Over recent years, there has been has been a dramatic increase in the number of patients consulting Homeopaths, mainly children, who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Firstly, it is important to discuss what is meant by these diagnoses, before embarking on measures to deal with these issues and looking at alternative treatments.
The foremost factor that needs to be taken into consideration, is that these diagnoses do not correspond to any recognised pathology – in other words, the cause of the symptoms it is not known, therefore the diagnosis becomes what is called a diagnoses of exclusion. Take for example a patient with appendicitis. The removed appendix can be examined and specific pathological changes seen, such as an increase in the amount of cells that produce an inflammatory response. Another example is that of an asthma sufferer, who will have easily identifiable changes in their lungs etc. that are characteristic of asthma, leading to a correct diagnosis. A person with ADD/ADHD does not have any such changes, or least ones that modern science has been able to detect and isolate thus far. Whilst sufferers may all have a certain group of symptoms, such as behaviour issues, difficulty concentrating and hyperactivity etc., a pathological or biochemical process that, on a physical level, leads to ADD/ADHD, is yet to be identified. If a child displays such characteristics and does not have another identifiable condition, such as learning disabilities, depression or a physical problem causing the symptoms, but do display a certain number of symptoms that exist on a predefined list, they are labelled ADD/ADHD. They are then more than likely to be given a drug that will make them more “manageable”. That is all Ritalin, Dexedrine or the like will do, if anything at all – it cures nothing.
Children labelled ADD/ADHD are unique, fascinating and often brilliant children. It is unfortunate that many of these children end up not only on a revolving strict drug regime but are also in educational programs and institutions for learning and behavioural problems. In most cases this hinders their progress rather than helping it.
There are a number of factors that can be introduced, or indeed, eliminated in order to reduce the likelihood of producing ADD/ADHD, or reducing current symptoms of it.
Diet and nutrition play a leading role in attributing to such symptoms. Some children are particularly sensitive to refined sugar, additives, preservatives etc. leading to behaviour, concentration and hyperactivity issues, as well as headaches, allergies and skin disorders. There are a significant proportion of ADD/ADHD clients that have pre-existing or accompanying food allergies and intolerances. Although it is unclear what percentage of these children could be cured by correcting dietary inadequacies, practitioners working with detoxifying programs claim high success rates, suggesting the number would be significant.
Another contributing factor is that the intellect of the child far exceeds the kind of classroom setting they find themselves in. When intelligent children are not stimulated enough they tend to get bored and tune out, exacerbating concentration difficulties, leading to disruptive and inappropriate behaviours. Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., in his controversial book The Myth of the ADD Child, insists that ADD is a diagnosis aimed at forcing children to behave in a particular, narrowly defined manner. He claims that children have different learning styles, respond to stress in various ways, and that the condition has been radically over diagnosed and over treated. He encourages a wide variety of non-drug interventions including adjustment of the classroom routine and environment, more kinaesthetic learning, project-based learning, martial arts classes, visualisation, and meditation. It is true that some teachers are excessively rigid and wish to run their classrooms like a military camp. These are the same teachers who ask the parents of any unruly child in for an interview and put pressure on them to put their children on stimulant medications. It is also true that many classrooms have more children than the teacher can possibly handle, and that some of these children are frighteningly violent and exhibit an antipathy to learning. However, other teachers sincerely wish to create more relaxed learning environments in which imagination and creativity are fostered. They, too, often find a growing number of restless, disruptive children who find it next to impossible to concentrate.
Technology is one of the first things to look at when dealing with a child who demonstrates a short attention span and/or hyperactivity. Take a close look at the abilities video and computer games stimulate in children. To play them you need quick reaction and skill to respond to constantly and rapidly changing stimuli. For most of them, deep logical thinking is not required and in fact can be detrimental to the success in playing the game. A child whom regularly plays these games becomes conditioned to the need of quickly changing stimuli and no school, sporting activity etc., will be able to satisfy this need. The typical ADD/ADHD characteristics become apparent, such as the inability to sit in one place, inability to focus on the teacher or task at hand – it becomes too slow for them. Television is an equally detrimental appliance. The never-ending stream of loud noises, bright colours and camera GYRATIONS contribute to short attention span. Is it any wonder children with ADD/ADHD are capable of watching hours of television on end but can’t sit still long enough to finish a meal? Unplugging the child from the source of the stimulation will be difficult at first, but with appropriate support they will slow down and get plugged into the real world again.
Sadly, in some cases, I feel the A in ADD/ADHD should change from the word Attention to Adult. Today’s children in many ways are better off in just about every area except one – time with their parents. Parents are under pressure to perform as never before. This is often compounded by the need for both parents or the solo parent to work, the casualty of which is an ADD/ADHD affected child. What all children need, especially ones diagnosed with this disorder, and what parents cannot or choose not to give, is time. I remember one case in particular (this story also encompasses the food issue) of a small boy, who ate his dinner in the back seat of his mother’s car every night on the way home from a ten-hour stint at daycare. Something as simple as preparing a meal together may take time but for a growing number of children this is not a shared activity. The fast food culture robs children not only of adequate nutrition, leading to the onset of ADD/ADHD like symptoms but the sense of a family communal meal – a bonding, “attention” giving/receiving experience in itself.
An increasing number of parents are dissatisfied with stimulant medications and the negative effects these drugs have on their child’s personality and general wellbeing. The Homeopathic approach to ADD/ADHD is very different to that of conventional medicine. As mentioned in beginning to this article, easily identifiable changes lead to specific diagnoses of any health problem, however it is the individual differences in patients with the same condition that Homeopaths place most emphasis on in order to correctly prescribe. As a Homeopath, I treat ADD/ADHD, by taking a complete case, paying equal attention to all issues presented, including any physical, emotional or psychological symptoms present. Like any other disease/condition/illness, I don’t place much, if any emphasis, on the diagnosis being ADD/ADHD or ABC, LMNOP! I want to understand the symptoms present in the individual, finding the correct medicine that would cover all symptoms according to Homeopathic principals and philosophy. The improvement therefore affects the total wellbeing of the child, eliminating the accompanying physical manifestations of the condition, which in most cases accompany. Homeopathy can offer an effective solution to for many of these children. While it’s not an instant fix, the results tend to be worth the wait.
Armstrong Thomas, Ph.D., The Myth of the ADD Child (New York: Dutton, 1995).
Greenspan Stanley, , Ph.D., The Challenging Child (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995).
Journal of Paediatrics, February, 1996 cited in Well Being Journal, May/June 1996.
Reichenberg-Ullman J, & Ullman, R. Ritalin Free Kids. (Prima Health Publishing) California 2000
Ricco C.A., “Neurological Basis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” Exceptional Children, 60 (1993): 118-124.
Wonder E.H., “The Food Additive-Free Diet in the Treatment of Behaviour Disorders: A Review,” Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrics 7 (1986):35-42.