Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, is a genetic syndrome that affects how the brain functions and causes behavioral issues. ADHD can affect a person’s executive function skills, including attention difficulties, concentration difficulties, memory problems, social issues, impulsiveness, hyperactivity and disorganization.
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, individuals with ADHD suffer from disruptions in serotonin levels and abnormalities in the way norepinephrine and dopamine are used by the brain for neuron communication. Furthermore, activity levels and areas in the brain communicate differently.
What Treatment Options Are Available for Kids with ADHD?
The best treatment options for kids suffering from ADHD is a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Medication helps to manage brain functions and symptoms, while therapy is used to address behaviors and teach the child coping strategies. In addition to this, nutritional supplements, regular exercise and a healthy diet can help to diminish the symptoms associated with ADHD.
The two most common types of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. These therapies focus on identifying barriers and working towards changing common behaviors like outbursts. Many ADHD sufferers often experience feelings of guilt, shame and failure. Support groups can help them overcome their chronic stress and learn new coping methods.
Medications are used to help normalize brain activity. Stimulant medications, including Adderall, Vyvanse, Focalin, Dexedrine and Ritalin, are often used because they appear to be most effective. In addition to these medications, a health professional may prescribe Intuniv, Kapvay or Strattera to help make proper connections in the brain. Although they are not specifically approved for ADHD, certain antidepressants may be used to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD.
Nutritional supplements that contain EPA and DHA has been shown to improve the symptoms of ADHD, including cognitive difficulties, focus troubles and behavior problems. Studies have shown that these supplements are approximately 40 percent as effective as prescription stimulants in relieving symptoms. Additionally, studies have shown that B vitamins can increase dopamine levels in the brain. B vitamins can help to improve IQ scores, alertness and reduce antisocial behaviors and aggression.
Deficiencies can worsen the symptoms of ADHD. Following an ADHD friendly diet is the best way to ensure that your child is receiving the nutrients it needs for optimal brain functions. Because each child is different, it is important to discuss making significant changes to your child’s diet with your doctor. Protein, foods high in trace minerals, B vitamins and calcium can help reduce symptoms when consumed on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at some of the best foods to give your child.
• Apples are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber which can help children sleep better and minimize the symptoms of ADHD.
• Chicken is one of the best proteins to feed a child suffering from ADHD. Protein helps to improve concentration and the effectiveness of ADHD medications.
• Eggs are easy to digest proteins that can help control the symptoms of ADHD in children.
• Goat cheese is an excellent source of protein. Additionally, ADHD sufferers often have a cow milk allergy or intolerance, which can intensify the symptoms of ADHD.
• Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids and proteins. The best nuts to help manage ADHD symptoms are walnuts or Brazil nuts; however, other types of nuts can also improve symptoms.
• Oranges are complex carbohydrates that help children with ADHD fall asleep faster.
• Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are filled with nutrients to help control ADHD symptoms. These nutrients include calcium, B vitamins, zinc and protein.
• Salmon is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids that can help eliminate the symptoms of ADHD and improve brain functions.
• Tuna contains omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms.
Regular exercise can decrease symptoms and improve cognitive functions in those suffering from ADHD. According to the CDC , regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and stress, increase self-esteem, control weight, build healthy bones and muscles and improve cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Children participating in regular physical activity will have a decreased risk of obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes, colon cancer and cardiovascular disease. Physically active students perform better on academics, including attentiveness in class, improved concentration and staying on task.
There are many ways to get a child interested in exercising. Some great activities to get the heart pumping include fencing, martial arts, swimming and track. Family bike rides, playing tag and brisk walks are also great to get kids moving. These activities help your child develop a lifelong love of physical activity.
Assistive Technology Helps Children in School
Children suffering from ADHD often perform poorly in school due to concentration issues, math challenges and poor handwriting. Luckily, there are several assistive tools and software that capitalize on a child’s strengths while working around a child’s challenges. Here is a list of some tools that help children perform better at school.
• Math tools: Electronic math worksheet programs allow students to organize their math problems on a computer. These problems can be read by a speech synthesizer. Another option is a talking calculator that reads the numbers and operations as well as the answer to the child. An aural sensor will ensure that the child has pressed the appropriate keys and verifies his/her answer before the student transfers it to paper.
• Reading tools: Audio books allow children to listen to text being read. Another option is optical character recognition software that allows the student to scan in reading material. Once the material is scanned in, a speech synthesizer will read the information back to the student.
• Handwriting tools: Portable word processors and speech recognition programs can help students who have poor handwriting. These products allow the student to speak into a microphone or type their homework rather than writing out their information.
• Concentration difficulties: Children that are easily distracted can benefit from noise cancelingearplugs or earphones. These devices prevent the child from hearing outside noises, allowing them to help focus on their studies.
ADHD affects approximately 11 percent of American children (6.4 million children aged 4 to 17). The symptoms of ADHD include difficulties paying attention, concentration troubles, behavioral problems and memory issues. Many children also suffer from co-existing conditions, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, sleep disorders and Tourette’s syndrome.
Technological assistive devices along with a healthy diet, exercise, supplementation, medication and therapy can help improve the symptoms of ADHD. If you believe your child has ADHD or your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, speak with your doctor to see what therapies can be used to minimize its symptoms.