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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

The child fidgets with hands and feet, squirms when sitting, is easily distracted, has difficulty waiting, becomes uncontrollably overactive in school, and is unable to follow instructions because of failure to pay attention. There was a time when such behavior evinced anger and despair from parent and doctor. The child was considered overbearing.

In another time, children who had difficulty sustaining attention in tasks of play activity compulsively shifted from one uncompleted activity to another, could not play quitely, talked incessantly, interrupted or intruded upon others, seemed not to listen and often engaged in physically dangerous activities at school or home (running into the street without looking for oncoming traffic). The diagnosis usually was possible brain injury at birth.

Misdiagnoses varied: Some were labeled "minimally brain damaged." Others, by evidence of excessive activity, were identified as "hyperactive," a matter that could be solved by drugs, diet, or surgery. Each remedy had its own enthusiastic professional proponents.

Fortunately, much progress has been made in defining the cause and consequent improvement of the condition. Some sufferers have an attention deficit disorder (ADD), and some are hyperactive with attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Practically all patients suffer from learning disabilities. The change of name for the ailment distinguishes the various types of the disorder.

A question of brain damage is emphatically denied by most authorities who deal with the problem. On the contrary, enough evidence exists to confirm frequent observations that intelligence is not necessarily impeded by ADD.

The many characteristics of children with ADD is their impulsivity. Although most children display a difficulty in waiting, thinking ahead or maintaining patience, growth into the other phases of development produces change. The adolescent shows a mastery over earlier childhood impulses. An ADD or ADHD child, however, never seems to grow out of those development-related stages. In fact, ADD children seem to operate on an earlier developmental level; they are often disorderly and unorganized and because of easy distractability, they produce untidy surroundings, sloppy dress, unfinished assignments and careless reading and writing habits.

What part does environment play in contributing to an individual's development of ADD or ADHD? Whereas earlier appraisals implied parental problems, a flawed diet, improper home life and many other negative influences, new scientific evidence points to the basic source of difficulties to be inborn -- a matter of genetics.

Knowledge about the disorder's origins is incomplete, but a consensus is growing among therapists who are dealing with the crisis, that like many genetic disorders, ADD and ADHD are caused by an impaired flow of chemicals in the brain. [Panic disorder, Tourette syndrome, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are only a few of the conditions caused by malfunctioning of brain neurotransmitters (chemicals)]. According to David Comings, M.D., many more mental health mysteries may be attributed in the future to genetic disorders, including alcoholism, pathological gambling, obesity, depression and manic depressive disorders.

It has long been observed that traits such as hair and eye color are related to the production of particular chemicals determined by genes. So are physical characteristics and mental deficiencies.

Consider the temperament factors that seem to pervade particular families: in some, almost everyone is highly tense, quick to anger, impulsive and uncomfortably always ready to do battle.

It should be emphasized that practically all children show temperamental ups and downs. In the ADD and ADHD child, their characteristics are much more deeply defined, and they do not always grow out of them.

Not every characteristic that occurs in families is transmitted genetically. Behavior is mimicked and copied, attitudes are adopted, and such behavior imitation happens in closely related groups. There are also other possible causes of ADD and ADHD such as lead poisoning (people who absorb too much lead develop psychological and nerve damage problems).

Some specialists maintain that food can contribute to hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder. A diet without food additives, for example, has impressed professionals who say they have seen remarkable improvement in ADD and ADHD children.

Stressful lifestyles have been linked with ADD and ADHD, but evidence is not substantial to suppose that one factor can be the fundamental cause. Many children are surrounded by care, love, and an organized effort to cater to them. The results may be more positive than a home where tempers flare, criticism resounds, and ignorance compounds the problems of dealing with abberrant behavior.
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Title Annotation:includes related article
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1992
Previous Article:Purveyors of panic.
Next Article:The nutritional aspects of learning disorders.

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