So you are wondering if it is ADHD?
ADHD has become an increasing common diagnosis for children in school, especially that of young boys. I worked for many years as a psychotherapist in the San Diego School District and receiving referrals for kiddos for ADHD was very common. First of all, let's be clear, ADD and ADHD are different. ADD is attention deficit disorder, meaning one has a very hard time sustaining attention. ADHD is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, meaning one cannot only sustain attention but also displays behavior of hyperactivity. True ADD and ADHD both have neuronal components causing the mind to bounce around and the hyperactivity causing one to literally bounce around with energy. Now with that being said, yes kids have energy! So do I think this diagnosis is over diagnosed? Yes I do, but there are real neurotransmitter and brain structural components to true attention deficit and hyperactivity that need to be recognized and evaluated.
There are a couple of things you as a parent can do to determine if a psych eval is necessary. First of all, a big pet peeve I had working in the schools is when teachers would diagnosis their students who wouldn't listen and were disruptive in class as having ADHD. Our school system of 30 + kids is a very difficult environment for anyone to focus in let alone children who have high metabolisms and energy who could run around all day and build forts if they were allowed. Where I do understand how difficult it is for teachers, and it is better for them to refer than to ignore possible symptoms, please note that the first area you as a parent can determine if an eval is necessary is if the symptoms are present in more than 1 environment. Mental health diagnosis cannot be diagnosed if it only presents in 1 environment. So do you notice inattention, hyperactivity, fidgety, squirming, has to be on the go, cannot stop themselves from blurting things out, interrupts or can be rude, or difficulty engaging in leisure activities at home or other environments outside of school? This is a big indicator if there is a neuronal component going on is if the behavior presents itself across the board.
What are some components that contribute to inattention and hyperactivity?
If you are uncertain, there are many natural things you can do to increase a sense of focus and calming to support a child's functioning for a healthy brain.
- Diet - whatever we put into the gut effects every cell of our body, so processed foods, sugar, junk foods, soda, and other unhealthy snacks will effect someones inability to focus and can have long-term effects on the brain.
- Limit Media - because internet, TV, movies, and video games stimulate the brain at a very high activity rate without engaging the physical body, this can be detrimental to our long-term neuronal wiring. We develop new neuronal networks when we use our minds and body to build things, create, and physically run around as it engages both hemispheres in the brain and can be healthier for our brain development.
- Positive environment - creating a loving, positive, and encouraging environment for children to feel safe and secure will also influence healthy brain activity. Stress causes disrupt in neuronal firing, therefore this can cause mis-communication in neurotransmitters causing one to feel "out of it" or "all over the place" resulting in difficulty focusing and acting out.
- Essential oils - lastly essential oils can be supportive to give a sense of focus and calming as well as protective against the effects of stress. A great home habit you can do is diffusing or applying essential oils that are studied to help calmness and focus in our minds is a safe, easy and effective intervention every mom can do. Essential oils that help give a sense of focus are: ylang ylang, patchouli, spikenard, frankincense, and peppermint. Essential oils that help one feel calm are: lavender, petitgrain, marjoram, chamomile, ylang ylang, and frankincense. To learn more see my page on essential oils.
When you have questions about whether or not your child has ADD or ADHD, you can seek an appropriate psych eval because there are techniques that can be applied in school and in home to help your child. There are also other diagnosis a trained professional can rule out so that the correct course of treatment can be given. However implementing these 4 steps listed above can make a huge impact during your course of treatment. My favorite success story is that of my good friend who noticed her 8 year old son having trouble in school with staying on task, so we implemented the 4 steps and upon using the first day a focus essential oil blend, her son reported to her that he was able to finish his homework that day. He was so excited about his accomplishment and how he felt with being calmer and more focused that he looked up at her and said sweetly "mom, I want to have more days like that". This expression is so telling to how stressful it can be for the child themselves to feel disruptive, and how easy it can be to implement 4 simple steps and if you are concerned about it being a mental health diagnosis, you can seek a professionals advice and treatment. There is always hope!