ADD not just Bad Behaviour

A world first study by University of Melbourne researchers has identified a new area at the back of the brain that lacks activity and linked it to a causative factor in ADHD. Previously, the focus has been on the front part of the brain in finding a cause of ADHD. This means that there is more of a biological basis for the ADHD rather than inadequate parenting or poorly behaved children. It could even imply that diet affects the brain and is a primary cause of difficult behaviour. A specific problem in the brain would lead to better diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

The research identifies a part of the brain that is not working properly. This affects children by putting pressure on them to find a way of functioning normally, especially in more stressful situations. Many ADHD children can’t manage this. Despite attempts at self-control, behaviour of ADHD children can be impulsive and disruptive, often leading to fights with other children.  For parents it is distressing and frustrating to handle. It disrupts their learning and they can be ostracized, teased and badly bullied.

It is the back area of the brain that enables a child to cope with stress and manage different situations where there may be a lot of stimulus. Most of us can ignore much of the sensory information that comes through, but the ADHD brain is not able to blot out all of that distracting sensory information.

Children with ADHD can manage well in a low stress environment, but it is in higher stress environments that their behavioural problems arise. One of the researchers, Dr Alasdair Vance, says that in that state, children can become quite mindless and their disruptive behaviours are an attempt to shut down and keep out those noxious stimuli.

A biological basis for ADHD lifts the burden of blame on parents and children. For many, this is a mighty relief. This research says that this is not the parents' or the child's fault. It is not a naughty child choosing to be difficult and manipulative. It is a child with genuine brain dysfunction acting in a dysfunctional way.

It makes sense that there is a biological reason for the groundswell of children suffering from learning and behavioural difficulties. The reason why this biological problem might have developed will take more time to discover. Some children in our clinic respond very well to nutritional therapy, such as taking fish oils. The brain consists of around 60% fat, so dietary fats and oils are important, making low fat diets inappropriate for children. Some parents find that general dietary improvements make a big difference to their child. These improvements involve avoiding all dietary sugar, in soft drinks and foods, and having a protein based meal every 4 -5 hours. More fruit and vegetables and less snack and takeaway food are also important.

Sadly, many children with learning and behavioral problems go undiagnosed, or are diagnosed only after many years of difficulties. Having proper physical, psychological and nutritional assessments are important to get to the bottom of the problem. Children generally want to earn favour with their parents and teachers, have lots of friends and do well at school. When this is consistently not happening, the child is bound to be unhappy. If the child could change the situation he or she probably would, so seeking professional help is crucial to avoid the crippling low self-esteem, anger and family stress that results.

ADHD can be over diagnosed, and under diagnosed. If you think there is a problem with your child, have your child properly assessed by a professional sooner, rather than later. Check their diet for sugars and food colourings and the amount of protein and fats they are eating. If the diagnosis of ADHD is made, finding an underlying cause of the problem is crucial. With the correct attention and treatment, these children can do very well.