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Dear Mrs. Smith:
I’m writing this letter to you because I am concerned about your daughter. Jane is often staring out the window and runs to it to get a closer look at the “cool” animal or insect. She often yells out the answer or “butts” in front of the other students because she can’t wait her turn like the other students. The hardest thing I’m dealing with is that Jane is constantly talking out-loud, fidgeting with her toys, and also she never sits still. I am concerned about her and I would like to have a conference with you to discuss having Jane tested for attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. This may not be the case, but I would just like to figure out why she is falling behind the other students. Please feel free to call me anytime to set up this appointment my number is 555-1234.
October 20, 2000
This letter represents the type sent by teachers to many parents about children who are thought to have ADD/ADHD. Attention-deficit disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, most commonly known as ADD and ADHD, are neurobiological disorders that are most common among children; however, they are not unheard of in adults. An internet article entitled “Understanding and Identifying Children with ADHD: First Steps to Effective Intervention” put out by the US Department of Education cites several different causes of ADHD “such as pregnancy and birth, illness, lead poisoning, injury and prenatal drug exposure.” Children who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD have trouble paying attention, are often hyperactive, and act on impulse. Although drug treatment is the most common antidote to ADD/ADHD, a combination of diet, behavior intervention and medication is the best antidote for ADD/ADHD.
Diet, although often overlooked, is extremely effective in combating or lessening the effects of ADD/ADHD. James B. Lavalle discussed the problem of a person having poor nutrition as a possible cause of ADD/ADHD in his article “Emotional, Nutritional Issues Offer Treatment Insight” that was published in Drug Store News. He writes, “It seems plausible that several nutrient depletions and food intake issues can be linked to possible causes of ADD and ADHD.” Because of a link between poor nutrition and ADD, there can be a reversal by integrating proper nutrition to a person with ADD/ADHD. This addition can, with a combination of behavior interventions and medication, help stop the signs of ADD/ADHD.
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Diet along with a combination of medication and behavior interventions, can help control these disorders, but knowing the ingredients of a proper diet is just as important. Children with these hyperactive and impulse behavior disorders need more magnesium in their diets. According to the article published in Drug Store News, this is because magnesium is “the calming mineral.” Children and adults also need to watch their sugar levels because sugar increases hyperactivity. One study reported in “Emotional Nutritional Issues Offer Treatment Insight” the article by James B. Lavalle, was that dairy, wheat, chocolate, corn, soy, citrus fruits, yeast, eggs, and peanuts were suspected to cause ADD and ADHD. The study concluded that once those foods were withheld, “73% of the children improved in just two weeks” (63). If a person watches what they eat, they can easily reduce the severity of the hyperactivity, increase attention span, and impulsive behavior. However, diet may not alone control ADD/ADHD. A holistic approach would also include behavior interventions.
Behavior interventions, although also overlooked, are extremely effective in combating or lessening the effects of ADD/ADHD. Children who have ADD and ADHD show behavior disorders that, along with diet and medication, can be regulated by simple discipline strategies to help them from falling behind others. According to an internet article titled “ADD/ADHD Treatment Options” extracted from the document published by Health Responsibility Systems, the behavior interventions are “geared toward helping the children learn, control behavior and increase his or her self-esteem.” These behavior interventions can be done in several ways, but the most effective way is for disciplinary actions to occur when and where the behavior occurs. Some examples of behavior treatments include rewarding good behaviors by a treat of some kind and giving “time outs” for bad behavior. One way teachers can help their students with their low attention spans is by placing the child in an area with there is little or no distractions, in an area where the child can move around and release their energy, or establish clear rules and reward appropriate behavior. These behavior interventions help the student control their own behavior and increase their self-esteem which plays a huge part in reducing the signs of ADD or ADHD. Therefore, if a child has proper nutrition and is being rewarded and punished for their behavior, the only other necessary part of the treatment is medication.
The types of drugs used for the correction of abnormal genes in the dopamine system of a person with ADD or ADHD, are very well known. “Methylphenidate (Ritalin) or the amphetamine Aderall, and Dexedrine, are the most studied and most effective medications” that are used (ADHD Treatments). These medications reduce the person’s hyperactivity and improve their ability to pay attention. These drugs are prescribed by most doctors, but not all doctors take the same approach when prescribing the medication. This is because teenagers and adults taking Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Aderall can become addicted. The National Institute of Mental Health took note of the addiction problems and stated that each doctor tries to find the best medication by working closely with his or her patients. (“Some Basic”) Some doctors use short-term tablets and others use longer-term tablets. Other medications that may be prescribed to a patient with ADD and ADHD are, “antidepressant, anti-anxiety medications and mood stabilizing medications” (Medications Used to Treat). These drugs are sometimes prescribed because some patients with ADD or ADHD show signs of depression or mood swings once they are put on Ritalin, Dexedrine, or Aderall.
Medication is the most common treatment for controlling the effects of attention-deficit disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; however, it is most effective if used with diet and behavior interventions. According to the internet article “Understanding and Identifying Children with ADHD: First Steps to Effective Intervention” the most “effective treatment depends on the collaboration of proper behavior accommodations in the classroom and medication administered at home.” Children or adults who have ADD or ADHD have a variation in the genes of the dopamine system in their brain, which is why they display attention problems. The treatment for the variation or “deficit” in the genes of a person with ADD or ADHD was discussed in a 1999 article by John Ratey, M.D. titled “An Update On Medications Used in the Treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder.” It stated that “the job of medication is to correct this deficit and its associated problems like anxiety, depressed and demoralized moods, overactive startle response, and the many problems with aggression and addiction.” Ratey shows the effectiveness of medication in the mind of a person suffering from ADD/ADHD. This proves that ADD and ADHD can be controlled by a combination of stimulant medications that correct the abnormal genes in the dopamine system of the brain, proper diet and also behavior interventions.
The combination of diet, medication and behavior interventions is necessary. However, some people disagree with the holistic treatment because they believe that Ritalin and the other medication used to treat ADD/ADHD can cause more problems than benefits. In the internet article published by the National Institute of Mental Health stated that “while on these medications, some children may lose weight, have less appetite, and temporarily grow more slowly.Others may have problems falling asleep” (“Some Basic”). If a child is going to lose a significant amount of weight from taking a pill that is supposed to control attention spans, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, then the medication is not doing its job. These children are being treated for hyperactivity not obesity or insomnia. If a child is having problems falling asleep in class because of his or her medication for ADD/ADHD this will not help their performance at school. With these type of side effects a doctor should not prescribe these drugs and the patient should be informed of other less threatening side-effects which do include diet and behavior modification.
In spite of some people’s belief, research has shown that people with ADD and ADHD do benefit from Ritalin and other drug treatment. Also mentioned in the article published by the National Institute of Mental Health is that “the benefits of medication far outweigh the potential side effects. Side effects that do occur can often be handled by reducing dosage.” If a child’s benefit of taking the stimulant drugs outweighs the risks, then people can take comfort knowing that they are going to be safe taking the drug, that is, if it is taken correctly. However, like already stated, a combination of medication, diet, and behavior interventions is the best antidote for ADD/ADHD.
Although drug treatment is the most common antidote to ADD/ADHD, a combination of diet, behavior intervention and medication is the best antidote for ADD/ADHD. This combination is necessary because proper nutrition will help a child, but can not treat every symptom alone. Behavior intervention is used along with diet to help the child learn self-control and play an active role in improving their disease. Diet and behavior intervention would not be completely effective without the drug treatment. The drug treatment is the last piece of the puzzle to help the child with ADD/ADHD. With time, patience and the combination of diet, behavior intervention and medication a student described in the opening letter can have a much better letter sent home at the end of the
year like the one below.
I am pleased to say that I think we finally have Jane’s attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder under control. Since you have started to Ritalin pills at home she has been much easier to work with here at school. I have tried to do my part that you had asked me to do and I think it is really helping her school work. I have a chart set up for Jane and every time she is behaving well She puts a sticker on the “good” side of the chart if she is not behaving she puts a sticker on the “bad” side of the chart. At the end of the week if there are more “good” stickers than “bad” she gets a prize. Also, I have been making sure that she has been eating the food that you send in her lunches. Thank you so much for helping me out this year. I am sad to say that the year is almost over. However, I am not worried that Jane will do a tremendous job in 3rd grade.
May 5, 2001
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