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!

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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.
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Birds and Elephants at Topslip

24 02 2007

Do you know that India boasts over 1,400 of the world’s 10,000 species of birds! Of these fully 260 species can be seen in the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary – one small 500 sq km patch of forest? Serious birders from all over the world visit here every year to enjoy the myriad and unique birds found only in the various remaining small patches of shola forest.

Ponnvandu (our little trust) organised 15 volunteers from our college student work to participate in this year’s elephant and bird counts. It was an exciting two days. Most of our kids are getting into the forest on foot for the very first time! Some are so city bred that they have never even seen the milky way before…

We were blessed with lovely weather. Five of our volunteers were needed for the elephant census and the rest were assigned to enumerate the bird species. Only four of us are decent birders so we decided to form three teams and divided the sholas amongst the three for two days of morning and evening counts. It is exciting work! The forest department lorry drops us at specific points in the forest and from then on we work with the local tribal guides and forest guards to complete routes of 7 to 10 km each in the early morning and then starting again in the late afternoon.

The five that went for elephant counting saw a total of 39 elephants, which is quite encouraging given that this is a dry season census and most elephants are known to head deep into the forest in search of perennial streams and lakes (few and far between). A number of calves and juveniles were counted in the family groups. One young man found himself just feet away from a late foraging sloth bear while he was absorbed in observing a mother and calf elephant. Luckily these bears are very short sighted and it went harmlessly on its way.

Our budding birders quickly got the hang of things, started recognising bird song and we came up with a very encouraging 87 species including many of the rarer birds. The group that first went into the Karian Shola were able to see two nesting Malabar Pied Hornbills (Anthracoceros coronatus) and one male actually feeding the ensconced female – a very very rare treat indeed. They also spotted the very hard to find Ceylon Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger) on this hike. One group came across the ‘dreaded’ king cobra up close (a 4 meter/13 footer, about medium sized). This is one species that eats only other snakes. The king cobras come to the bamboo breaks and near spots of water for their breeding season and they can get quite aggressive if someone is found near their nests!

On the second day we were joined by the world famous bird guide (now a forest dept guard) Mr. Natarajan. He is amazing and being a local tribal, knows both these forests and the resident wildlife intimately. Articulate and a wonderful teacher, the lucky five kids that spent the day with him really got a grand education in censusing, bird identification and generally how the whole ecosystem works.

Having these young people from the Sri Krishna College of Arts and Sciences (SKCAS) enthusiastically participating in very rigorous census work was perhaps the most exciting part. They learned a tremendous amount, but more than that they got the feel of what biodiversity means, how fragile these ecosystems are and the crying need for more involvement in conservation work.

One of the saddest findings was that many areas of shola are being invaded by coffee plants. Coffee seeds from the surrounding private coffee plantations are being effectively dispersed into these sholas and one can see that the shola forests are under a very severe threat from this new invasion. Sometime soon I will do a post on what shola forest is, but so far the main point is that we don’t have any idea how to regenerate a shola, so once gone, gone forever.

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IGNWS Animal Census 2007

24 01 2007

This year’s survey was announced rather suddenly today. Under the aegis of the Ponnvandu Foundation we have been asked to provide volunteers. Lion Tailed Macaques (LTM – Macaca silenus) will be surveyed on Thursday the 25th of January, Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) on the 29th, carnivores from the 2nd to the 9th of february and elephants in Feb’s 3rd week.

Anyone who wants to participate can contact me with their details ASAP!!!


The Tahr and the LTM are very highly endangered species and one has to trek to really deep forest to get a chance to see them.

Great trekking and a ‘few in a lifetime’ chance to see two of the world’s most endangered species and to contribute to their conservation – could anyone ask for more?

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