsive presentation of ADHD. What are they doing simultaneously? Forcing a child to sit in one spot for hours—something their bodies weren’t designed to do. And what’s the first thing you want to do if told you can’t do something? That exact thing. So when told they can’t move around?
Help your child find harmless things to fidget with to help them focus. If they doodle on their paper, do they remember the information longer? What if they play with a length of string, or slide beads along a wire? Finding quiet things to allow your child to move and play may help them get better with their schoolwork.
Get Their Energy Out
It’s normal for kids to run and play and climb. That’s how they explore the world around them and learn. It gives them practice with problem-solving and chances to be brave. Tumbles and falls help them learn that skinning a knee doesn’t hurt as bad as they may think.
It can be frustrating when they want to do this when it’s quiet time, but they need to do it, all the same. Take your kids to a park before school starts. Let them play in the backyard after school to get their wiggles and energy out. It’s better than them sitting on a screen.
Find Another Way
Our modern school system wasn’t made to nurture kids in who they are. It wasn’t made to benefit kids with a lot of energy.
Talk with your child’s teacher about allowing a wiggle session every twenty minutes. It’ll help more kids than just yours. It’ll also give everyone’s bodies a break from staying in the same position for too long. Talk to them about allowing kids to get up and wander if they need to. Sometimes, you just walk better while pacing.
If none of these things work, maybe it’s time to consider something like homeschooling. Every child learns differently, and who better to know your child than you?
Like with autism, sometimes it’s a matter of supporting the child where they are on their way to getting better. Find quiet fidgets and ways to allow them to get their wiggles out and play as they’re supposed to.
ADHD isn’t the end of the story. Get your child tested and connect with an actual health professional. Not a sickness management professional. Contact a Wellness Way clinic, today!