HANCOCK - Does your child have trouble concentrating or is always moving around? If so, symptoms like these and others may be an indication that he or she may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Despite the condition, a child or even an adult doesn't have to let the disorder interfere with their lives.
According to Portage Health Pediatrician Dr. Colleen Vallad-Hix, there are two different types of ADHD - one that deals with inattention, which is harder to notice, and another that deals with hyperactivity. Children who fall into the hyperactive spectrum will exhibit symptoms such as being unable to sit through movies and read through books, as well as being always on the move. Children in the inattentive spectrum will have trouble concentrating on something
When diagnosing ADHD, Vallad-Hix must go with the DSM-V, which states symptoms must occur in two settings and it's something that must last for many months.
Scott Viau/Daily Mining Gazette
Portage Health Pediatrician Colleen Vallad-Hix has worked with a fair amount of children suffering from ADHD. While there are ways to combat the disorder, Vallad-Hix said medications that include stimulants offer the best chance and have had the most research.
"It's not something that just occurs suddenly," Vallad-Hix said.
Questionnaires are also given to help doctors determine if it's really ADHD, or maybe something like depression or anxiety.
"The parents answer how frequently the symptoms occur and then the doctor scores the form and that score tells us whether they have enough symptoms to meet the criterion to have the (disorder)," she said.
The condition itself is a chemical imbalance, much like depression, and there are ways to treat the disorder without having to resort to medication.
However, the only thing that Vallad-Hix has seen as scientifically proven is vitamin D.
"Adequate levels of vitamin D are important for normal neurological functioning," she said.
Vitamin D is not easily accessible from foods, but Vallad-Hix said the vitamin can be extracted from sunlight or vitamin supplements. Vitamin D supplements typically contain 400 IU (international units) per pill, but Vallad-Hix said for our region, children may need more, but testing should be done before upping the dose.
Also important is making sure the child gets quality sleep.
"If they're not sleeping well, they have trouble paying attention," she said.
There are also things a parent can do to help their child be less distracted, which is having them do their homework shortly after school instead of after dinner, when a child might be sleepier and find it harder to concentrate. Parents can also make sure their child has a distraction-free zone in which to do school work.
For medication, Vallad-Hix said those with a stimulant show the best results as opposed to medication with non-stimulants.
"Without a doubt the stimulants have been the most effective and have been used the longest and studied the most for children," she said.
In this area, Vallad-Hix said she sees a fair amount of cases related to ADHD, but doesn't know the reasoning behind it. However, if a mother is on a medication while she's pregnant, that can lead to problems with attention.
"Some of those medications are legal substances, like antidepressant medications, which are probably a little more prevalent up here, and some are illegal substances and all of those can contribute to children having ADHD," Vallad-Hix said.
For young adults with ADHD, the symptoms might entail making impulsive decisions and poor judgment.
"In adults, it can interfere with their success in either college or a job," she said. "They're more prone to accidents and they might take to illegal substances to try to calm themselves and try to stay focused. It is a little different."