Today’s Washington Post posted an article by Katherine Ellison, the mother of a child (now a teenager) who was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder in 2004. Mrs. Ellison took an aggressive approach to dealing with the disorder, and the article details her dealings with both her son’s behavior and the teachers who were faced with having him in their classrooms. I would like to say up front that this article was significant to me as a mother who has raised an ADHD child, who is married to an ADHD husband, whose father-in-law was probably ADHD, and who has a grandson who is ADHD. I have seen the disorder up close and personal. I would also like to add that based on my observations, ADHD acts very differently in girls than it does in boys.
Mrs. Ellison points out:
“…the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, which by one measure sells more than $5 billion worth of ADHD medications each year – and which only in the United States and New Zealand may market directly to the public – but a growing league of all-but-unregulated, usually costly and sometimes wildly imaginative alternatives, including herbal supplements, complicated exercise regimes to stimulate specific brain regions, magnetic mattresses, personal coaches and therapy “assisted” by dolphins.”
The article also pointed out:
“At the same time, I discovered that some of the most effective interventions are also the simplest and cheapest. Such as educating myself enough to know how much of my son’s behavior is truly within his control. And getting in the habit, with my husband, of finding something to praise about him every day (“Way to breathe!” we began, although we soon found more substantial causes for celebration).
“Regular physical exercise, I found, can also be hugely helpful – and this strategy is backed by a significant amount of research. Russell Barkley, a leading ADHD researcher, cites studies showing that rigorous exercise can increase the brain’s capacity for willpower and emotional self-control, arguably the most important skills lacking in many of the clinically distracted. So too, he says, can maintaining adequate levels of glucose, which has led me to stop pestering my wiry, active son about his many trips to the refrigerator.”
I am not a doctor, but I can confirm a good part of what she is saying. In the case of my daughter and grandson, sports was a wonderful thing. It seems as if you have to wear these children out a bit physically before they can settle down and study. The other thing I have learned in the case of my husband is that coffee (caffeine) seems to settle his brain down to the point where he can concentrate. I have also learned in the case of my daughter that the hayfever medicine that was supposed to make her sleepy had the opposite effect. Also, like my husband, coffee slows her down so that she can function more easily.
I have no idea what the solution to ADHD is. I commend the author of the article for her willingness to challenge some of the conventional wisdom and find her own solutions. I know that as someone watching the fourth generation of ADHD, that may actually be the only answer. Bless you, Mrs. Ellison. I wish you continued success is dealing with the problem.
Just one further note. So far all the family members with ADHD have been very bright and very successful. I wish that for you also.