Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a difficulty in paying attention is the
problem which defines this disorder and it is among the most common developmental problems
What to look for
(Bear in mind that
attention deficit disorder (ADD) is often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms are
related to normal child development)
habitual failure to pay
problems with school
easily distracted -
an inability to organise
excessive talking and
Although this condition
does exist it is hard to define and often misdiagnosed. It is overused by lay people and
often used as an excuse for poor behaviour.
Most ADD children are of
normal or high intelligence. Their activity levels may be normal, lower than normal
(hypoactivity), or higher than normal (a version that has its own diagnostic label:
attention deficit hypoactivity disorder, or ADHD).
An ADD child may also have
a specific learning disability that prevents him from taking in and sorting out
information in the same way other children do. His brain is unable to process the messages
his ears, eyes, or muscles give him.
Although the causes of ADD
are poorly understood, biological inheritance appears to be important in many cases. The
disorder seems to run in families. A number of non-genetic factors can also play a
causative role. Among them
drug or alcohol abuse or other problems in a mother's
pregnancy, birth trauma, early child abuse, brain injuries from accidents, meningitis,
encephalitis, low-level lead poisoning, and psychological disorders.
In the late 1970s and early
1980s, some researchers thought ADD was caused or intensified by sugar and artificial food
additives. This theory is now controversial, but some studies still show that specific
foods such as chocolate, wheat, cow's milk, and oranges may exacerbate the condition in
some hypoactive children.
There are a variety of
tests which may be used by doctors to diagnose this condition. Tests include:
a medical and social
history of both the child and his family.
a physical exam and
neurological assessment, as well as tests for blood levels of lead, a mineral that has
been implicated in hypoactivity.
a quantitative evaluation
of intelligence, aptitude, personality traits, and processing skills.
The best treatment is
thought to be a combination of medication and psychological therapies.
Although there is
considerable controversy about their possible overuse, stimulants such as amphetamines or,
more usually, methylphenidate (better known by the brand name Ritalin) are the medications
often prescribed for ADD. (Strange as it seems, stimulants often calm hypoactivity).
A Health Professional needs
to monitor the dosage closely (about twice a month), both to check for the right level and
to watch for side effects.
Of the psychological
therapies, behaviour modification may be best, particularly if the therapist helps parents
learn some of the techniques for behaviour control. It is often given in conjunction with
specific educational interventions, such as help with learning skills. Psychotherapy is a
valuable option, particularly if the child suffers from low self-esteem.
alternative therapies may prove helpful, among them Homoeopathy; consult a Homoeopath for
Although the effectiveness
of dietary restrictions is controversial, some doctors recommend a high-protein,
low-carbohydrate, sugar-free diet. Some children may also benefit from the B-vitamin
niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), and possibly thiamine (B1).
The stimulant caffeine may
be helpful. Depending on the results of your child's tests for mineral blood levels,
he/she may benefit from supplements.
Join a support group.
Because an ADD child may
process directions and other information in faulty ways, he probably feels bombarded with
corrections, leaving him with a low opinion of himself. Do whatever you can to promote
your child's self-esteem.
Praise and reward good
Be consistent with
discipline, and make sure baby-sitters follow your methods.
Make instructions simple
and specific ("Brush your teeth; now, get dressed"), instead of general
("Get ready for school").
Encourage your child's
special strengths, particularly in sports and out-of-school activities.
Have set routines for
meals, sleep, play, and TV.
Don't let homework
monopolise all of his time after school; play and exercise are important.
Simplify your child's
room. Store toys out of sight.
When to seek further