Young and Restless in America

Helping distractible, hyperactive kids.

| September/October 2004

  • Nuts are a good source of healthy fats.
  • Green leafy vegetables are rich in magnesium, which may help reduce ADHD symptoms.

Scott Shannon, M.D., a child psychiatrist at the McKee Center for Holistic Medicine in Loveland, Colorado, sees a lot of children suffering from problems with attention and hyperactivity. He described three children, two of whom have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and one who doesn’t. See if you can tell which is which.

“Rob,” Shannon says, “is spacey, off in another world. Testing shows he’s highly intelligent.” But 12-year-old Rob would, as the expression goes, lose his own head were it not attached. If he remembers to bring home assignments, he usually does them (with a little parental reminding). Unfortunately, he often neglects to turn in homework, which leads to Cs and Ds.

Mickey, on the other hand, is “a human top.” Unless he’s asleep, he’s constantly in motion. He runs rather than walks, shouts rather than speaks. He ransacks the toy box, playing with one toy for a few seconds, before tossing it and moving on to the next. When his kindergarten teacher insists he sit still, he soon becomes frustrated, sometimes to the point of throwing things and hitting his classmates.

Teachers didn’t complain about Amanda until she was 13. Before then, she had gotten Bs and Cs in school, had a good group of friends and played lacrosse. Her seventh-grade teacher observed that, during class, Amanda fidgeted, chewed her nails, stared out the window and wrote on her arm. Her grades plummeted. When a teacher commented on this diminished academic performance, Amanda became defensive, then burst into tears, saying, “I just can’t concentrate.”

Rob and Mickey both have ADHD. Amanda’s father lost his job and her parents have been arguing a lot lately. She suffers from anxiety, which makes it difficult for her to concentrate.

ADHD Facts

ADHD affects 3 percent to 5 percent of school-age children — perhaps as many as 2 million American kids, or about one child per classroom. Boys are three to five times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. Symptoms begin before the age of 7 and often continue into adolescence and adulthood. The condition disrupts school performance, relationships with friends, family dynamics and psychological development. It has nothing to do with intelligence or talent. Leonardo da Vinci is thought to have had ADHD.

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