Parents of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are often plagued with feelings of guilt or shame. Since the condition is not completely understood, many treat it as taboo. However, ADD is a medical condition. Much like a diabetic that exhibits symptoms due to a malfunctioning pancreas, those afflicted with ADD/ADHD show symptoms because of a malfunction in a portion of the brain. Just as the symptoms of diabetes can be treated with medication along with modifications in diet, the symptoms of ADD/ADHD can also be treated with medication and modifications. And just like ADD, the cause of diabetes is also not completely understood but genetics and environmental factors seem to play a role. Why then, do we respond so differently to a child diagnosed with ADD than one diagnosed with diabetes?
Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurological condition that effects the part of the brain involved in problem solving, attention, reasoning and planning. The terms ADD/ADHD are often used interchangeably, which has probably contributed to some of the misconceptions. ADHD is not a term describing a hyper child; it is a medical diagnosis describing inefficiency in the area of the brain that controls function such as focus, impulse control, and sensory input. And, in some cases, the patient will also exhibit a high level of activity; the condition can exist with or without hyperactivity.
Because of the excessive cost, PET scans and MRI’s are not usually performed on children experiencing symptoms of ADD. However, research shows an identifiable difference in scans of patients with ADD compared to those without. Studies show variations in the frontal cortex, which is involved in the functions of problem solving, attention, reasoning and planning. Newer technology which allows researchers to view images of the brain in function, show a lower level of dopamine in the effected area of the brains of ADD patients. Without the normal number of transmitters, the brain cannot properly “communicate” messages from one area to the other, which results in the ADD symptoms.
Children affected with ADD can exhibit any combination of the following characteristics in varying degrees:
* Easily distracted
* Difficulty following directions
* Difficulty focusing
* Poor or inconsistent academic performance
* Poor organization
* Desk, locker and bedroom in constant disarray
* Low self esteem
* High level of frustration
* Talks excessively
* Unable to make/keep friends
* Gets in frequent trouble for excessive or inappropriate talking
* Frequently out of their seat
* Aggressive behavior
Just like medication or insulin can temporarily relieve the symptoms associated with the diabetic patient, the symptoms of ADD can be effectively treated with stimulant medications that increase the production of neurotransmitters, temporarily increasing brain function increasing the patient’s ability to learn.
In addition to medication, there are also other factors that play an equally important role in the treatment of ADD. Just like the diabetic and those around him must learn to make adjustments in cooking and diet, so must those working with the ADD student.
In order to provide the proper diet for our diabetic patient, caregivers must have some level of understanding about the disease. They have to know what foods to avoid as well as how to provide better alternatives. Similarly, the ADD student also needs educators who understand their disability. They should know how to work with them effectively, in positive ways. They should learn how the disorder affects the student’s ability to learn and function, as well as behavioral modification strategies.
ADD is real. It is nobody’s fault. Poor parenting does not cause it. The behaviors are not a sign of a lazy, bad, or stupid child. There is no shame in being diagnosed with ADD, and there is certainly no shame in taking medication that alleviates the symptoms.
To learn more about ADD/ADHD, contact Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) at http://www.chadd.org/