Meeting the Challenge
OVER the years several treatments have been proposed for ADHD. Some of these have focused on diet. However, some studies suggest that food additives do not usually cause hyperactivity and that nutritional solutions are often ineffective. Other methods of treating ADHD are medication, behavior modification, and cognitive training.*
Medication. Since ADHD apparently involves a brain malfunction, medication for restoring the proper chemical balance has proved helpful to many.* However, medication does not take the place of learning. It merely helps the child focus his attention, giving him a foundation upon which to learn new skills.
Many adults with ADHD have likewise been aided by medication. However, caution is in order—with youths and adults—since some stimulant medication used to treat ADHD can be addictive.
Behavior modification. A child’s ADHD does not absolve parents from the obligation to discipline. Though the child may have special needs in this regard, the Bible admonishes parents: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) In her book Your Hyperactive Child, Barbara Ingersoll notes: “The parent who simply gives up and lets his hyperactive child ‘run wild’ does the child no favor. Just like any other child, the hyperactive child needs consistent discipline coupled with respect for the child as a person. This means clear limits and appropriate rewards and penalties.”
It is therefore important that parents provide solid structure. Furthermore, there should be a strict routine in daily activities. Parents may wish to give the child some latitude in making up this schedule, including a time for homework, study, bath, and so forth. Then be consistent in following through. Make sure that the daily routine is adhered to. Phi Delta Kappan notes: “Physicians, psychologists, school officials, and teachers have an obligation to the child and the child’s parents to explain that the classification of ADD or ADHD is not a license to get away with anything, but rather an explanation that may lead to legitimate help for the child in question.”
Cognitive training. This includes helping the child to change his view of himself and his disorder. “People with attention-deficit disorder feel ‘ugly, stupid, and bad’ even if they are attractive, intelligent, and good-hearted,” observes Dr. Ronald Goldberg. Therefore, the child with ADD or ADHD needs to have a proper view of his worth, and he needs to know that his attention difficulties can be managed. This is especially important during adolescence. By the time a person with ADHD reaches the teenage years, he may have experienced much criticism from peers, teachers, siblings, and perhaps even from parents. He now needs to set realistic goals and to judge himself fairly rather than harshly.
The above approaches to treatment can also be pursued by adults with ADHD. “Modifications are necessary based on age,” writes Dr. Goldberg, “but the underpinnings of treatment—medication where appropriate, behavior modification, and cognitive [training]—remain valid approaches throughout the life cycle.”
John, the father of an adolescent with ADHD, says to parents in a similar circumstance: “Learn all you can about this problem. Make informed decisions. Above all, love your child, build him up. Low self-esteem is a killer.”
For the child with ADHD to have adequate support, both parents must cooperate. Dr. Gordon Serfontein writes that a child with ADHD needs “to know that he is loved within the home and that the love comes from the love that exists between the parents.” (Italics ours.) Unfortunately, such love is not always demonstrated. Dr. Serfontein continues: “It has been well established that in the family where there is [an ADHD child], there is almost a third higher instance of marital discord and breakdown than in the normal population.” To prevent such discord, the father should play a significant role in raising the child with ADHD. The responsibility should not be placed solely upon the mother.—Ephesians 6:4; 1 Peter 3:7.
Close friends, although not part of the family, can be of tremendous support. How? “Be kind,” says John, quoted earlier. “Look deeper than your eyes can see. Get to know the child. Speak with the parents too. How are they doing? What do they contend with from day to day?”—Proverbs 17:17.
Members of the Christian congregation can do much to be of support to both the child with ADHD and the parents. How? By being reasonable in their expectations. (Philippians 4:5) At times, a child with ADHD may be disruptive. Rather than callously remarking, “Why can’t you control your child?” or “Why don’t you just discipline him?” a perceptive fellow believer will realize that the parents may already be overwhelmed with the daily demands of raising a child with ADHD. Of course, parents should do what they can to limit the child’s disruptive behavior. Nevertheless, instead of lashing out in irritation, those who are related in the faith should strive to show “fellow feeling” and to ‘bestow a blessing.’ (1 Peter 3:8, 9) Indeed, it is often by means of compassionate fellow believers that God “comforts those laid low.”—2 Corinthians 7:5-7.
Students of the Bible realize that all human imperfection, including learning disabilities and ADHD, has been inherited from the first man, Adam. (Romans 5:12) They also know that the Creator, Jehovah, will fulfill his promise to bring about a righteous new world in which distressing sicknesses will no longer exist. (Isaiah 33:24; Revelation 21:1-4) This assurance is an anchor of support to those affected by such disorders as ADHD. “Age, training, and experience are helping our son to understand and to manage his disorder,” says John. “But he will never be totally cured in this system of things. Our daily comfort is that in the new world, Jehovah will correct our son’s disorder and enable him to enjoy life to the full.”
Awake! does not endorse any particular treatment. Christians should be careful that any treatment they pursue does not conflict with Bible principles.
Some experience undesirable side effects from medication, including anxiety and certain other emotional problems. Furthermore, stimulant medication can aggravate twitches in patients with tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome. Medication should therefore be monitored under a doctor’s supervision.
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A Word of Caution to Parents
VIRTUALLY all children are at times inattentive, impulsive, and overactive. The presence of these traits does not always indicate ADHD. In his book Before It’s Too Late, Dr. Stanton E. Samenow notes: “I have seen innumerable cases where a child who does not want to do something is excused because he is thought to suffer from a handicap or condition that is not his fault.”
Dr. Richard Bromfield also sees a need for caution. “Certainly, some people diagnosed with ADHD are neurologically impaired and need medication,” he writes. “But the disorder is also being named as the culprit for all sorts of abuses, hypocrisies, neglects and other societal ills that in most cases have nothing to do with ADHD. In fact, the lack of values in modern life—random violence, drug abuse and, less horrifically, unstructured and overstimulating homes—are more apt to foster ADHD-like restlessness than any neurological deficit.”
It is thus with good reason that Dr. Ronald Goldberg warns against using ADHD as “a catchall concept.” His advice is to “make sure no important diagnostic stone is left unturned.” Symptoms that resemble ADHD may indicate any one of many physical or emotional problems. The assistance of an experienced doctor is therefore essential in making an accurate diagnosis.
Even if a diagnosis is made, parents would do well to weigh the pros and cons of medication. Ritalin can eliminate undesirable symptoms, but it can also have unpleasant side effects, such as insomnia, increased anxiety, and nervousness. Thus, Dr. Richard Bromfield cautions against being too quick to medicate a child simply to eliminate his symptoms. “Too many children, and more and more adults, are being given Ritalin inappropriately,” he says. “In my experience, Ritalin use seems to depend largely on parents’ and teachers’ ability to tolerate children’s behavior. I know of kids who have been given it more to subdue them than to meet their needs.”
Parents should therefore not be too quick to label their children as having ADHD or a learning disability. Rather, they should weigh the evidence carefully, with the help of a skilled professional. If it is determined that a child has a learning disorder or ADHD, parents should take the time to become well-informed about the problem so that they can act in the best interests of their children.
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The child with ADHD needs kind yet consistent discipline
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Parental commendation goes a long way