ADHD is a controversial subject in America today. Is it just a discipline problem? Is it just a gender issue blown out of proportion? Does it really exist at all? Part of the misunderstanding lies in the definition of ADHD itself. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not really a single disease with a set course of treatment, but rather a collection of symptoms that may point to different underlying problems. One of the advantages of a home school setting for students with ADHD is that it offers flexibility for parents to explore the underlying issues that may be contributing to the out-of-control behavior they observe. Drugging ADHD students in school to make them compliant is like putting a band-aid on a compound fracture. It may keep the outward symptoms covered up during the school day, but it fails to cure the underlying issues.
Is ADHD for real? In the sense that a number of students suffer these symptoms, the answer is definitely YES. However, since the underlying causes may differ drastically from person to person, disagreement persists. It would be better to call the underlying problems by their real names and look for real solutions, but unfortunately, this takes much more time than the average professional (in education or medicine) is willing to invest. It is much easier to prescribe a pill and send the sufferer on his way.
This is the point at which thoughtful parents need to intervene. Not only do the pills used to calm children with ADHD not solve the root causes of the visible symptoms, they also bear a number of risks which doctors do not always reveal to parents in advance. For basic side effect warnings and links to FDA information, visit http://www.
The alternative to pills is a long-term commitment to studying your child for clues to what might be behind his (or her) sometimes bizarre behavior. Often, more than one problem is at fault. Among the most common issues are hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, controllable through diet), food allergies or other sensitivities (such as artificial colors or preservatives), learning difficulties, sensory processing problems, toxic metal exposure (like mercury and lead), and nutritional deficiencies (sometimes due to poor absorption).
Dr. B. Jacqueline Stordy’s book The LCP Solution (available from the Greenville County Library) reveals the difficulty many ADHD and dyslexic students have producing the long-chain fatty acids necessary to help their brains function normally. Supplementing the diet with fish oil provides the necessary nutrients in usable form, reversing the deficiency, although the ideal dosage and timeframe necessary will vary from person to person.
When these and other possible underlying conditions are taken into account—there are too many to list in a single column—it becomes apparent that blindly labeling the ADHD child as “just undisciplined” can be another band-aid. While strong, loving discipline is necessary for every child, no amount of “discipline” will cure a health or learning problem. Failing to recognize the underlying causes leaves the child feeling helpless to change his situation. Proper treatment, however, acts to prevent much bad behavior from occurring in the first place, reducing the need for disciplinary actions. As difficult as ADHD kids can be to live with, they depend on the adults in their lives to take the lead in finding and addressing the real needs behind their symptoms.