According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 5 percent of American children suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), yet the diagnosis is given to some 15 percent of American children, many of whom are placed on powerful drugs with lifelong consequences. This is the central fact of the journalist Alan Schwarz’s new book, ADHD Nation. Explaining this fact—how it is that perhaps two thirds of the children diagnosed with ADHD do not actually suffer from the disorder—is the book’s central mystery. The result is a damning indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, and an alarming portrait of what is being done to children in the name of mental health. READ THE REST
Saying that too many children are on ADHD meds doesn’t mean that those children don’t have problems. It just means they probably don’t have ADHD. There are many different reasons besides ADHD a child might be impulsive or inattentive. If you have concerns about your child’s behavior you and your child deserve a comprehensive answer. A proper evaluation leads to proper treatment. Neither you nor your child deserve less. If you would like to learn more about helping your child exhibited better behavior and attention, contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how we can help you.
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The Atlantic reports on a new study published this morning in the journal Pediatrics.
…kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings, according to University of Illinois professor Charles Hillman and colleagues, “demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.” Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those attentive or hyperactive.
The improvements in this case came in executive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distraction, maintaining focus), working memory, and cognitive flexibility (switching between tasks). The images above show the brain activity in the group of kids who did the program as opposed to the group that didn’t. It’s the kind of difference that’s so dramatic it’s a little unsettling. The study only lasted nine months, but when you’re only seven years old, nine months is a long time to be sitting in class with a blue head.
Earlier this month, another study found that a 12-week exercise program improved math and reading test scores in all kids, but especially in those with signs of ADHD. (Executive functioning is impaired in ADHD, and tied to performance in math and reading.) Lead researcher Alan Smith, chair of the department of kinesiology at Michigan State, went out on no limb at all in a press statement at the time, saying, “Early studies suggest that physical activity can have a positive effect on children who suffer from ADHD.”
Last year a very similar study in the Journal of Attention Disorders found that just 26 minutes of daily physical activity for eight weeks significantly allayed ADHD symptoms in grade-school kids. The modest conclusion of the study was that “physical activity shows promise for addressing ADHD symptoms in young children.” The researchers went on to write that this finding should be “carefully explored with further studies.” READ THE REST
All of this goes to why author, Richard Louv, coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” as an alternative to ADHD. No, getting out and playing isn’t the cure for ADHD, but increased physical activity should absolutely be a foundational part of any treatment program for ADHD. ADHD does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Kids can overcome it with proper, comprehensive treatment. For more information on raising healthy, focused, well-rounded kids, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.
Evidence shows that children with ADHD do better and can take lower doses of stimulant medications when they receive behavioral therapy along with ADHD drugs.
“Treatment of ADHD in children generates lots of controversy, primarily because of potential for overuse and abuse of stimulant medications,” said Dr. Walid F. Gellad, the study’s lead author and an adjunct scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “We wanted to find out among those who receive ADHD medications, how many are also receive billed psychotherapy services? The answer is few, but it actually depends on where you live.”
Using a large commercial claims database, researchers examined records of more than 300,000 children aged 17 and younger from 1,516 counties across the United States who had received a prescription for medication for ADHD. Sparsely populated counties were not included in the study. The researchers looked at how many children receive some amount of talk therapy along with medication, and also examined the supply of licensed psychologists in the counties studied.
Less than a quarter of those prescribed ADHD drugs received any talk therapy in the same year they received medication, 13 percent had at least four therapy visits and 7 percent had eight or more therapy visits. And in 200 U.S. counties, fewer than one in 10 children getting ADHD medication received any talk therapy.
“In areas of the country where rates of use are so low, it indicates that many kids with private insurance who could benefit from therapy are not receiving it.” READ MORE
If your child has ADHD contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn more about how our tele-counseling practice can help you establish a behavioral system that will enable your child to develop to his or her full potential.
Because parents don’t have enough to worry about, two new studies point to the impact of a child’s home life on brain development.
The first study looks at how common family problems like lack of affection, poor communication, parental arguments and the like actually resulted in children developing a smaller cerebellum than children who did not experience the same type of common family problems.
The study led by Dr Nicholas Walsh, lecturer in developmental psychology at the University of East Anglia (UEA), used brain imaging technology to scan teenagers aged 17-19. It found that those who experienced mild to moderate family difficulties between birth and 11 years of age had developed a smaller cerebellum, an area of the brain associated with skill learning, stress regulation and sensory-motor control. The researchers also suggest that a smaller cerebellum may be a risk indicator of psychiatric disease later in life as it is consistently found to be smaller in virtually all psychiatric illnesses.
Previous studies have focused on the effects of severe neglect, abuse and maltreatment in childhood on brain development. However the aim of this research was to determine the impact, in currently healthy teenagers, of exposure to more common but relatively chronic forms of ‘family-focused’ problems. These could include significant arguments or tension between parents, physical or emotional abuse, lack of affection or communication between family members, and events which had a practical impact on daily family life and might have resulted in health, housing or school problems.
“We show that exposure in childhood and early adolescence to even mild to moderate family difficulties, not just severe forms of abuse, neglect and maltreatment, may affect the developing adolescent brain. We also argue that a smaller cerebellum may be an indicator of mental health issues later on. Reducing exposure to adverse social environments during early life may enhance typical brain development and reduce subsequent mental health risks in adult life. READ MORE.
This study could go a long way to explaining the significantly higher rates of ADHD, childhood depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems in the last 20 years.
The second study is even more shocking. It shows that frequent school moves increase a child’s risk of adolescent psychosis by up to 60%.
“Changing schools can be very stressful for students. Our study found that the process of moving schools may itself increase the risk of psychotic symptoms — independent of other factors. But additionally, being involved in bullying, sometimes as a consequence of repeated school moves, may exacerbate risk for the individual.” At the age of 12, participants in the study were interviewed to assess for the presence of psychotic-like symptoms including hallucinations, delusions and thought interference in the previous six months. Those that had moved school three or more times were found to be 60% more likely to display at least one definite psychotic symptom. READ MORE
What’s the takeaway? That being a consistent, extravagantly affectionate, radically attached parent who works hard on your marriage is the best way to give your child everything he or she needs to be mentally and emotionally healthy, not just from a psychological perspective but from a neurophysiological perspective as well!
For more information on how you can give your child every emotional and psychological advantage in life, check out Parenting with Grace: A Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids (2nd ed rev.) and Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids today!
Researchers found a clear link between rates of breastfeeding and the likelihood of developing ADHD, even when typical risk factors were taken into consideration.
Children who were bottle-fed at three months of age were found to be three times more likely to have ADHD than those who were breastfed during the same period.
The ADHD group was comprised of children that had been diagnosed at the hospital, the second group included the siblings of the ADHD patients, and the control group included children without neurobehavioral issues who had been treated at the clinics for unrelated complaints.
In addition to describing their breastfeeding habits during the first year of their child’s life, parents answered a detailed questionnaire on medical and demographic data that might also have an impact on the development of ADHD, including marital status and education of the parents, problems during pregnancy such as hypertension or diabetes, birth weight of the child, and genetic links to ADHD.
Taking all risk factors into account, researchers found that children with ADHD were far less likely to be breastfed in their first year of life than the children in the other groups.
At three months, only 43 percent of children in the ADHD group were breastfed compared to 69 percent of the sibling group and 73 percent of the control group. At six months, 29 percent of the ADHD group was breastfed, compared to 50 percent of the sibling group and 57 percent of the control group.
I have often argued that much of what is being called ADHD today has more to do with attachment related issues. Healthy parent-child attachment isn’t just a warm-fuzzy psychological bond. It facilitates the development of healthy brain functioning. As I point out here, brain-wise parenting practices such as extended nursing, extravagant affection, prompt responses to infant and toddler cries, and gentle discipline that teaches what to do vs. punishes what went wrong facilitates 8 of the 9 traits associated with mental health. Attachment makes a real difference. It requires a little more from moms and dads but it makes life so much easier in the long run.
In response to yesterday’s post on the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers’ conference on the effectiveness and ethics of stimulant treatment for ADHD a number of readers asked, “if not meds, then what?”
I want to say up front that I don’t personally believe that medication treatment for ADHD is completely useless or should be avoided altogether. I do think that people are being oversold on the effectiveness of ADHD meds for the reasons listed in the article I posted yesterday. Ritalin, and its cousins are not a cure for ADHD. They only control the symptoms for a limited period of time. Likewise, in children, ADHD meds can stunt growth. Most interestingly, research by SUNY Buffalo shows that even if they do initially bring on some improvement, ADHD meds stop working altogether within 3 years of beginning them.
So what’s a parent to do?
Fortunately, there are a ton of effective behavioral treatments for ADHD. Think of behavior therapy–and similar psychosocial interventions–as physical therapy for the brain. Psychotherapeutic exercises literally increase the connectivity, development, and healthy functioning of the brain, especially brain processes that control attention, awareness, focus, and impulse control–all skills lacking in persons with ADHD. In fact, cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial interventions for ADHD have consistently been shown to be more effective than medication for ADHD. Ultimately, cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial approaches to treating ADHD actually heal the brain imbalances that make it difficult for ADHD sufferers to focus, follow-through, and control impulses.
Here is a great resource that lists many of the available treatment options for both children with ADHD and adults.
In addition to the above, mindfulness training (where the client learns how to calm and focus the brain through various exercises that improve concentration and focus) has been shown to be very effective for treating both adults and children with ADHD.
Likewise, neurofeedback, (a therapy that uses computer assisted exercises to teach the client to have conscious control of various brain skills like attention and focus) has a great deal of research showing it to be an effective treatment for ADHD.
Take a look at the above links. You might be surprised to find resources that are more effective than meds and could actually cure the ADHD instead of merely controlling it for a time.
If you or someone you love has ADHD contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute. Through our tele-counseling practice, you can work with a faithful Catholic counselor to get the training and support you need to overcome ADHD…for good. 740-266-6461
Apparently some Cardinals have been having a hard time paying attention in long curial meetings.
Kidding aside, although I am aware that the various Pontifical Councils regularly host scientific conferences on a variety of current medical and social problems, even I was surprised to learn of the large discussion on ADHD and medication that was recently hosted by the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers.
One of the presenters has a very interesting summary of reactions to his presentation in which he argued against both the effectiveness and ethics of prescribing medication for ADHD. His findings–that research shows no real benefit of stimulus-based medication treatment, research based evidence showing medical and psychological problems associated with stimulus-based treatment, and that there are ethical concerns with the practice–raised eyebrows.
Here’s a taste…
in 1997, Quebec greatly expanded insurance coverage for medications, and in the wake of that change, the diagnosis of ADHD and the prescribing of stimulants in the providence soared, to rates markedly above the rest of Canada. This allowed the researchers to assess whether, as the result of this expanded treatment, the outcomes for children with ADHD in Quebec improved.
Here is what the researchers found:
“The increase in medication use is associated with increases in unhappiness and a deterioration in relationship with parents. These emotional and social effects are concentrated among girls, who also experience increases in anxiety and depression. We also see some evidence of deterioration in contemporaneous educational outcomes including grade repetition and mathematics scores. When we turn to an examination of long-term outcomes, we find that increases in medication use are associated with increases in the probability that boys dropped out of school and with marginal increases in the probability that girls have ever been diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder.”
Read the rest here.