ADHD is very common: globally, %5 of children and 2,5% of adults get diagnosed. Generally, ADHD is considered to be a developmental disorder linked to genetic predisposition. People with ADHD generally show different, a-typical ways of processing information than neurotypicals. In my view, shared by some scientists, ADHD is caused by a lower level of gamma waves in the brain. This lower activity actually causes you to feel duller than average. The brain tries to compensate for that dullness and (over) stimulates itself to ‘keep up’ with your surroundings, to maintain a sense of alertness. This overstimulation manifests itself in dysregulation and concentration problems. A different structure of the brain and the way it processes information as well as the differences in behavior often cause problems for both the people with ADHD and their friends, family and general environment. Boys are diagnosed up to three times more often than girls.
Symptoms of ADHD may include a shorter attention span, hyperactivity, forgetfulness, a lack of understanding of the individual’s environment, impatience, restlessness, talking too much and interrupting others, impulsiveness, having trouble understanding expectations, disrupting other people’s activities, being dreamy and scatterbrained, chaotic, clumsy, feeling overwhelmed, being compulsive, having trouble distinguishing main issues from side issues, experiencing a blurred line between fantasy and reality and having fights with others frequently.
Diagnosing children with ADHD has been a hot topic for years. It is believed that the ever higher expectations we impose upon children (by our education system as well as parents themselves) play a role in these diagnoses and that we as a society have come to see deviant behavior as a problem perhaps a bit too quickly. According to some, the reason for the increase in ADHD diagnoses lies in feminization of our education system, meaning most teachers are women. These female teachers wouldn’t allow boys to release their energy, since that would be considered ‘annoying’ or ‘troublesome’. Female teachers are sometimes thought to have more affinity with female behavior and therefore have trouble understanding the needs of young boys. This would lead to these teachers demanding unnatural behavior, such as being as soft and quiet like their female counterparts. Then, when young boys have trouble adhering to these rules, they get marked as portraying ‘problematic behavior’ or get diagnosed with ADHD. This is when medication can start playing an important role in a young boy’s life. The need for frolic and banter -and this is indeed a very serious necessity-, the chance to be loud, hyperactive and physical in their outdoor games gets diminished in the classroom and the playground and that is definitely an issue. ‘We are worried about the development of these young boys.’ state pedagogues and educational experts. They argue against the increasing trend of medicating young children. Some proclaim that more male teachers and educators should be recruited, since their thorough understanding of the needs of young boys could lower the overall diagnose rate for ADHD.
Another factor that should not be ignored is that many classrooms hold more than 30 pupils. Such a number is much too high for just one overworked and underpaid teacher, so if one of these pupils happens to be a little louder or require a little more attention than the others, it stretches the capacity of the teacher sometimes to a breaking point. It might be worth considering whether that is truly an issue lying with the child, parents or upbringing. Perhaps these large group sizes are part of the problem.
It’s of the utmost importance to research the cause of problematic behavior before testing a child, or yourself, for ADHD and switching to medication. If you are considering medication, it may be helpful to do some research. In the Netherlands for example, Concerta and Ritalin remain popular prescriptions for children. These are psychostimuli in the form of methylphenidate. Medikinet for adults has been approved in the Netherlands since 2017. Adderall is an amfetamine often prescribed to adults, adolescents and children and is mostly prescribed in the United States. These drugs affect the nervous system. Parents often contact me because the meds don’t work as well as initially expected or because side effects are too debilitating for their child. An increasing number of people approach me with these issues. The long term effects of medicating young children are still relatively unknown. We do know that it affects bodily growth and the child’s cardiovascular system.
Some more background
Besides genetics, a lower socio-economic status, emotional neglect and growing up in a big city are all linked to hyperactivity. Other common issues besides ADHD are a delayed language or speech development, learning disabilities, an IQ below 100, difficulty developing social skills and aggressive behavior. About 50% of the children with ADHD will still experience trouble through their adolescence and adulthood. Substance abuse is a common result of these issues.
- Clear structures and guidelines about (social) conduct are necessary to channel and regulate hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Behavioral therapy may be helpful.
- Rewarding the right behavior and playing ‘The Compliment Game’ often help stimulate growth and improvement. Counting to ten helps decrease impulsiveness.
- Remedial teaching may help children with learning disabilities. Sometimes transferring to a special needs school can be necessary.
- Twenty minutes a day of meditation (a technique that stimulates the brain to produce relaxing Alpha brain waves), breathing exercises or relaxation games can positively affect brain functions as well as improve mental health in general.
- It’s interesting to note that there are plenty of natural alternatives to Ritalin and Concerta available.
- Supplements such as LTO3 and Relecs, with components such as Omega 3-6-9, gingko biloba and blue glidewort can strengthen the nervous system. L-Glutamine and Mucuna Pruriens can also be beneficial.
- Nutrition and the quality of the intestinal flora also affect your brain and mood. Research has shown that the individually adjusted elimination diet can lead to big behavioral improvements. Homeopathy can also greatly influence ADHD.
There are many different ways to deal with adhd. Every child and every adult is different – trust your own intuition and judgment to determine your needs. You know yourself and/or your child better than anyone, so don’t be afraid to try different methods. Often, I’ve found that a tailored combination of the above works best.