Have you noticed that your child has trouble staying focused on a specific task? Whether they are finishing math homework, or just play catch, they seem to be unable to concentrate for extended periods of time. If this has occurred over the course of at least six months, your child could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD or ADD, attention deficit disorder without the hyperactivity.
Once referred to as hyperkinesis or minimal brain dysfunction, ADHD/ADD has become one of the most common mental disorders among children, affecting approximately 3% to 5% of U.S. children according to the National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH). In order to be diagnosed with the disorder, the behaviors must appear before the age of 7 and continue for at least six months. In addition, the behaviors must be more frequent and severe than other children of the same age. At least two areas in the child’s life must also be affected by the behavior; for example, family and school or social life and family.
Osteopathic physicians (DOs) believe ADHD/ADD is a diagnosis applied to children who consistently display certain characteristic behaviors over a period of time.
If parents suspect their child may have ADHDADD, there are several professionals to turn to for diagnosis – pediatricians, family physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists or neurologists. While they may all diagnose the disorder, some of them can prescribe medications, while others can provide counseling.
Different medications are prescribed to help treat ADHD/ADD. The most common stimulant drugs used today are Ritalin, Dexedrine/Dextrostat and Cylert. In November of 2002, the FDA also approved the non-stimulant drug Strattera for the treatment of this disorder.
According to the NIMH, the behaviors improve for nine out of 10 children when using medication. DOs recommend that you ask your physician to adjust the dosage of the medication if it is not working for your child. Your physician can also prescribe other medications if the initial treatment does not work.
When placing children on any medication, there is always concern. However, weighing the potential side effects against the benefits can help families decide whether or not to choose medication as a method for treating ADHD/ADD. Some side effects while on these drugs include loss of appetite, a slower growth rate, and weight loss.
While medication can do a good job of controlling symptoms, many professionals believe that medication and therapy are the best combination for treating the disorder. Other therapies include psychotherapy, support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and social skills training which can help people with ADHD/ADD learn new behaviors or accept themselves despite the disorder.
No matter which treatment your physician suggests, a child with ADHD/ADD can still learn to live a normal life.
Behavior Patterns to Look For
As ADHD/ADD does not have distinct physical symptoms, it is necessary to recognize specific behavior patterns. These patterns include:
Inattention - children who have a difficult time finishing projects that require concentration for an extended length of time.
Hyperactivity - children who are consistently moving throughout a room or squirm in their seats.
Impulsivity - children are unable to think before they act. They are incapable if controlling their immediate reactions and may find it difficult to wait for their turn while playing games.
What Can DOs Do Differently?
Rather than just prescribing drugs, the osteopathic approach would look for possible underlying causes of ADHD/ADD.
For instance, a common cause of behavioral problems is hypoglycemia which is easily treatable with a change in diet. Food and inhalant allergies can also be common culprits for bad behavior that are not difficult to treat.
Osteopathic manipulation may also be a possible treatment that will serve the nervous system of the child. Also, many children with these symptoms have allergies which often lead to congestion that may affect how they think, feel, and act. An osteopathic manipulative treatment technique, designed to drain fluid from the head, can allow the child to think more clearly.