“Questions remain about how often ADD is misdiagnosed, and the role that pharmaceutical marketing continues to play.”
At one of the first public talks I ever gave, on ADD/ADHD, there was a small grey-haired woman in the front row, and at the end of my talk, she stood up and announced “I was a school teacher for 35 years, and I know what you’re talking about. We had a name for kids like this.” Everyone, including me, waited expectantly. “NORMAL!” she shouted. These kids are normal! What’s NOT normal is to expect them to sit at desks all day long!”
Well, that was 20 years ago, before recess, gym, music, art and other “non-academic” classes were severely cut in so many schools; before kids were spending their days and nights glued to tiny electronic screens, cutting into physical play, actual real-time conversation, and sleep; before processed food had quite such a death grip (literally) on most family meals and snacks. It has only gotten worse, and worse, and now more than 1 in 7 kids is medicated for these disorders, and adults are not far behind.
It’s not that ADD and ADHD are not real. The problem is quite real. I would simply suggest that making lifestyle changes, while less “convenient” than giving kids pills, is a much healthier and effective answer for the long and short term. In my practice, parents and their diagnosing doctors consistently report impressive changes in kids’ ability to focus, behave, and just be happy, by making shifts such as:
- identifying and eliminating food sensitivities
- making sure kids are getting protein and healthy fat – not just carbs – at each meal and most especially before heading out to school
- creating and enforcing realistic rules about use of electronics
- keeping regular bedtimes that allow for adequate amounts of sleep
- finding vigorous and engaging physical activities that are age appropriate and that your kid loves and can participate in regularly. This may take some trial and error, but is so essential to overall health and well-being, as well as overall success. Along with team sports at school, consider swimming, figure skating, dance, martial arts, and even yoga. Many yoga studios and other venues offer yoga classes especially for kids. Yoga helps kids just as it does adults.
- Consider constitutional homeopathy. Many parents have found this to have profound benefits for their kids. This involves finding a single homeopathic remedy that fits the overall picture of a person, rather than particular symptoms. I have found this helpful with many young (and old) clients over the past twenty years.
- Purchase a rebounder (mini-trampoline). This gives kids (and adults) an opportunity for great exercise in a small space, and is very helpful for body awareness. (It is also one of the best ways to keep the lymphatics healthy.)
- Make medication a last resort, not a first. I know many parents shrink from trying to change their kids’ habits and enforce rules, and are afraid of the difficulties and conflict that entails, but hey – that’s our job. We must teach our kids how to make choices that are good for them, that truly support them in flourishing in their lives, and that’s not always easy and convenient for us parents. But it is so worth it.
Fran Sussman is the very proud mother of two young adults. Her daughter is a Special Ed teacher in the South Side of Chicago, and is also in Yoga Teacher Training, which she plans to incorporate into school curriculum. She was a competitive figure skater. Her son is taking a year between college and grad school to further develop an NGO he co-founded last year that leads five day, immersive tours of the West Bank to expose Jewish Americans to a broad range of Palestinian and Israeli perspectives. He was a competitive bodybuilder and played basketball and baseball.