What is ADD? ADD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. The hallmarks of this disorder are forgetfulness, disorganization, and difficulty focusing. Children with ADD do not exhibit hyperactivity or impulsiveness. A child with ADD will be easily distracted and lose focus on routine tasks such as chores, daily hygiene routines, and school work. They may have difficulty getting organized for these tasks, lose items needed to complete them, or avoid them to the point of melting down when required complete them. On the other hand, if a topic is interesting to a child with ADD, they will focus completely on that task to the point that it is difficult to focus on anything else. These children have difficulty keeping a routine because they may forget daily activities easily. As they enter school, it’s common to notice that they have trouble focusing on social activities, have trouble following detailed directions, and may seem that they are not listening.
What makes treating ADD tricky? Because ADD is now considered a form of ADHD, many practitioners will attempt to use the same strategies when working with both ADD and ADHD patients. While many patients who exhibit hyperactivity and impulsivity will exhibit inattention secondary to the hyperactivity and impulsivity, an ADD patient will experience only the inattention. It’s important to remember that kids with ADD and ADHD both have brains that deviate from neurotypical, but they deviate in different ways. In addition, the symptoms of ADD often overlap or are comorbid with other neurological or psychiatric disorders. If your child is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above — especially if they have a negative impact on daily functioning — it’s important to get a definitive diagnosis.
Is medication the only treatment option? Medication tends to be the first line of defense in treating ADD. It’s important to discuss potential risks and side effects along with intended benefits with your physician prior to beginning any prescription medications. It’s also important to consider that there are other interventions that can be used in lieu of medication or in combination with medication. As I mentioned above, while a child with ADD will have an ADHD diagnosis, ADD patients have a very unique set of needs that set them apart from the majority of ADHD patients. This means that what works for a hyperactive or impulsive child may not work for a child with ADD.
• Work with your child and the other adults in their life. Your child’s brain works differently than yours does, and that’s ok. You may need to change up how you approach her so that she responds well and avoids unnecessary frustration. Children with ADD tend to respond well to checklists, goals, praise, and structure. Evaluate your family’s needs and priorities, and cut activities that are unnecessary or not working for you out of your schedule. If your child needs to complete tasks she isn’t fond of, give her extra time in a quiet environment. Communicate with teachers, coaches, and babysitters so they know what does and doesn’t work for your child.
• Practice good sleep hygiene. Children who do not get good sleep may be more restless or have more difficulty focusing. Creating a great bedtime routine can prevent next day exhaustion from making symptoms worse. Some of my favorite techniques are taking a warm bath, avoiding electronic use 2 hours before bedtime, developing a bedtime routine that involves favorite books or snuggles, creating a dark sleep space, and diffusing lavender essential oil. If warranted, supplementation with magnesium or melatonin can be considered.
• Find a sport and/or musical instrument that your child loves. This will allow your child to learn to celebrate her gift for being passionately immersed in topics that interest her. It will fulfill her need to focus intensely and use multiple parts of her brain at the same time. In addition, it can help her to build social relationships with other children who have similar interests, since this can be a struggle in situations that make it difficult for a child with ADD to focus.
• Support detox pathways gently. Children with ASD, ADD, and ADHD have compromised detoxification pathways, so supporting these can relieve symptoms. This can be as simple as supporting the kidneys through adequate fluid intake and encouraging regular bowel movements through a healthy diet. Additional liver detoxification support — such as glutathione supplementation, castor oil packs, or epsom salt baths — can be added if needed.
• Supplement with fish oil. Emerging research is indicating a link between omega 3’s and ADD. This makes sense because children with ADD often have low blood levels of omega 3’s and DHA (an important omega 3 fatty acid) is essential for brain health. Eating 2-3 servings of cold water, fatty fish per week can provide adequate levels of omega 3’s. If you child doesn’t love fish, you can try a daily fish oil supplement instead.
• Get a chiropractic evaluation. A chiropractor can identify and correct spinal subluxations. A subluxated vertebrae is one that is slightly out of place and is causing entrapment of the associated paraspinal nerve. Correcting spinal subluxations can lead to better nervous system function.
• Try neurofeedback. Neurofeedback teaches a patient how to change their brain waves to focus better. ADD patients tend to have high theta waves (slow) and low beta waves (fast), and early research seems to indicate that adjusting this imbalance can improve focus. While treatment can be pricey, it’s non-invasive and usually fun for kids.
• Consider micronutrient testing. Vitamin or mineral deficiencies can exacerbate ADD symptoms. Micronutrient testing can reveal these specific deficiencies and their severity. Based on this, a healthcare practitioner can develop a supplementation plan to address these.
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The views expressed in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be substituted for medical advice.