Friday, 8 November 2013

More Recesses And Fresh Air – Is This The Key To ADHD?



I have just been reading an article about a US family who moved to Norway. They were really brave in that they left their ADHD son’s medication behind. The good news is that the child who had lots of problems in the US school started to thrive in Norway.

The family were delighted to find that the child started to enjoy schoolwork and was keen to do homework. But they were also more than impressed with the school environment in Norway. They noticed that things are done differently there and it seems to help the children a lot:-

  • 3 recesses instead of 1
  • much less technology in the classroom
  • teacher gives undivided attention to the pupils
  • the school day is one hour shorter – gives the kid more free time
  • child has two hours of playtime which is four times the US average
  • a half day field trip is obligatory every week.
  • extra curricular activities encourage students to cook and do other manual tasks
  • in Finland, every hour lesson has a fifteen minute recess which must be taken outside, whatever the weather!  Finland has one of the lowest rates of ADHD in the western world.

Scandinavia scores highly in OECD ratings

OECD ratings have put the Scandinavian countries at the top of the list as regards literacy and numeracy.  Norway comes in at 6th in the rankings while the USA is doing very badly at only in the 21st category for numeracy while coming in at the 16th for literacy.

What can we take away from this story?

Well, a change of scene to a Scandinavian country will certainly not cure ADHD and the above story was probably a coincidence and there may have been many other factors at play which meant that the ADHD child was able to stay off his ADHD meds. Lucky him and lucky parents too! But there are some pointers that we can take away from all this:-

  • we need to give our children more time outdoors
  • we need to reduce screen time
  • we must look at alternative ADHD treatments rather than relying on amphetamine meds
  • we should organize our homes to be more ADHD friendly. 

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Tips For Giving Younger Kids Consequences.



When I hear parents in the mall giving long winded explanations to their child as to why s/he should not eat or do something, I sometimes wonder. The explanation is long and it sounds terribly sensible and reasonable. But not to a young child of three of four years! In fact, it goes over their heads. Can you imagine if the child has ADHD with all the distractions he or she has to cope with?  Yelling and shouting might have been more effective but I am joking of course!

Why giving consequences is a long term investment
This is where giving consequences comes in. Once we start giving them consequences and do it consistently, then we are really laying the groundwork for them to become responsible adults. This will help them to mature, to be able to control their instinctive urges and to get along with everybody at school and in relationships with siblings and so on. 

How do you explain consequences to a three year old?
The first thing to do is show them examples of consequences of your own actions. If you do not cook, the family goes hungry. If you talk loudly on the bus, people will treat you badly. If you are always punctual at work and finish projects on time, the consequences will be more money and even promotion. There are lots of examples we can give.

Writing every thing down
Let us say that established a few simple consequences for when our kids start biting or hitting. We can write these on the noticeboard. Consequences can be no playstation, no television or an earlier bedtime and so on. We should also make sure that rewards for good behavior are also prominent on the list so that there is more emphasis on the good behavior in an ideal situation.

The consequences are there in black and white so when it happens, there is no need for long explanations. Just point to the notice and give the consequence. This has to be done immediately. If the child overreacts and has a meltdown, you will have to make sure that he or she has some time out in a safe environment. You may want to take time out too!

You are set up and ready to go
 Once these are in place, you can be confident in applying them consistently. If you start to waver or get emotional, then the child will spot the chink in your armour and exploit it for all it is worth.

It is also wise to make sure that all the family are fully briefed and that older siblings and both parents are all on the same page. The last thing we want is that there is a good cop and bad cop parenting attitude especially when one of the parents is at work or away from home. 



Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Are Your Teens Aware of Privacy and Do They Care?



Latest statistics from the wonderful world of Facebook show that teenagers are not really concerned about privacy at all. They share, like and comment on everything on Facebook.

The latest relaxation of the lifting of sharing restrictions on Facebook for 13 – 17 year olds has got parents worried. They fear that cyber bullying may become even more of a problem than it is now.

That is the view of the parents. But what about the teenagers? What do they feel about privacy and is their idea of privacy different from ours?

The American Life Project reported just a few months ago that the figures for sharing among teenagers is quite alarming.  They targeted that very group that Facebook is now relaxing its restrictions. For example they found that:-

  • no problem about sharing photos – 91% do it
  • like sharing videos too – around 25%
  • vast majority post their real name – around 90%
  • birthdays are also shared – over 80%
  • school they go to and their town – around 70%
  • birthdays are also popular – about 80% have no issues about this one
  • cell phone numbers are shared  but that is only about 20%
  • around half of them will share their email address

In the UK, the figures and trends are following a similar pattern to those in the States.  The case of Paris Brown who lost a £15,000 a year job as a youth police commissioner should be borne in mind.

She was forced to resign after her Twitter comments (made when she was aged between 14 and 16) were found to be racist, homophobic and violent.  The alarming fact is that her Twitter account was not included in the vetting process before she was offered the job.

The teenagers’ idea for privacy is not so much to do with sharing actual data as the above figures show. They are not worried that future employers or others may use the data against them in a not so distant future.

Their management of privacy settings is easy for them and about 60% said that they were managing this quite well and that they were able to ban people and delete posts and so on. 



Their real worry is not about companies or government agencies gathering hard data about them but what their inner circle may actually see on their profile. Many of the profiles contain lies so they are much more worried about the figures of authority who are around them such as parents and teachers. There could be consequences for them down the line and that is their main concern.

Strategies teens use on the Internet

 


  • about 25% admitted to using a false name
  • information is often coded so that prying parents are kept in the dark
  • inside terminology and jargon allow them to communicate with each other
  • in jokes are used a lot




These strategies show that teenagers are keenly aware of some of the privacy issues but their priority is to be seen hanging out with the right group of friends and looking for peer acceptance. They are aware of how this information may be used against them so they will delete tags when they see fit.

The use of snapchat is encouraging in that any pictures and videos sent will be deleted automatically after a certain time frame which they can set.

So, the picture is not all bleak, fortunately. Teens are aware of the need for privacy and would put that first if there was to be a choice about finding about anti-terrorist groups. Interesting!









Monday, 14 October 2013

Why The ADHD and Sports Combination Always Delivers



 Why should you ask your ADHD child to take part in any sport?  Can they always deliver as the headline claims?  The answer is always yes, provided that you choose the right sport for your child.  You also need to keep a few things in mind.

Problems to bear in mind

The first thing to bear in mind is that your ADHD child is having problems in the following areas:-
  • difficulty in paying attention
  • easily distracted
  • short attention span
  • finds it difficult to focus
  • may have problems in concentration
  • finds it difficult to follow instructions.
  • prone to impulsive actions
  • is hyperactive
In any team sports such as soccer, basketball and baseball, the team members really have to concentrate and focus. They also have to be alert at all times. They cannot easily be districted and if they are, the team may well lose!  This could lead to social exclusion and this happened to me as a child because I was simply no good at all at sports and I was ostracized.

As if that was not enough, there is a higher percentage of injury as well because lack of focus exposes the child to greater risks. These tend to be collision prone sports too. It is also well documented that ADHD children take longer to recover from injuries such as concussion. 


Which sports are best and why?

Those individual types of sports will usually suit an ADHD child better. We should always bear in mind what the child would like to do too as involving him in a decision like this is of paramount importance.
Generally, the sports which emphasise the individual as the participant and at the same time offers a competitive element are real winners.

Also, sports which allow plenty of contact on a one to one basis with an instructor or coach are also great. The list of sports which fulfil these criteria are:-
  • swimming
  • wrestling
  • martial arts
  • diving
  • horse riding
  • weightlifting
  • running
  • tennis
They have the added advantage of giving the child with ADHD a sense of intense satisfaction and gratification. The child can see the results very quickly and there is no long term goals such as waiting for a baseball match to finish to see whether they have won or not.

Choosing the right sport is always a winner.

Once we have chosen the right sport for our ADHD child, then we are on to a winner. The following benefits will start to kick in and your child and the whole family will benefit.
  • great outlet for excess energy connected with hyperactivity
  • children concentrate better after doing sports
  • any exercise will mean less chance of obesity
  • exercise will lift their mood as the endorphins start to kick in
  • children who do sports are less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression
There are also lots of benefits such as social inclusion and sports always help kids to make friends. In addition, parents can be more involved too.

Sports and physical exercise always need to be a part of the whole ADHD treatment plan.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Do You REALLY Know Why Your Child Is Angry?



How do you react to a child’s anger?  Maybe you get mad yourself or you try to ignore the whole nasty episode?  Perhaps you put it in the box labelled ‘bad behavior’ and you are already thinking of what may be an appropriate punishment.

No bad kids, just mad kids

‘There are no bad kids, just mad kids’ is a telling remark made by a well known child psychologist and that focuses our attention on the fact that we need to change our tactics a little bit.

Why are the kids mad? What is the reason?  Is there an underlying emotion of which anger is just the tip of the iceberg?  These are the thoughts that should be going through our minds when confronted with an explosion of anger.

Finding out why he or she is angry

When things are a little calmer, you can try to repeat back the words to the child in a very calm, almost curious tone of voice as if you are seeking to investigate or empathize in a very supportive way.

That immediately changes the whole scenario and the child realizes that somebody is there to lend a helping hand or even listen. Now that is progress!

Compare that to yelling back, slamming a door or two and the child ending up in a very long and stubborn sulk!  When that happens, the anger is stored and nothing is resolved.

Another technique is to ask later on what on earth happened and if the child can let you in on what actually caused the eruption.

Empathizing and communicating

This is where communication can start and you can broach various subjects related to what the child tells you:-

  • aggression and violence are unacceptable in your family set up.
  • there are lots of ways of reacting to anger
  • tell the child how YOU deal with anger – give real examples
  • tell the child about counting to ten and taking a deep breath
  • recount how you can walk away from an angry scene
  • talk about doing some physical activity to get rid of all that pent up anger, such as exercise or beating a carpet to get rid of dust or tearing up old newspapers.
  • tell him how you felt at the various stages of the anger explosion.
  • talk about self-control



With younger children storytelling can be very effective

Tell a story and talk about the reactions of the characters and the consequences of those actions. Talk about how anger can be controlled and how we can channel this strong emotion into much more socially acceptable ways. The link below is for a great story which teaches children about anger issues and other related problems. 







Sunday, 29 September 2013

How to teach your child to deal with anger.



As adults, we have a pretty wide range of strategies for controlling our anger. That is what we like to think and we also compliment ourselves on our self-control. We can use strategies such as turning away, counting to ten, taking time out and of course talking about it and verbalizing the whole anger issue.

But sometimes, we too lose control and we all have had flashes of temper. Outbursts, shouting matches and even banging doors.

Our kids have very little experience of anger so the initial temper tantrum, outburst, and violent physical reaction are all ways which seems perfectly natural and instinctive to them.  But how do we help our kids to control their anger issues?

Younger kids are simply unable to verbalize their feelings or even talk about how they felt afterwards. But with older kids, there are many ways that we can raise the whole anger issue.

The secret to good parenting is to help the child to channel his or her anger and to be aware that violent reactions can only worsen the situation.  Channelling anger into harmless physical activities such as games and sports usually works quite well.

But first we need to be aware of the situations where the child is liable to get angry and to steer clear of these situations, if at all possible. The school setting will not be under our control which is why it is so important to give the child strategies that he or she can put into practice when the need arises.

Here are some things that make children angry and want to lash out:-
  • frustration
  • loneliness
  • lack of friendship
  • hunger
  • tiredness
  • pain or discomfort
With younger kids, parents can help them understand what is going on by telling stories and using these as an example.  Talking about anger afterwards and helping kids to manage their issues more safely and in a more socially acceptable way is also excellent.



 Using the story as a basis, talk about:-
  • how they feel
  • possible reactions
  • alternative ways of dealing with the issue
Here is one great story which does this very well as kids can easily identify with the tiger in the situation in which he finds himself. 


Thursday, 27 June 2013

ADHD Overdiagnosis and Overmedication- The Risks and Pitfalls



The CDC’s report  (2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health) has raised some worrying aspects about the problem of overdiagnosis of ADHD and also as a consequence, overmedication. Over 76,000 parents were interviewed by phone.


The New York Times did not wait for the CDC to sum up its findings but went ahead and published all this data. The figure of 11% ( I in 5) of school children being diagnosed with ADHD represents a sharp rise over the last forty years or so.  These concerns have been raised before. Some famous examples are Hillary Clinton’s press conference in 2000. 

But are these gloomy predictions really true?  Perhaps ADHD really is increasing and there is a need for more and more medication. That is worrying.

It could be that there is growing awareness of the problem or as the New York Times states, there is far too much mislabelling of our children who may not have ADHD at all.  There are so many childhood conditions that mimic ADHD that this really should be taken into consideration more often.

The publication of the DSM V edition has broadened the areas of definition of ADHD which may mean that more and more children are going to fall into the net. There are fears that this redefining of the criteria and the extension of the age limits may actually lead to even more over diagnosis of ADHD.

There is also the question as to whether ADHD is being under reported in the case of inattentive children (especially girls) who tend to go unnoticed.

To sum up. The main concerns are:-
1.      There is far too much willingness to seek an ADHD diagnosis because parents and teachers want children to behave better
2.      They also want children to do better academically and they are not concerned about the ethics of giving medication as a study aid!
3.      Meds are shared among class mates and are taken by those students who are perfectly normal
4.      The health risks associated with such  misuse and abuse of the meds are considerable.
5.      Normal childhood behavior such as being fidgety and restless is part of childhood but is now being regarded as pathological. (This is the view of Dr. Jerome Groopman of the Harvard Medical School). He is the author of the book. ‘How Doctors Think’.

Finally, we should be wary of getting a fast diagnosis for our child who may have ADHD. There may simply be parenting issues. According to Dr. James Swanson, professor of psychiatry at Florida International University, the possibility that one in five high school kids has ADHD is grossly exaggerated. The real problem is with the misuse of the ADHD meds and he believes that these meds are given freely to schoolmates and he says that this could be as high as 30%.