Is it Really ADHD or Just Too Much Pressure?

September 15, 2008

I’ve always contented that we, as a society, are too quick to label our kids with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, pump them full of meds and forget about the issue.  I’ve read two articles recently that support my theory.

I’m not saying that ADHD doesn’t really exist or that there are indeed extreme cases in which medications are needed to moderate behavior.

However, I feel that society finds it easier to tack on the ADHD label than to work on a development issue.

The article “Who is to blame for boys struggling at school?” talks about how boys are more often targeted for ADHD.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2003, 14 percent of boys across the nation were identified as having ADHD by the time they reached their sixteenth birthday. And the percentage is continuing to grow.”

It went on further to add.

“Either we are witnessing the largest pandemic in our country since influenza struck in the United States in 1918, or school-age boys are being overidentified and overdiagnosed.”

But if you read the article, the offending behaviors are just typical boy behavior.  C’mon we all did that kind of stuff as a kid.  But because it disrupts the classroom, it must be a medical issue.

Let’s look at why it’s disrupting the classroom.  What are we asking our kids to do in the classroom these days?  The list is getting bigger and bigger by the day.

When I was a kid, kindergarten was more about learning how to behave in school.  We had play time and nap time and we might learn our letters, colors and numbers.

But these days, the pressure is on.  Preschool is now where kids learn the basics – and sometimes even more.  And by kindergarten they are already learning to read.  Some people are even holding their kids out of kindergarten until they are six so they know more going in.

School days are filled with a variety of work and little time to play.  Then the kids come home and have more work to do.  Some schools don’t even allow kids to talk during lunch to keep lunch time to a minimum and get the students back in the classroom.

Kids are kids, they have lots of energy. We must allow them some time to be a kid, to have fun, to goof off.

If they are in school all day and aren’t allowed to talk during lunch, when are they allowed to be themselves? If we don’t give them some time to express themselves and be a kid, they will make their own.

I think it’s unrealistic of a teacher to think (especially with the younger ones) kids are going to sit still and pay attention for 6-8 hours a day. Heck, I know most adults that can’t do that.

It doesn’t mean we should start medicating everyone.

The solution is two-part. Parents need to work with their children on appropriate behavior and offer them an alternative activity during non-school hours to exert some of that energy. Teachers must be willing to teach in a method most conducive to the child rather than what’s easiest for them.

The New York Times article “Training Young Brains to Behave” talks about why kids are so quick to move from one topic to another.  A short-attention span is natural.

“One reason is that an area of the brain that is critical to inhibiting urges, the prefrontal cortex, is still a work in progress.”

It’s not ADHD, it’s a development issue. .

“Some children’s brains adapt quickly, while others’ take time.”

The article goes on further to discuss how much this erratic behavior changed when teachers and parents took time to work with the child on self-control, memory and flexibility.

When this behavior is shaped “it is more strongly associated with school success than I.Q.” 

Imagine that – long-term results without any drugs and all it required was a little effort on the part of parents and teachers.

Finally, the study also said “Although play is often thought frivolous, it may be essential.”

I think as adults we often overlook this very key piece in children’s development. I know for myself, I have to do a mental check to make I’m not overscheduling my kids, that I’m allowing time for them to just play.

What do you think?  Is ADHD overdiagnosed?  Are we putting too much pressure on our youth to succeed?


How Safe is Your Bathroom?

February 19, 2008

As of mom of toddlers, I’m constantly thinking about safety.  I have safety gates on the stairs and special knobs on the door handles, but I never considered my bathroom as a hazard for me.

Bathroom safetyThe contents of our bathroom pose a threat to not only the children or pets in your house, but to you. 

Sure you know better than to eat your shampoo (I hope).  But even under regular use, the ingredients in our daily beauty regiment can be harmful. 

Scared by the rash of news stories that parade the potential hazards of your hygiene products and beauty aids?

The researchers at the Environmental Working Group have put together a database called Skin Deep to provide you reports on all your favorite personal care products.

You can search by product, ingredient or company and it will give a hazard rating, a list of ingredients and any potential hazards that those ingredients have been linked to.

So if you are worried about what’s in your bathroom cabinet, check out Skin Deep.

Photo courtesy of Skin Deep.

What is Your House’s Walk Score?

August 12, 2007

Here’s a new piece of information to consider when you buy a house — the house’s walk score.  What is a walk score you ask?  It is a score to determine if your neighborhood is walkable.  In other words, are there stores, parks, schools, etc. that are within walking distance of your house?

Walk ScoreFor the health conscious home owner, a high walk score is desirable.  After all, getting out and walking is healthy, not to mention good for the environment.

It’s also something to consider if you are a parent.   It won’t tell you if the neighborhood and surrounding areas have sidewalks, but it will tell you what’s close enough for a walking adventure.

I remember walking to the store with my mom as a kid.  Sure it was the zoo or a water park, but it was still a fun adventure for a kid.  Then I remember when I was old enough to walk to the store by myself.  My friends and I would walk to the store just to get a soda.  Then we’d repeat the trip a couple hours later just to have something to do.  I didn’t realize it then, but it was a great way to get in some exercise.

A few years ago before we had children we bought a house.  We chose a house in the suburbs because of the school system, knowing that children were in our near future.  But now that we are here with toddlers, I miss the ability to just walk up to the store.  Our house had a walk score of 5 (out of 100).  We get in the car to go anywhere — even the nearest park.

So before we buy our next house, I’ll be checking out a few things — the school system, the sex offender registry and the walk score.

Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse 5 Moms at a Time

August 11, 2007

My kids are only two.  So far I don’t have to worry about drug abuse.  In fact my children haven’t even discovered peer pressure yet.  But I’m afraid this peace of mind will be short lived.

Five MomsLong gone are the days when parents could tell their kids are using drugs because they smell pot from their room.  Today’s teen faces the potential to not only use much more serious drugs, but also simple household products.  The latest is cough medicine.  And today’s teen is not only influenced by their friends and television, now they have the Internet to show them how to do it.

But we as parents can use the Internet too.  At least that’s the idea behind  Five moms got together and developed a site to spread the word about cough medicine abuse

You’ll also find resources at this site to help you identify abuse and to get help.

So visit Five Moms today and help spread the word.

Disney to Ban Smoking in Family Movies

July 26, 2007

Disney announced Wednesday that it plans to ban all depictions of smoking in its family-oriented movies, according to Reuters.  I think this move is a powerful one by a company whose name is synonymous with children.

Smoking BanSince I live in a state that depends on a tobacco company, I might be a minority.  However, I’m glad that someone in Hollywood is finally stepping up to the plate to help discourage kids from trying smoking.  And I think they are most definitely targeting the right films, those aimed at children viewers.

As an adult I have no problem with films that show people smoking.  At this point I understand the dangers associated with smoking and have no interest in them.  At the same time, I understand that there is still a large portion of the population that smokes.  In fact I have several friends that do.  I respect their decision just as they respect mine to not smoke.

However, as a teenager and even a pre-teen, I was fascinated with smoking because characters in movies I found fascinating looked cool and sexy smoking.  Add those images to peer pressure and you have a recipe that encourages teens to try this vice.

I’m not saying teens smoke because they see it in the movies, but it’s hard to promote smoking as a bad habit to acquire when it looks so cool in the movies.  And like it or not, teens (and even some adults) are influenced by what they seen on the big screen.

Disney isn’t banning smoking in all their movies, just those released under the Disney label.  And that’s okay with me.  I think when you get to movies aimed at adults, that the adults should be mature enough to separate reality from fiction. 

Let’s hope makers of other movies aimed at children follow suit. 

Don’t be misled by these sunscreen myths

June 18, 2007

As summer sets in and you plan your outdoor outings, don’t forget your sunscreen.  Not sure what to apply and how often?  Check out CNN’s guide to sunscreen myths.

My Post on Diet Study Upsets Pro-Ana Group

April 12, 2007

Apparently my recent post about a new study that confirms that dieting does not work has ruffled the feathers of a Pro-Ana group.  Pro-Ana are people who believe that anorexia is a way of life, or a lifestyle choice if you prefer, instead of a mental disorder.  Here is my response.

No, I do not need a study to tell me that dieting does not work.  I just thought it was interesting that there was a study to point out what I thought was already obvious.  If dieting really worked, doctors would endorse it. 

I’ve seen some of the side effects and downsides of dieting — lethargy, crankiness, low energy level, diabetes —  first hand through friends and co-workers who’ve tried dieting.  Even worse, I’ve seen far too many women let their self worth get tied to losing a few pounds. 

People that are continually dieting don’t need to lose weight.  They need to learn to love themselves for who they are.  They need to stop dieting and start enjoying life before it passes them by.  

Being thin will not solve all your problems.  Just ask former cover girl Magali Amadei who told Glamour that she wasted seven years being bulimic.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not promoting obesity or overeating.  I think people need to find a nice balance between healthy eating habits and exercise.  And for every person that balance is different.  Healthy eating should include well balanced meals and  moderation.  Exercise doesn’t have to mean the gym — it could be exercise you get while doing your favorite hobby (such as chasing after toddlers).

I’m by no means a health specialist.  But if you find yourself either constantly dieting or overeating, please get some advice from a professional.

As for me, am I concerned with my appearance?  Absolutely, but not to the point where it invades my ability to enjoy life.  Am I perfect?  Not even close.  Do I live a healthy lifestyle?  I try, in my own way.  I want to live a long life so that I can be there for my children as they grow up and so that I can one day enjoy my grandchildren.  Do I always succeed at achieving this healthy lifestyle?  Not hardly.  But I accept my flaws for what they are — a part of who I am — and I move on.