Thursday, March 16, 2017

Does My Kid Have ADHD?

A Cautionary Tale


Is your obviously intelligent child having trouble in school?  Does he daydream, have a lot of trouble focusing in class? Is he (or she) disruptive and not doing well in class. Is it time to get the kid started on Ritalin? 

A couple of things first. If you are worried about ADHD or autism, find a good child psychologist and have him evaluated. Don't start with a doctor or pediatrician. There's no physical test for psychological or behavioral issues. Physicians have a protocol for these things and too often it starts off with Ritalin. 

Don't go that way. Get the diagnosis first. 

With ADHD the best thing is not to rush them into school. If I had my way I'd start an ADHD kid in school when he was ten years old. Give him time to settle down. He'd catch up in no time because he or she would be better prepared socially. 

Unfortunately, schools don't let you do that. 

ADHD is actually not a specific single disorder. It's a cluster of symptoms that can actually be caused by one of four or more different problems. 
  1. True deficits of attention - Classic ADHD is caused by lowered glucose in the frontal lobes of the brain. Ritalin works well for that as a stop gap. It's one of the most dramatic effects in psycho-pharmacology. If it doesn't work amazingly well, it ain't real ADHD. 
  2. Tourette's syndrome. This can start out with attention issues and then develop into twitches and then the full outburst sorts of behaviors you get with Tourettes. There are some medications that help. 
  3. Childhood depression - Depression can be triggered for a variety of real reasons (divorce, illness, death, loss, etc.). Depression in kids can cause attention problems. This can be treated with counseling and anti-depressents. 
  4. Bipolar disorder - Both the manic and depressive cycles cause attention problems early on in kids before full bipolar develops. There is a family history of bipolar in both sides of my own family. 
If you start looking at your family history, you may more quickly find the source of you child's attention problems. My own son started showing symptoms early and we thought it was ADHD at first. If we'd known it was bipolar, we'd have done different things to attempt to treat it. ADHD treatments were ineffective.

If your child is having symptoms that look like one of these issues, do your best to keep the child away from pot and other drugs when they hit junior high and high school. Pot use and other drug abuse, for instance can actually trigger earlier onset of full blown bipolar disorder and may , and that is not something you want to kick in when you're kid is also struggling with puberty issues.


Be sure and let the psychologist know about family history of mental illness. That's why it is better to start with the experts. If there has been any trauma in the family or the child has suffered a head injury or some other powerful event. These can trigger attention issues.

And for kids with attention problems, you might try a programmed learning approach that he can do at his own speed. Do not underestimate the power of learning by activities which give the child immediate feedback. It's why a kid who can't pay attention for ten minutes in school can spend hours playing a video game. Video games provide instant feedback which re-engages attention continuously. There are home-school programs that are really good for that sort of thing.

© 2017 by Tom King

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