Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a complex issue affecting 9.6 percent of the US population (CDC, 2021) based on 2016 data. Kids (and adults) being diagnosed with ADHD are increasing as people struggle with focus and executive functioning during the pandemic.
Focus can be affected by a number of factors, including stress, worry, learning problems and more. Most parents are shocked to learn that their child’s attention is impacted by another issue besides ADHD, such as anxiety, learning disability, concussion, etc., but when they connect the dots, it all makes sense.
Your child’s problems focusing could really be anxiety due to constant worrying or stress activation. It’s pretty simple, when your brain is stuck in a worry-fear state, you aren’t able to focus on the task at hand. The complex part of this is that worry is internal and many worriers are good at masking just how much they have anxious thoughts, feelings and sensations, so parents often miss the signs and symptoms of anxiety.
Here are some surprising facts that most parents don’t know about ADHD because the physician, school professional or mental health professional doesn’t have expertise in ADHD and executive functioning to share this information that helps people with ADHD.
1. Executive Functioning is Different Than ADHD
Attention and executive functioning are two separate but connected skills. Attention involves the brain’s ability to alert when it’s supposed to. So that means, for example, listening skills like hearing your name being called or mentally shifting from one task to another. Many are diagnosed with ADHD without ever learning about what are the real life symptoms of ADHD are or what executive functioning is, which makes managing ADHD even harder.
Executive functioning requires attention, but it is a set of mental skills needed for prioritizing and planning for some future task or event. While everyone who has ADHD has executive functioning difficulties, not everyone with executive functioning challenges has ADHD. Good EF skills are needed to coordinate activities at home and school. Executive functioning difficulties are common in a variety of clinical issues including autism, anxiety, depression, OCD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities and affect kids and adults in their day-to-day lives.
Parenting kids with executive functioning issues is hard because starting and completing tasks is something these cognitively bright kids struggle with without adult help.
Regardless of the nexus of one’s executive functioning issues, good executive functioning can be learned through direct skill set teaching. In my BrainBehaviorReset™ Parent Toolkit, we walk parents through just how to identify what attention and executive functioning goals your child or teen needs and how to address them in a step-by-step 30-day plan.
2. Neurofeedback is a Powerful Treatment for ADHD
Whenever people hear about neurofeedback, they are usually blown away by the research that shows just how effective neurofeedback is for kids with ADHD (and other conditions). There are over 3,000 peer reviewed studies that show the efficacy of neurofeedback in regulating the brain.
Through the use of technology, EEG Neurofeedback involves an operant conditioning process of measurement and reinforcement of a person’s brain waves in order to achieve a regulated or calm, focused brain state. It is a safe and effective way to get the brain focused, alert, and processing quicker and consistent with research (Xiong, Shi, & Xu, 2005), more than 90% of those with ADHD improve their inattentive and hyperactive behaviors.
At our CT neurofeedback center, we work with clients in-person and remotely at home all over the world. We send clients equipment and as part of our BrainBehaviorReset™ Program, people participate in neurofeedback and coaching sessions to improve their symptoms.
3. Supplements Can Help the Brain Focus
“Do supplements really help the brain focus?” is one of the most common questions I get. The research says vitamins and supplements can help the brain pay attention and reduce stress.
Supplements directly impact how the brain and body works. As much as a nutrient dense diet is important, in today’s stressful world and with such a rise in infections and genetic mutations, we need supplements, such as magnesium, to improve brain and physical health.
Supplements work to support brain health in several ways:
1)Replace missing or boost nutrients
2)Affect neurotransmitter activity
4)Address underlying infections
To learn more about what supplements optimize the brain to improve focus and attention, read my blog, 9 Supplements for ADHD.
4. ADHD Medication has a Negative Side Effect 100 Percent of the Time
You know that folded up insert you get when you pick up your kid’s ADHD meds? Well, have you actually read it? If you did, you would see a list of possible stimulant medication (e.g., Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin, etc.) side effects.
What your pediatrician isn’t telling you is that research shows us that 99.7% of the time, your child will have a side effect on their stimulant medication. According to a 2014 study, anorexia, irritability, and insomnia were the most common adverse reactions. (Khajehpiri, Z., Mahmoudi-Gharaei, J., Faghihi, T., Karimzadeh, I., Khalili, H., & Mohammadi, M. 2014).
With a developing brain, we want to be careful about giving children medication that can have lasting negative effects on the function and structure of the brain. And because of that, and other reasons, medication should never be the first option for children.
5. Kids with ADHD May be Brighter Than Average, But Often Have Delays in Other Areas
Many children with ADHD are cognitively bright but lag behind their peers in executive functioning, social skills, and problem solving. Cognitive intelligence is just one of several types of intelligences that kids need to be successful in the world but just because you are bright doesn’t mean you have common sense, aren’t easily distracted, know how to get along with others, or can complete tasks.
You can have a Ferrari with an awesome body and engine but if it has the wrong valves, hoses and fluids and fuels, it won’t work properly. Parents often get hung up on a child’s IQ or intellectual potential but it’s meaningless if they lack executive functioning, coping or social skills or just sit around and play video games all day.
So remember, intelligence is an assist but they need a full complement of skills to be successful in the world. Without behavioral and emotional regulation, kids with ADHD can’t use their thinking brain. In other words, that Ferrari is sitting in the garage without its wheels.
So calming the brain with science backed tools such as neurofeedback is essential.
6. You as a Parent Can Dramatically Improve Your Child’s Behavior
We just aren’t talking enough about how parents can have a dramatic positive effect on their child‘s behavior. Instead, they are too quick to suggest brain chemistry as the only avenue of treatment. We aren’t defined by our DNA, and parents need to know the how and why of supporting their child with ADHD behavior.
Understanding that with concentrated and purposeful behavioral reinforcement of the behaviors you want, kids of any age can learn a new way of responding. For 30 years, I have been showing parents how to do that and they need to know that they just need to shift their effort from wheel spinning to teaching desired behavior.
7. You Can Rewire Your Child’s Brain
When people come to my Connecticut Neurofeedback and Coaching center either in person or virtually, they are often shocked about how many science-backed ways there are to change brain function and even affect brain structure. It’s quite an empowering thing to know that what you eat, do and say can change the trajectory of your child‘s life.
Kids with ADHD have trouble with starting and completing tasks and shifting efforts not only calm your child’s brain but can really help to have that happy family.
That's just how powerful calming the brain and lifestyle changes can be. Instead of fearing change, embrace the neuroscience of harnessing the brain to increase calm at home.
8. Without a Calm Brain, Your Child Can’t Pay Attention or Have Good Executive Functioning
The basis of my work is teaching others the how and why of calming the brain in my BrainBehaviorReset™method and program because without a calm brain, good thinking and attention (and healing for that matter) just isn’t possible.
When the brain is calm, neurotransmitters, hormones, and the body’s hormone system are able to get online and work properly. Without self-regulation of the brain and behavior, one can’t pay attention, think, or take purposeful action because the brain won’t let that easily happen. So, trying to get a child to remember to hang up their book bag, study for their test, or not say whatever they think can’t happen without a calm brain.
Many are diagnosed and treated with medication and talk therapy with no improvement in symptoms. While behavioral therapy can really improve symptoms, without a regulated, calm brain, learning of new behaviors will be slow if not impossible.
9. Self-Confidence is the Foundation of Success
As much as we think good grades, a nice house, or the right school is what builds good mental health, strong self confidence is the key to lifelong mental health.
So how do you build self-confidence in kids and teens? Well that’s easy… you let them fail and learn from their mistakes. Yep. Kids need to learn how to tolerate being uncomfortable and all the sensations it brings and develop those all important coping skills.
CDC ADHD fact sheet retrieved on March 16, 2022 https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
Khajehpiri, Z., Mahmoudi-Gharaei, J., Faghihi, T., Karimzadeh, I., Khalili, H., & Mohammadi, M. (2014). Adverse reactions of Methylphenidate in children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder: Report from a referral center. Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice, 3(4), 130–136. http://doi.org/10.4103/2279-042X.145389
Xiong, Z., Shi, S., & Xu, H. (2005). A controlled study of the effectiveness of EEG biofeedback training on-children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Medical sciences = Hua zhong ke ji da xue xue bao. Yi xue Ying De wen ban = Huazhong keji daxue xuebao. Yixue Yingdewen ban, 25(3), 368–370. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02828171
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime.
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.