ADHD – LD6

17 03 2008

ADHD kid
 

While I personally find autism the most challenging and confusing disorder to deal with (perhaps because it is not “one” disorder?), Attention Deficit Disorder-ADD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-ADHD is certainly the most common of all childhood developmental disorders and also has generated the greatest amount of controversy as far as standards of diagnosis, treatment and parenting are concerned.

Undoubtedly, something that affects up to 5-10% of all children will call for a great deal of attention. ADD or ADHD (I generally prefer the second term but there are some kids who are attention deficit but not markedly hyperactive), should be detected as early as possible. What is often considered naughtiness is most often ADHD. In severe instances, the child will be thought of as “uncontrollable”, “terribly disobedient”, and perhaps also “unmanageable”. Hearing any of these terms (or their many cognates) should indicate the need for a professional evaluation.

In older children, once in school teachers will notice the short attention span and perhaps also the fidgetiness that goes with it and may call for an evaluation. Children with ADHD are often as intelligent as their peers or more so but will lag behind in the developmental testing due to the cumulative effecs of the short attention span. It is not uncommon to find dyslexia and or dyspraxia also showing up in a detailed evaluation but more commonly ADHD occurs alone. ADHD is now thought to be a catch-all designation that includes at least 5 or 6 different types of disorders, but you can find out more about that in your own research.ADHD chart

Common signs that we look for include:

  • Consistently not completeing tasks.
  • Not listening or paying attention.
  • Keeps losing things.
  • Swithches from one activity (or play) to another, more frequently than his/her peers.
  • Easlly distractable.
  • Refuses to do things considered “boring” (including homework).
  • Acts without thinking, very impulsive.
  • Needs constant supervision.
  • Seems to have “too much” energy.
  • Climbs, jumps, runs, more often than peers.
  • May be short tempered.
  • Seems to fidget a lot, has difficulty sitting still.
  • Child can be inflexible, argumentative, and stubborn.

The professionals of course will have a much more detailed list and lots of questions to ask about stuff like developmental milestones, but if any of the above seem to apply to your child, do have a child psychologist do a complete evaluation.

So, if you do have a child with ADHD what’s next? depending on the age and the actual developmental level as well as the child’s own personality and what types of symptoms are present, the professionals will give you detailed instrucions. It is also very important that you do get into a support group with those who are also having to learn how to effectively deal with ADHD.

Controversies are many, so here I’m just going to tell you what I think and leave you to research the various issues and decide for yourself.

In my experience medications are almost always avoidable, but here the proviso is what sort of a parent or caregiver you are. If you are the type who finds all this difficult to accept and would rather not be bothered, then perhaps you should ask the psychaitrists to help both you and your child with some pills. Mostly a type of stimulant is used that strangely seems to calm ADHD kids down. But, I do believe that with a little care and the right support, your child probably can avoid needing to be medicated.

You need to start a journal. Note down behaviors, good and bad as they occur as well as stuff like sleep timings, diet – quantity as well as type, and how the child is coping with studies, feedback from teachers, achievements and especially the developmental milestones.

ADHD is treatable. 

Stay in close tough with the counselors, teachers and other professionals who are going to be dealing with your child’s ADHD, share ideas, ask questions and make suggestions. Find a team/school that both you and your child are comfortable with and work together to sort things out. We have found that in addition to counseling, occupational therapy, sensory integration and yoga have all proved helpful. Treatment is usually successful when done with a will to succeed. Your child may always have the tendencies, but will slowly learn how to keep them under control, how to concentrate better, and how to be better organised about life and the various tasks that go into making one more successful.

We pay a lot of attention to diet, but there are many who feel that it’s not that big of a deal. Generally, in our experience, cutting carbs and increasing mixed fats and proteins usually helps almost immediately to modulate hyperactivity and more slowly also has an effect on increasing attention spans. But, this may be anecdotal… We have also found that some children are “set-off” by particular foods or spices. If you do your journal properly, you will find your child’s pattern – if there is one!

We have found that identifying each child’s interests is an important first step. It’s much easier to work on the attention span using the child’s own interests as a springboard. Boredom is one of the biggest enemies, so trying a ‘standard formula’ rarely works across the board.

Keep plugging away. Both you and your child should realise that having ADHD does not make one less valuable as a person. The real point is that each and every child should have the best possible shot at realising their own unique potential – and that’s the Challenge!

cheetah running

P.S. There’s lots of half-baked stuff out there. Use your common sense, resarch thoroughly, discuss issues threadbare before jumping on to the latest bandwagon. A little thoughtful hesitation never hurts!

Digg!

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SLLOOOWWWW LEARNING, LD-5

17 12 2007

Some educationists speak of slow learners as those not specifically diagnosed with a learning difficulty but yet who are below their grade level in studies. Others use this term to mean children with lower than normal IQs but who would not be considered retarded.slow-l-brain-imaging1.jpeg

Both of these definitions are wrong. There are a very wide variety of causes for slow learning, not all of which are understood. Often it has absolutely nothing to do with IQ at all. In fact those with lower than normal IQs should not be called “slow learners” for not only will they be slow but in absolute terms they will never become age normative – that’s not slowness. Those who are just a bit slower will eventually catch up and will even sometimes go on to become exceptional.

In my experience, slow learners may have any combination of identifiable dysfunctionalities like ADD, hyperactivity, dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyspraxia, and sometimes none. But these disadvantages will be partial in effect and not severe enough to be uncompensatable. Very often, we have found that slow learners also have problems with visual-motor coordination. There therefore may be issues in delayed development of visual motor ability and there may be accompanying dyspraxia. While slow learners will lag behind their classmates, they will somewhat manage to keep up. Typically they will do better orally than in written testing and simple things like completing classwork or homework in time may be a constant headache for both parent and teacher- but this is to be expected if your child is slow!

Therapy in self organisation is very important. Building up the child’s self-confidence is also very important. Identify the child’s strengths and use these to bolster their confidence. Teachers should work harder at encouraging and stifle the urge to criticise and particularly should be careful about comparing one child’s performance or work with another’s. At the same time demand and expect performance. Do not let the child be satisfied with less than their best effort. You may find at one stage that there will be a sudden improvement in handwriting neatness and speed or perhaps in an ability to do sums, and this is a strong sign that the right parts of the brain are being stimulated to catch up and they mostly will then do so quite quickly.slow-l-tortoisehare-2.jpg

Orally work with the child one-on-one whenever possible doing mental sums, or any kind of mental gymnastics, including solving puzzles, conundrums, and having fun with expressions and word plays will prove to be very helpful. At the same time make the child work on basics like arithmetic and handwriting on a daily basis.

Again encourage improvement without being too critical but don’t let the child dodge doing the basic amount of work. Daily work on keeping their workspace organised as well as getting them to maintain a daily routine in all things is very important. You will see change happen and sometimes it will happen quite dramatically. Till then a consistent effort will be needed to prepare your child to adequately compensate for whatever part of the mind is temporarily hanging back.

As we have discussed earlier, diet is very important. Get a professional evaluation done as soon as possible and then annually, and do discuss your child’s progress and difficulties with teachers and with your pediatrician. Religiously keep a journal. If the school is not handling your child properly be prepared to shift elsewhere. Do not compromise on the proper learning environment, for once your child feels put down you may never see anything but defeat.

Finally, find a support group. Slow learning is only recently being recognised as something different, so the closest fit will be a support group for ADD/ADHD kids some of whom may also be dyslexic or have other problems.slow-l-brainl_normalmovie_colorbar.gif

Tackling any learning disability or developmental delay is a bit like setting out on a marathon or trying to climb a tall mountain. It won’t be over quickly. Slowly and steadily and with determination and encouragement from fellow travelers, you will succeed in the end. Remember that your child is unique. No formulaic approach may work, but with your love and your commitment, your child will be best able to reach all of their own unique potential as a uniquely valuable human being – and make you proud of how much they have and will achieve.
Digg!





Developmentally Challenged Children – Tips for Parents

2 05 2007

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Upon discovering that a child of ours is having a developmental disorder, be it autism, ADHD, dyslexia or whatever, parents face a number of difficulties. Often the first question asked is “who’s fault is this?”. Rest assured, developmental disorders are not the result of poor parenting!

The process of discovery may be painful but it is very important for both parents to accept the reality and deal with it. In many cases the disorder will be treatable even when discovered late. More importantly, the negative effects on a child with a developmental disorder can be devastating unless they are counteracted by parents and friends who are determined to let their child know that an inabity to perform on par with peers does not result in rejection or less love.

Start keeping a detailed journal for your child. Note down things like diet, moods, new therapies, hours of sleep, illnesses, medications, and physical data such as height, weight, head circumference, bmi and whatever else seems of importance. Make sure that you make relevant entries daily. This can be an invaluable help as time goes on. Ask your therapist to give you an appropriate developmental checklist and note down your child’s progress.

Finding the best therapy for your child is of great importance and perhaps even more important is to evaluate exactly what the individual child’s problems are.

A good therapy centre for developmental disorders will have at least the following facilities: Personnel; an occupational therapist, a child psychologist and a special educationist. Then Facilities; comprehensive licensed tests, a developmental playground, sensory integration toys and tools and good nutritional support. They will also maintain a therapy schedule with plenty of one-on-one sessions and so have a high therapist to client ratio. Finally, good therapy centers will include the parents in the therapy process. In our experience, when parents and therapists effectively cooperate, children do much, much better.

Parents then need to find out all they can about the particular problems that their child faces. The internet has plenty of information, but not all of it is good! Be sure to discuss what you learn with the professionals who are helping you! Join a support group with other parents who are sailing in similar waters. A good support group can be invaluable for sharing burdens and for finding solutions. You will be surprised to discover how common developmental problems are!

Finally, start including your extended family and your friends in your experiences. Don’t try to keep your child’s difficulties a secret.  This can be hard to do but it is very necessary.  Not all will be understanding but most people will appreciate your confidence and will try to be practically helpful.

Educating a developmentally challenged child can be difficult but many schools recognise the problems and are starting to practice inclusive education. Search out such forward thinking schools and spend time talking to your child’s teachers about what additional therapy is ongoing and areas where your child needs extra help.

Always know that you and your child will grow together. Some developmental problems can be completely cured, others can be so well compensated for that no deficit will be detectable and in all cases improvement will be seen!

So, never give up…
Digg!
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NUTRITION FOR KIDS WITH LD

22 04 2007

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Every aspect of the life of a child with learning or developmental disorders has to be studied and modified in order to give the child the best chance of achieving his/her true potential.

Attention should particularly be paid to the following key areas:

1. Play (guided, therapeutic play).

2. Adequate sleep and rest.foodpyramid-2.jpg

3. Physical development.

4. Therapy.

5. Nutrition.

6. Lots and lots of affirmative affection and love.

7. Discipline – for an ordered life.

I would like to just discuss a few pointers on diet. We have found that a change in diet makes a huge difference to attention spans and mental acuity as well as helping to correct deficits in physical growth and development.

A lot of parents are aware of the ‘food pyramid’ and have implemented those suggetions. Children with LD and developmental disorders require even more care as the diet not only has immediate effects on behavior but is also critical for normalising the functioning and development of the brain and nervous system.

The basics af a good LD diet are: Adequate calories and nutrients + a shift in the composition of the diet so that 40% is protein, 35% fat, and 25% complex carbohydrates.

Quantity is not as important as quality but do see that your child gets just enough calories.

Add more fried things – side dishes and snacks.

Mix the oils used in food preparation. Too often adults’ fears of too much cholesterol means that families stick to one safe oil, say sunflower oil. There’s nothing wrong with sunflower oil, but for kids other oils can help with the development of their nervous systems. Add oils like Olive, Sessame, Safflower, Rice Bran, and Corn oil, and you can also happily let the children have other dairy fat rich things like cheese and butter. Fish oil (cod liver oil) and other omega 3, omega 6 supplements we have found to be very helpful.

Use more herbs and spices in your cooking. Many exotic ingredients like mustard seeds, black pepper, cardomom, cloves, nutmeg, aniseed, sessame seed, corriander seeds and leaves, and mint are very good because they contain essential oils that are useful for the body. A few spices, especially red chilli powder (caprica) and turmeric we have found to be generally unhelpful. Nuts are an excellent source of essential oils – almonds, cashew nuts and macadamias are especially enriching.

Vegetables and fruits should be present in every meal. Let the kids have their favourites in any quantity but do see that the yellow vegetables are represented (e.g. carrots, pumpkin). Spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage are very good but some creativity may be required to get the children to eat enough of them.

Carbs should be complex, especially for kids with ADD/ADHD. Honey, molasses, treacle, pure maple syrup, and date syrup, are very good sweeteners. Stay away from sugar (sucrose) and glucose as much as possible. Fruits of all types are good. Dark chocolate is good as are homemade icecream and fruit cocktail. Fruit preserves that have no stabilizers or artificial preservatives are fine. In fact it is best to stay away from anything with artificial stabilizers, food colorings and preservatives as many of these have effects on mood and can worsen hyperactivity. Bread should best be whole grain, but a number of children are sensitive to gluten so check that out and if necessary try a gluten excluded diet for at least a week to see whether it helps.

Don’t store anything in the fridge, if at all possible – FRESH IS BEST!

Changes in diet will result in both immediate and slower changes, and if you are a sensible parent you will pay close attention to this very important aspect of your child’s life. make sure to keep track of dietary changes or anything ‘new’ that your child eats in your journal.

Anyone interested in the Challenge ‘eggetarian’ LD diet (very Indian) can mail me and I will send you a copy. There is no ONE CORRECT diet that will work with all developmentally challenged kids, so keep working on it and learning as you go!

Digg!





LD1 – Dyslexia

30 03 2007

There are many, many things that can disturb a child’s ability to learn. The commonest cause of learning disorders is improper development but genetics is also thought to play some roll…LD1

Today, I want to highlight reading difficulties or dyslexia as a common and troubling disorder.

Signs can be detected from about 3 years of age onwards as children fall behind their peers in reading. Commonly one will encounter any or all of the following:

  • May have poor reading ability or poor comprehension
  • May often misread information
  • May have problems with syntax or grammar
  • May confuse similar letters or numbers, reverse them, or confuse their order
  • May have difficulty reading addresses, small print and/or columns

The amount of disability and its causes will have to be determined by experts for each child. Various standardised tests are available to help with the diagnosis. Depending on the cause, many childrens’ disability can be lessened or even sometimes eliminated. Early detection and treatment are keys to success but our experience at Challenge is also that it is better late than never!

Almost every town now has professional help available for affected children. To ignore a child’s difficulties will simply consign them to a life far below their true potential. If you have questions please do feel free to contact me.

We will soon do short highlights on each of the following – Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism and Aspergers.