At one time or another, most parents wonder if their child is “normal,” especially if it’s their first child. They may have little or no experience with children of any age, so there’s no basis for comparison. And since babies don’t come with a manual, you may have no way of knowing if your child’s behavior is to be expected. There are certain stages that all children must go through to develop properly, but if you don’t know what they are, how can you identify what is inappropriate?
For example, when a toddler runs around the house with amazing energy, we may groan about “the terrible twos.” It’s comforting to learn that your friends’ toddlers are just as active, and you soon accept the fact that this is a stage kids must go through in order to grow into a healthy life.
However, if your child is a preschooler or older and you question his behavior, it might be time to ask:
• Does my child have tantrums?
• Does he have a limited attention span?
• Is he hyperactive and alternately withdrawn?
• Is he disruptive in the classroom or childcare center?
• Does he hit, bite or push other children?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, chances are you’ve been told your child has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and would greatly benefit from Ritalin. Teachers have admitted that a medicated child is much easier to have in the classroom. So, if you’ve taken that advice and gone to a doctor or psychiatrist who has prescribed Ritalin or one of the other psychotropic drugs like Cyclert, you’ve probably noticed your child is more complacent, and sits still longer.
Then you need to ask: Is this good? Are we too quick to label a child as “bad” or having ADD or ADHD? Are we too quick to prescribe drugs that have known side effects such as decreased appetite, depression, tics, headaches and a “fuzzy head,” as one child described it? An estimated 5 million children are on this drug that has short-term side effects. We don’t even know the long-term effects yet. Are we creating a generation of zoned out kids?
The answer is a resounding “YES!” Children who have a natural zest for life and a curiosity that knows no bounds are suddenly very different kids. We assume that if a doctor prescribed it, it must be OK. We think that because our child is quieter, he’s healthier. We are told that because he can focus, he is a better student — without realizing that before taking the drug, he had a wonderful curiosity about many things and now his curiosity is losing ground to mind-numbing medication.
Of course, there are some children who must be medicated, but there are homeopathic remedies to be found in the health food store that may offer the same results with no side-effects. Good art and music therapists provide much needed services to parents of children with ADD or ADHD. Check the Internet, your school board, and your friends for recommendations.
Here are some contributing factors to this huge increase in ADD:
• Allergies to dairy products. This is the prime cause of ADHD. Removal of these offenders usually provides dramatic and almost instantaneous relief.
• Not enough fresh air. Schools are notorious for having sealed windows, which effectively prevents fresh air from helping clean the atmosphere. Mold and spores proliferate in air-conditioning and heating ducts, sending allergens throughout your house or school.
• New furniture and carpeting are often made with chemicals that give off fumes that can cause illness.
• Preservatives and additives in food.
• Second-hand smoke.
• Poor nutrition.
How can you help your child? Some things you can implement easily, others are more problematical, such as sealed windows in schools. However, at home you can begin by reading labels on everything you buy.
Keep in mind that many children with ADD, autism or Asperger’s have many allergies, so you might consider having him tested by an allergist.
Look for the organic label on fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat, including chicken. Buy milk substitutes, such as almond or rice milk. You’ll discover many delicious foods in special sections of your local grocery store. Diet is a huge first step to helping your child towards a healthy life. It’s important to do your homework and search for answers to your questions but always rely on your intuition as to whether or not they are the best solutions for your child.
Janet Tubbs is an educational consultant who has worked with children both with and without disabilities for over 30 years. She is the author of seven books, including “Creative Therapies for Children with Autism, Asperger’s and ADD.” She is the mother of four children and grandmother of eight.