ADHD Alternate Approaches

by Karoli on June 14, 2006 · 33 comments

Via Newsvine:

J Kelly raises two really important points that I want to emphasize here about ADHD.

Focus begins with the eyes

However, despite Amber’s improvements, she was still struggling to “maintain focus”. On a hunch from Amber’s mother they decided to have Amber’s eyes and ears checked. Amber passed her hearing test with flying colors…and failed her vision test. That’s right, Amber needed glasses! They got Amber some prescription corrective glasses (which she absolutely loved) and her grades shot back up to her normal levels. She is now enjoying even better performance than she had been achieving through the third grade.

You might ask: How is it that the teacher and Amber’s parents didn’t know that the poor girl needed glasses? Amber didn’t really fit the profile. She didn’t complain of headaches, she only squinted from time to time, and she only complained about things being blurry once. However, none of this is the point. Many teachers have been taught, for whatever reason, that a lack of focus means ADD. It’s not always the case!

When Sticks was in fifth grade I read an article that discussed a relationship between ADHD and eyesight. Sticks has always been a voracious reader and never complained of any difficulties with his eyes. The school eye exams were always passed, so we didn’t think about it.

After reading the article on the study, we made an appointment with an optometrist and discovered that Sticks was extremely farsighted and was compensating for it. (He still does whenever he performs because he doesn’t like wearing glasses). His farsightedness was much more pronounced with close work, so not only did he need glasses, he needed bifocals. So, by the way, did I. Mine was discovered at age 16.

If you’re reading this because you’re learning about ADHD and are in the process of determining whether your child has ADHD, include a complete vision examination as part of the evaluation process. It DOES matter. Don’t rely upon the school’s exams or wait for your child to complain.

Supplements make a difference?

(It’s worth noting that J Kelly sells the supplements referred to in the following quote:)

One thing Amber’s parents found was that ADD and ADHD can be addressed (at least partially) through diet. One of the “big ticket items” to avoid regarding ADD is sugar. So they started adjusting Amber’s diet to include less sugar, fewer simple carbohydrates, and more beneficial nutrients. At the same time, they opted to try two natural attention deficit hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder supplements that work well together; “BrightSpark ADD” for kids ages 1 – 12 and “Focus ADHD” formula.

Well, I’m going to agree and disagree on this. I think nutrition in ANY child makes a difference, ADHD or otherwise. We had no success with the ADHD and supplements, but there are some who report successes, and I think that’s great.

A note of caution: Supplements are chemicals too. The fact that they’re derived from a plant or tree bark or whatever makes them no less chemical. “Natural” isn’t always better.

Our supplements consist of Omega-3 and a regular multivitamin for all of us, ADHD or otherwise. We also make sure the kids eat something other than junk for breakfast before school. When we are on the run like we have been lately, we eat more than our share of fast food, but we try to go to places like Baja Fresh where it’s grilled, not fried, and vegetables are part of the menu.

J Kelly’s got some good points. I don’t agree with all of them, but the eye exam and good nutrition are two that I do.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 liz June 17, 2006 at 11:05 am

This week has been vision week, for some reason. Yes, all kids should have regular, thorough eye exams. But by whom? Some optometrists (“developmental optometrists” claim that untreated vision problems are the cause of ADHD behavior, and “vision therapy” is the answer.

There’s scant evidence that “vision therapy” is beneficial (see Vision and Learning Disabilities for a complete response.

2 drumsnwhistles June 17, 2006 at 12:00 pm

Good point, Liz. I don’t agree with the “vision therapy” proponents. We just go to a regular optometrist here with a great reputation.

However, it’s worth noting that if a parent has a referral from a teacher for a child who doesn’t show signs of ADHD at home, they might want to consider the possibility that the problem is one of vision and not attention.

3 liz June 17, 2006 at 12:28 pm

I forgot to mention two things. Oliver Sacks has a fascinating article in this week’s New Yorker on a woman who recovered stereoscopic vision as an adult (with the help of vision therapy–a legitimate use). The article isn’t available online, but there’s more about Stereo Sue at the Mt. Holyoke site.

And if I were starting on my journey of learning about attentional difficulties and learning disabilities, I would start with Dr. Mel Levine’s Educational Care 2nd edition (ISBN 083881987)–with a couple of caveats or Readers Beware.

1. Levine’s approach does not readily map onto IDEA formulations and school preconceptions. He says,

“This book continutes to advocate for the informed observation and discription of students without subjecting children to eligibility formulas and labels.”

So the reader has to be able to hold two “mental maps” in mind — (a) the concepts and labels presupposed by IDEA, special education, and the school; and (b) Levine’s eight neurodevelopmental constructs.

2. Levine’s language is formal and academic.

“This book presents what is called a phenomenological model. It is a model based on clinical, educational, and research experience, a model that favors informed observation and description over labeling and that takes into account the great heterogeneity of children with disappointing school perfomance. As its basis it takes makes use of analyses of phenomena that are known to hinder academic performance in children at different ages. This model places a strong emphasis on identifying and using the innate strength of these children. This approach is also developmental in that it recognizes that both that children’s brains change over time and that school continously changes in terms of the leven and complexity of demands placed on children. Therefore, the phenomena that cause difficulty differ in their manifestations as children age.”

If you are comfortable with that level of discourse, then the book will be really valuable to you. If you aren’t, you might want to get Developing Minds Video Library or read the Learning Base articles at All Kinds of Minds.

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