New research shows promise in managing ADHD symptoms in children – SheKnows
I think my eldest son accidentally left his manual in my womb the day he popped in 16 years ago. Because since that day – even though I had three more children after him – I feel like a complete and total novice in parenting. As if I was groping around in a dark room, fumbling for a switch that would suddenly brighten the situation.
Of course, the ADHD diagnosis he received when he was in second grade didn’t help. Until then, we had struggled to find a solution that worked for him, but came up empty-handed. The kid was brilliant; he was tested gifted in kindergarten, and his teacher that year even gave me a private email from the guidance counselor that said they would need to make “special concessions” to accommodate its accelerated pace. But then the notes started coming home. Tirelessly.
He doesn’t follow the proceduresthey said. He does not stay in his place. He keeps talking to other students. He acts very stupidly. He had a tough day today. It seemed like everyone, every day, from the class teacher to the music teacher to the lunchroom monitor, had something negative to say about his behavior. He wasn’t belligerent or aggressive or anything – but he was considered a nuisance, which absolutely broke my heart.
“That’s what he was doing when he was supposed to do his worksheet,” his kindergarten teacher once told me at an impromptu school reunion, and handed me the worksheet… with a strange cut-out band. Then she handed me the cut strip; glue dried on each end, I could tell it was meant to be a bracelet. One side said “FOR MOM”, and the other side said “I LOVE YOU MOM”. I want to cry. My baby.
He was still at a separate desk to improve his concentration, still in the hallway, still at another lunch table, still in a failed attempt to keep him quiet and in line. It was meant to “minimize distractions”…although at its core it felt personal. Very naturally, he hated being so ostracized all the time – but his father and I were completely lost. Someone was dropping the ball when it came to this poor kid, but was it us? Was it his school?
When you are the parent of a child like this, you feel helpless. You know your child can be fickle and boring, and you don’t blame the teachers for being pissed off having to deal with that and a class of other students. But at the same time, you feel outraged on behalf of your child, who clearly can’t help it and is hurting.
School staff didn’t see the sweet, patient big brother my son was at home, nor his hyper-focus as he intently watched YouTube documentaries on everything from parasitic wasp larvae to functioning inner vocal cords. They only saw the kid who didn’t finish his worksheets or stay in his chair. It felt like they were missing a crucial part of who he was, the exact thing that could have changed the way he was treated at school. I knew my child wasn’t a “bad seed,” but it seemed no one else was.
Eventually, we had him evaluated for ADHD, and he received a clear diagnosis. We put him on medication, which helped tremendously for a while, and I even wondered why we hadn’t tried it sooner. But as he got older and his dosage needs changed, he started to develop side effects and we decided to take him off the meds in fifth grade. Then we were back to square one because non-medicated ADHD doesn’t do well in the classroom.
To be clear: ADHD medications have been a godsend for a long time. Even despite my son’s less than ideal experience later on, I have no regrets. I know making the decision to take drugs is one of the hardest because there is such an unfair stigma attached to “drugging your child”. (Insert all eye rolls here.) But if your child is struggling, know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going this route!
However, if you’re on the fence – or if you’re in the same boat as me and still don’t go for the meds but want to Something to help your child manage their ADHD, there is a study described in the most recent Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) which has shown promising results: Vitamin and mineral supplementation has been shown to help relieve ADHD symptoms.
In the triple-blind study — meaning neither parents, children, nor clinicians knew who was receiving treatment and who was receiving a placebo — 135 children with non-medicated ADHD were given micronutrient or placebo for eight weeks. The micronutrient capsule contained all known essential vitamins and minerals. At the end of the eight-week study, the nutrient-treated group showed three more time improvement in their ADHD symptoms (54% versus 18% in the placebo group). The results of this study seem to confirm similar findings from a 2019 study conducted in New Zealand, which is also exciting.
“Supplementation with all known essential vitamins and minerals, at doses between the recommended daily allowance and the tolerable upper limit, may improve mood and concentration in children with ADHD and emotional dysregulation,” said lead author Jeanette Johnstone, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Oregon Health and Science University and Helfgott Research Institute, National University of natural medicine, said in a press release. “These findings may offer guidance to physicians and families seeking integrative treatments for their children with ADHD and related emotional dysregulation.”
Not only did the research uncover behavioral and emotional benefits for children with ADHD, but also surprising physical benefits: the micronutrient group grew six millimeters taller than the placebo group. “The growth finding, also a replication of the previous micronutrient study in children, is particularly encouraging, as height suppression is a concern with first-line ADHD medications,” noted the Dr Johnstone.
For parents who are at their wit’s end – and ADHD kids who are frustrated and misunderstood – the idea of being able to manage symptoms with a simple, well-tolerated treatment is very exciting news. Of course, further testing is needed to refine Why this treatment seems to be effective, and no treatment works 100% of the time. But sometimes, when things seem hopeless, something like this is a bit like finding that ever-elusive switch: Could this be it?
In the meantime, until science comes up with an ADHD treatment that works with pinpoint accuracy, we’re going to stock up on multivitamins and cling to hope. We will continue to repeat instructions such as “put on your shoes” and try not to be frustrated when, 10 minutes later, our child still shows up barefoot with a book in one hand and a sock in the other. We will present the school grades and be their advocates in endless teacher meetings, and we will know in our hearts that their ADHD symptoms should never define the wonderful, amazing children they are.