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Does Your Child Have a Brain Disease; (ADD/HD) or Incredible Potential!?

"Americans have many virtues, but attention span is not one of them."

Anna Quindlen

"Your child has a brain disease," the doctor informed Thom Hartmann and his son as they sat in their doctor’s office. It was like a slap in the face. "You should forget about plans for medical or law school and think about being an auto mechanic," the doctor advised.

Thom’s not the type to take such a diagnosis lying down. He’d spent years running a foster home for the most difficult children, and he had different ideas. Eventually his search for answers led to him writing the first of many books on ADD-- Attention Deficit Disorder; A Different perspective, which has come to be known as the "Hunters in a Farmers’ World" book. The basic concept is that people with ADD are like hunters, and in a hunting role, function great-- hyperfocusing on things they are interested in, easily noticing signs of prey (distractable,) lots of energy. (Thom also founded the world’s largest ADD organization-- the Compuserve ADD forum. He also has a website at http://www.mythical.net. )

This works great if you are an entrepreneur juggling 100 different job functions and an exciting company idea, a journalist hot on a story lead, a software programmer searching for a bug, an internet search expert, a detective, a salesman going after leads to close or a mechanic figuring out what’s worng with a car, heating system or computer malfunction. That’s why I like to conceive of ADD as Attention Differences and Directions, not a disorder. It’s hard to imagine what America would be like without some of its famous ADDers--

But if you are a child in a school set up to economically teach the basic subjects, to 30 or more students, then these same positive traits can become a liability. The energy and easy distractability can lead to mind wandering in a class that is boring. Details like homework assignments, tests to be signed by parents, report cards can easily be lost or forgotten-- or ignored. (Girls tend to manifest the distractable variety)

This can lead to major school problems. Some show up in the early years, particularly if there are also problems, beyond distractability, with hyperactivity. It is not uncommon for teachers to recommend that such children be placed on Ritalin or other stimulant medications. The kids get labeled and given special plans to meet the child’s needs. The sad thing is this can sometimes lead to the child developing poor self esteem.

Sometimes medication can help create a child who is more manageable for the teacher in the classroom. And for more complex cases, (ADD sometimes is also associated with oppositional defiance or obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourrettes, Aspbergers, mild Autistic behavior and/or substance abuse) medication is very important. But recent studies have found medication did absolutely nothing for 25-40% of children with ADD/ADHD. And, in fact, one study showed that 69% of children on Ritalin or other stimulants suffered from one or more side-effects.

A Council on Scientific Affairs report from the AMA concluded in 1998 that pharmacotherapy alone, while effective in short-term symptomatic improvement, "has not yet been shown to improve the long-term outcome for any domain of functioning (classroom behavior, learning, impulsivity, etc.)."

One non-drug alternative or supplement to medication is Neurofeedback-- EEG biofeedback, or training the brain. This approach can help build skills in self control for ADD adults and children. it will often enable childen to reduce or eliminate their need for medications. We’ll be talking much more about neurofeedback’s different applications in columns to come.

Rob Kall, M.Ed., is a counselor, Biofeedback trainer and personal coach at

The Center for Optimal Living, 211 No. Sycamore Street, Newtown, PA 18940

smile @cis.compuserve.com http://www.futurehealth.org/CFOL.htm

Check out Thom Hartmann's website

ADD Central