by Dr. Randy
Attention problems have become an apparent epidemic. Why are so many kids diagnosed with ADD and ADHD today? Why are so many kids routinely prescribed medication with potentially harmful side effects for these issues? The subject of attention is a huge field. I will try to summarize some of the main issues from the perspective of holistic pediatrics.
Causes of ADHD
There are many contributing causes to the epidemic of ADHD:
- Not the least of these is the expectation that children need to sit still for hours at a time at early ages doing repetitive academic tasks like worksheets. Many children will attempt to avoid these tasks by not paying attention.
- Another contributing factor implicated in the ADHD epidemic is the neurological damage caused by the onslaught of vaccines and toxic vaccine ingredients on the developing brains of small babies.
- Yet another contributing cause of ADHD is the typically deficient and harmful diet of many children that includes empty calories, high fructose corn syrup, and nutrient-deficient junk food.
- Children’s increasing exposure to television and other electronic screens may also be a factor in shorter attention spans and altered information processing. “It certainly has been shown that exposure to nature and increasing exercise foster creativity and healthy brain development.”1
Understand Your Child
Creating a learning environment that encourages a child’s strengths and talents will help to place their attention style into perspective. If parents develop an understanding of their child’s attention style and their unique personality, then they are in a better position to understand how that child will flourish.
There are several ways to understand and describe children’s learning styles:
A good place to start is temperament. Several temperament characteristics have significance for attention. One of these is the level of activity of an individual child. Some children are more active than others. This typical activity level can be described with an analog scale from low activity to high activity children. High activity characteristics can result in restlessness and fidgetiness in the classroom that teachers see as disruptive behavior.
Persistence is another category that contributes to attention. The child who is persistent, stubborn, and obstinate will tend to have better focus skills and stay on task longer. By contrast, children who are not very persistent will tend to get distracted more easily.
Finally understanding a child’s behavioral style throws light on attention. The hunter/ farmer analogy is relevant here. Some children are natural hunters. They learn best by roaming around, exploring, and discovering things on their own. These kids will appear more restless and impatient. Other children are more like farmers – patient, observant, and passive. They are able to delay gratification and learn by watching. Books by Thom Hartmann and Mel Levine describe the variation of children’s attention styles and can provide parents with a healthy perspective on ADHD.
Chinese medicine has described children as one of five typical types. An excellent book that describes this typology and its application to attention problems is Fire Child, Water Child by developmental pediatrician Stephen Cowan.
Advantages of ADHD
Attention is a tricky business. Let’s consider one example. A child who is restless, distracted, and impulsive in the classroom is often seen as problematic or pathological. When you take this same child onto the basketball court or soccer field his quick reflexes, impulsive reactions, and excellent scanning abilities provide the skills he needs for flexibility and quick responsiveness that bring approbation from coaches and fans.
Some of our most successful athletes, innovators, and entrepreneurs have unconventional attention functions.
Holistic Treatment of Attention Problems
Some children do need help to focus and attend to tasks. Several natural supplements can help brain function. For example,
- an Omega 3 fat supplement will make anyone’s brain function better by creating flexible cell membranes that allow nerves to communicate more efficiently.
- Phosphatidylserine will often help children who tend to be restless.
- And DMAE helps spacey, inattentive kids with focus control.
- Many other supplements can assist specific neurotransmitter function, and homeopathic medicines can address individual attention and behavioral symptoms as well.
Seeking the care of a holistic pediatric practitioner can provide solutions in the form of an individualized treatment plan for a child struggling with attention issues. An excellent book that describes natural supplements for attention problems is Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies by Kenneth Bock. This holistic approach can also uncover the hidden connections between neurotransmitter balance, nutritional status, food sensitivities, digestive function, and attention in our children.