Estimates of the prevalence of ADHD vary widely, with some authorities saying it affects as little of 3% of children and others saying it affects up to 10%. This is largely where the controversy about ADD and ADHD lies. Where do you draw the line between a restless, active youth and a hyperactive child who needs medical intervention? Some critics say that ADHD medications are over-prescribed in Australia while others say that many parents are "in denial" about their child's condition. Who's right? More importantly, how does a responsible parent determine the difference between a normal, active child and a hyperactive child who needs medical treatment?
What the Experts Say about ADD
Biologically, ADD is understood to be a deficit of certain brain chemicals and electrical activity in the frontal lobes of the brain that are responsible for self control. When these are in deficit, a child cannot focus their attention or control their actions and behaviour. Medications for ADD supply the chemicals and/or stimulate the electrical activity necessary to resume a normal life.
Unlike many diseases, ADD/ADHD cannot be diagnosed by a blood test. Instead, it is diagnosed by a psychological evaluation. Normal, healthy children are sometimes hyperactive, unable to concentrate and nearly impossible to keep under control. If these behaviours are chronic and severe, then most experts agree that intervention is required. Some things psychologists and counsellors take into consideration to help them diagnose ADD/ADHD include:
- Symptoms of ADD/ADHD will appear in school, at home and outside the home. If a child has difficulty at school, but can focus on tasks at home (or vice versa), it is probably not ADD/ADHD.
- Many children become fidgety and restless when they have to sit still for long periods. Children with ADHD stand out as excessively restless and cannot settle down, even for short periods of time.
- ADD is not just a "study" problem. A child with ADD will exhibit the symptoms even when watching TV or engaging in other leisure activities.
- ADD/ADHD does not arise spontaneously. A child must have exhibited the symptoms of the disorder for at least six months for it to be considered a disease that requires treatment.
Are There any Natural Treatments for ADD?
Perhaps even more controversial than the condition itself are the claims that natural treatments for ADD/ADHD work. Whilst proponents of natural therapies for ADD cite many success stories, critics say that natural treatments can provide only temporary relief at best and don't address the underlying cause of the disease. Some of the more common natural treatments for ADD include:
- Biofeedback enables sufferers to learn how to control their impulses and focus their attention.
- Interactive metronome and music therapy is a form of sound therapy that has been shown to help ADD sufferers learn to focus their attention and gain control over negative behaviours.