Attraction to Distraction

Deirdre O’Neill, ND

When it comes to learning, we all have a vested interest in our children’s future. In the age of technology, there are many tools in place to augment our children’s learning. Yet we are seeing a rise in attention and development difficulties in our youngest generation. We have come into the Attraction to Distraction age. The number of prescriptions written to treat ADHD, attention deficit disorder, has tripled in the last decade. Yet it is considered that this disorder is still under diagnosed and under treated.

ADHD is often first recognized as children enter elementary school. Children affected by this behaviour disorder present with symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity in more than one environment. These behaviours impact the child’s learning. Parents can be hesitant to seek a formal diagnosis for their child presenting with difficulties at school. Likely parents worry about the implications and stigma that comes with this disorder. Having a clear diagnosis can open up many doors in the school system to provide accommodations for the child to succeed and doesn’t necessarily mean medications are in order.

Interestingly, many parents can relate with their child’s symptoms of attention deficit as they too experienced these difficulties. In practice, I have commonly seen multiple children in the same family affected too. Instead of chalking it off to genetics, consider that children learn behaviour from those close to them. This frame point is argued in depth in Dr. Gabor Mate’s book, Scattered Minds. Dr. Mate takes the stance that the distractibility in kids is a byproduct of life experiences, and is not an inherited illness. With this understanding, he gives insight into the role that we all play in a child’s development of the brain and attention. Dr. Mate’s book provides hope and an action plan to promote success for children and adults alike. This comprehensive book can be downloaded into iTunes, giving parents with ADHD access to these pearls as well.

Here are some tips that you can easily implement before your child is back in school in January.

Connection

During this holiday season, try a technology free day. Go back to traditions that you may have had as a child — singing Christmas carols, ice-skating or skiing, and holiday baking with the kids. And leave the smartphone and tablet at home.

Wobble chairs

As adults see the value in altering their work stations for better performance, so should we look at the same accommodations for children. We all see that it is difficult to sit still for any length of time. Why should we expect anything different of our kids? I am beginning to see schools allow parents to bring in a Hokki stool for their child’s use. If this is an interest to you, contact your PAC representative as some PAC’s offer bulk ordering.

Balance free time with structured activity 

After exercising the brain all day, children need movement. After school activities often take the form of organized activity like sports and martial arts. Free play and exploring outside are also invaluable for children’s growing brains.

Our Brain on Food

Food can nourish our brains. It can also be part of its distraction. Parents are intimately familiar with the after effects of sugar on their children. Like sugar, food sensitivities can impact the brain’s wiring. Your naturopathic doctor can do a simple blood test to see if there are food sensitivities connected to your child’s focus. Aside from food sensitivities, it is also crucial for your child to get their day started right with a breakfast packed with protein.

Bathe the Brain in Healthy Fat

Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce ADHD symptoms. DHA and EPA of the omega 3’s found in oily fish are the key to concentration here.

Have your Naturopathic Doctor be part of your child’s route-to-success team. We have multiple tools to aid your child’s attention and understand what it takes to get your child on the right track.

References

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/mental_health_disorders/attention-deficit_hyperactivity_disorder_adhd_in_children_90,P02552/

Mate, G. (2000) Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder. Vintage Canada.

Bloch, M (2011). Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the Treatment of Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 50(10): 991-1000

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