Worried parents see their child behaving in ways that are disturbing:
It’s clear that he’s smart, so why does it take him 30 minutes to complete a simple math problem?
Why is she lost in her own thoughts so much of the time and doesn’t hear anything you say?
He talks too loudly, complains too vigorously and is always touching everything.
She takes over an hour to settle down at bedtime and seems to need less sleep than you do!
He doesn’t play with his toys, but prefers to line them up in a neat row.
She can be fine one day and out of control the next. He has developed a tic and constantly chews on his clothes.
You might have a child who has trouble focusing or paying attention or controlling his impulses or getting to sleep. But that doesn’t mean your child “has” ADHD or any of the many names that have been created to describe the learning and behavior issues that are becoming increasingly common.
Just as “colic” is not a disease, but a description of a very uncomfortable infant, ADHD is not a disorder, but a label given to a cluster of symptoms.
Labels serve a useful purpose, but too often they are a substitute for what is really needed – a way to find out why the child is having these problems and some practical advice on how to diminish or reverse them. Parents seek out professionals who can offer solutions, but in so many cases, all they receive are lists of symptoms (as though the parents didn’t already know how their child is behaving), a label, and a prescription or two.
Medicines can save lives, but they can also obscure symptoms, making it harder to identify the actual causes. What can cause a youngster to behave in these ways? There are many potential culprits including: celiac disease, heavy metal exposure, lack of various nutrients (omega3 essential fatty acids, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D3, iodine, to name a few), sensory processing deficits, “convergence insufficiency” (the ability of both eyes to work together), exposure to synthetic fragrances, or a diet that includes petroleum based food additives like dyes. Researchers have even found that a high risk factor for a child being diagnosed with ADHD is being one of the youngest in the classroom!
We were looking for help, but instead what we got were descriptions and prescriptions!
Every one of the above potential causes offers a logical course of action. For the child with celiac disease, the removal of gluten can enable him to feel good and to be able to focus without being in a fog. An occupational therapist can help a child with sensory deficits, and a developmental optometrist will know how to deal with vision problem.
Adderall is unlikely to help a child’s vision and Ritalin won’t enable him to tolerate gluten. Where is the logic in using a one-size-fits-all treatment when there are so many different causes?
Drugs are not the only things recommended for children with “ADHD.” Often, behavior modification is also suggested, even though it has a poor record of success in these cases. It’s unlikely that gold stars will do much for the child who has been exposed to lead, and time out won’t help one who is too young to handle the requirements of his grade in school.
But while mom searches for the right doctor, teacher or school, she might be overlooking the real expert – herself! Nobody knows a child as well as a caring parent. By carefully observing your child and his surroundings, you might be able to identify the some likely culprits.
Many things can cause havoc for a sensitive child, but petrochemicals are one of the easiest to identify.
Does she act silly every time your great-aunt Dolly comes to visit – surrounded by a cloud of perfume? Almost all fragrances today are made from petrochemicals because they’re much cheaper than rose petals. Breathing in petroleum fumes directly affects the brain, but not in a good way!
Do you notice your child’s behavior changes after you’ve eaten out? Or did she act badly after she had that lollipop from the bank? Did his behavior start off well and then go downhill after snacking on Chips Ahoy and Kool Aid at Vacation Bible School? Food dyes, artificial flavorings and some preservatives are also petrochemicals, and it doesn’t take much to affect a sensitive child. Happily, there are better alternatives for all of these unwanted chemicals; visit Feingold.org for more information.