[an except from a chapter in the book, The Brain Wellness Plan, by Dr. Jay Lombard and Carl Germano, Kensington Books]
From his first few months of life, Clarissa and Ray knew there was something different about their son Jon. For one thing, he never slept. When other babies his age were sleeping a good ten to twelve hours a night and taking at least one nap every day, Jon was wide awake by 5 A.m. and simply screamed if they tried to get him to rest anytime during the day.
By the time he was two, Jon was a whirling dervish, or as Ray called him, " the human destructo machine," practically climbing the walls. Preschool didn’t seem to help. In fact, just getting Jon to sit in the car long enough to buckle his seat belt required all of Clarissa’s patience and strength. Once, Jon even managed to wriggle free and jump out of the car before she closed the door, hitting his head on the paved drive. As usual, though, Jon didn’t cry. He seemed heedless of danger, no matter how they cautioned him or how many scrapes he bore on his skinny knees and elbows.
In elementary school, Jon’s behavior actually worsened. When the teacher tried to read a story, he constantly interrupted. If another child competed with him for a toy, Jon was likely to solve the disagreement with a slap. Clarissa and Ray were worried. If Jon was this out -of control now, what would he be like as a teenager?
Jon’s preschool teacher recommended that he be evaluated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The pediatrician conducted a thorough physical exam, and then referred thefamily to a child psychiatrist. A battery of behavioral assessment tests confirmed the ADHD diagnosis, and the psychiatrist prescribed Ritalin. However, unconvinced that this was the best solution, Clarissa and Ray sought our opinion.
"There must be other things we can do," they told us. "We really don’t want our kid on medication unless there is absolutely no other choice."
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: An Overview
ADHD ranks among the most common neurological disorders among American children, affecting up to 5 percent, or as many as 2 million, U.S. children at any one time.
In fact, in every classroom in the United States you can expect to find at least one child with ADHD. While it is not itself a specific learning disability, ADHD can interfere with concentration and attention, making it difficult for a child to do well in school and in social situations.
A syndrome usually characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior, ADHD is a close relative to attention deficit disorder (ADD), which affects the attention and impulse control of individuals but is not characterized by hyperactive behavior. Both syndromes run in families, and boys with ADHD tend to outnumber girls by at least 3 to 1.
For people with ADHD, life is like a fast-moving carousel where sounds, smells, sights, and thoughts are constantly stopping and starting, or even spinning out of control. Although many children seem to outgrow the disorder, at least 30 percent are affected throughout adulthood. However, many adults with the disorder remain unaware that they have it unless one of their children is diagnosed with ADHD. These adults may simply think of themselves as disorganized and unable to stay on task; they may consequently suffer in both personal relationships and careers as a result.