Q   I am a school teacher working with children from the ages of seven to ten. Some of the children seem quite hyperactive. They have difficulty remaining in their seats, paying attention, focusing and completing assignments. I inform parents about their children’s behavior regularly. Some of the parents tell me their kids have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) and are looking into getting help or already have their kids in some sort of therapy or on medication. It’s hard for me to believe that this is strictly a brain or nervous system disorder. Doesn’t it have to do with family and environmental impacts?

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A  Firstly, below are some of the common symptoms of ADHD:

Difficulty paying attention to details and being messy and careless in school work or other activities; fidgeting, squirming and inability to sustain attention on tasks; easily distracted by minor stimuli; disorganized work habits and forgetfulness in schedules and tasks; difficulty in following conversations, talking excessively and not attuned to appropriateness in social situations.

If you think about a child or person in a holistic way, it gives a fuller picture of the symptoms. Stable family situations are very helpful in making children feel calmer. When there is chaos or trauma in the home, children feel more fragmented and affected by everything. They become more vigilant, preoccupied, distracted, and anxious. Research shows that trauma from neglect, emotional or physical abuse, and abandonment causes changes in brain patterns, which affect concentration, learning, and performance in a variety of ways.

Some children may just be thinking very quickly and thinking in terms of systems or relationships, not linearly. They often learn better by actively participating rather than sitting and listening.

Diet also has a role in hyperactivity and stability of mood. Less processed foods with minimal preservatives and refined sugar is the key. Eating more green and brown foods—fresh vegetables and whole grains—stabilizes blood sugar and keeps the colon working efficiently so there is less toxicity in the bloodstream. Staying hydrated with water or juices with low sugar content can help. Zinc and omega 3 fatty acids have been associated with supporting brain function. There are natural herbal products and homoeopathic remedies that are worth trying. If the child is on medication, then consulting with a proper health care expert is advisable before combining herbs with medication.

Children also benefit by learning to do some sort of yoga, stretching, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises. There are a lot of stimuli today and children are rushed from one activity to another without time to center, slow down, and get connected to themselves and others. Incorporating some of these approaches into the classroom and at home will definitely assist the child in focusing and being less restless, making learning and living easier and more pleasant and productive.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com

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