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Shila Mathew, MD

Board Certified Psychiatrist, Medical Acupuncture, Integrative Medicine

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Attention Deficit Disorder: New Perspectives

by: Mary F. Zesiewicz, MD

I am a Board Certified Psychiatrist and have been practicing for 20 years. For almost half of my professional career, I have practiced Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The primary reason for referral, by far, was Attention Deficit Disorder.

Over the years, I watched as the standards of assessment and treatment shifted from a comprehensive one, to one of almost exclusive focus on medication. While a percentage of our children were helped, with ability to stay focused and complete assignments, it seemed that an over-reliance on medications existed, and still does, with an almost complete absence of education on the principles of healthy lifestyle.

I say this with confidence, based on my observations of literally hundreds of children. Foods they eat are high in saturated fats and carbohydrates. Not to mention the sweets consumed by our children. While many of my families worked incredibly hard to provide healthy food choices, it seemed that once children got to school age, they were introduced to very unhealthy, albeit, attractively marketed food choices outside the home.

So how can we adequately assess for attentional difficulties in children without assessing the nature and quality of their food intake?

The other area that has completely escaped our attention in conventional medicine is exposure to environmental toxins. I used to think of environmental toxins as polluted air near smoke stacks, oil refineries or automobile repair shops. Iíve since realized that environmental toxins are everywhere. They are in our carpets, in the plastics that we drink from, in the paint fumes emanating from our walls.

And all these toxins, like the unhealthy foods we eat, can contribute to the lack of focus and inability to concentrate in our children.

While this makes common sense, it takes a lot of effort to stay healthy in any unhealthy environment.

Where does a busy family begin?

1.) Keep an open mind, read, learn and absorb. Once you embark on this journey, you will continue to learn; there is no going back.

2.) Watch where your dollars are going at the grocery store. Are you purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables or processed foods full of preservatives, and high in fats and carbohydrates? What is the nature of the snacks you are purchasing? Are they healthy or full of sugars? Are the juices you purchase high in unnecessary sugars? What type of grains are you buying? Are there a lot of potatoes, rice and pasta?

3.) How much exercise do you and your kids actually get on a regular basis? How often do you engage in healthy walks?

4.) How much time do you and your family spend in front of the TV? How about the time you and your children spend in front of video games or even the computer?

Balance is key. We live in a highly distractible environment, where stimulation surrounds us at all times. We have painfully little time to sit quietly, reflect, dream, imagine at any level. That goes for kids as well as adults. The lack of this quiet time, actually promotes distractibility in children. They are programmed always to be fed with some stimulation. Their inner selves are lacking the enrichment and nourishment they actually need.

I was recently exposed to a new type of teaching that has, at least anecdotally, shown to be particularly advantageous for children with high levels of distractibility. It is called ĎSuperteachingí. The brainchild of BJ Dorhmann, Founder of IBI Global, Superteaching utilizes powerful multimedia technology in the classroom. I have been privileged to participate in 8 days of Superteaching as a participant in an 8 day intensive CEO training and retreat known as ĎIBI Forumí; many months after the training, I remain in awe of the power of Superteaching to facilitate learning and retention of very complex material. In retrospect, I believe at least one reason for Superteachingís success is the stimulation of the participant's ability to dream and wonder about the mysteries of nature, the panoramic views of outer space, about their own personal dreams and visions, while learning didactic material. Superteaching is now available in schools. For more information, see www.superteaching.org

Along with innovative teaching materials, innovation in diets and supplements offer new hope for children with Attention Deficit Disorder. Research exists that supplements with essential fatty acids and antioxidants help improve focus and concentration in children with ADD.

A key question about antioxidants exists in ADD. Are the benefits due to a direct improvement of attention through a brain mediated response? Or does the process of detoxification of toxins and of nourishment of brain cells improve attention span in and of itself?

These answers will only come from more research. We need more research and we need it now. Are our children currently being treated for an innate brain condition or from sensitivity to an environment that abounds in distractions?

Whatever the answers are, letís start with the basics. Letís get focused on health and healthy lifestyle. Letís provide good supplements to help our children cleanse their systems. And letís dialogue. Letís share healthy tips with each other. If supplements work, letís hear about them. Letís exchange recipes. Letís share new innovative ideas.

Together we can get healthy and stay healthy. This includes for our children with ADD. Many of these youngsters are among the brightest, most gifted kids that I know. Letís stimulate their imaginations. Letís get them dreaming again. Letís give them hope for a healthier world ahead that they can be part of creating. Letís get focused. Now.

Copyright 2009 Mary F. Zesiewicz, MD

About The Author:

Mary F. Zesiewicz, MD, is a Board Certified Psychiatrist in practice for 20 years. She is passionate about the transformation of health care to a more integrative model. Her website http://www.wholelifequest.com offers up to date health resources and tips for people who want to maintain good health or are recovering from illness.

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