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Dr. Hallowell's Blog

Archive for July, 2013

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Summer Vacation: Smart Strategies for Students with ADHD

Is your child just a little too relaxed during summer vacation?  Review these 7 Smart Strategies for Students with ADHD: www.drhallowell.com/add-adhd/add-students

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Dr. Hallowell Responds to Time Magazine: Is it ADHD or Pseudo ADHD?

Recently, the tech section of TIME magazine’s online site posted an article about gadgets and the rise in the diagnosis of ADHD in children.  According to the article, the past decade has seen a 50% increase in the diagnosis of ADHD, so that now 6 million children have been diagnosed.
This touches upon an issue I’ve been writing about for 20 years now.  There is a group of children (and adults) who appear to have ADHD but actually do not.  They exhibit all the symptoms associated with ADHD, and often receive a diagnosis, but their condition is created by the environment in which they live.  True ADHD is usually genetic in origin, while this masquerader, which I call “pseudo ADHD” is caused by the context in which the child spends his or her time.

Pseudo ADHD is caused by the combination of two forces common in childhood today.  First is the proliferation of electronic technologies of many kinds, from iphones to laptops to gaming systems to ipads to screens of myriad dimensions and definitions.  It is not rare for a child to spend upwards of 6 or 7 hours on his or her electronic devices.  I coined a term for such usage: screen-sucking.  Screen-sucking not only is a waste of time, it is also addictive, and robs a child from participating in other activities, such as playing outdoors, getting exercise, reading a book, or doing schoolwork.  In the trance induced by screen-sucking, the child builds no useful skills and wastes precious time he or she could be investing in beneficial activities.  So alluring are the screens, however, that children feel all but compelled to sit in front of them, sucking away.

The second force that is common in today’s childhood and contributes to pseudo ADHD is interpersonal disconnection, the disappearance of the human, face-to-face moment, as the electronic moment takes its place.  Children are suffering from a lack of human connection, which I call the other vitamin C, vitamin Connect.  Without enough family dinner, time spent in conversations, bedtime stories, family outings, or time spent playing outdoors with friends, children’s spirits sag, their imaginations atrophy, their get-up-and-go goes away, and they gain weight while losing drive, enthusiasm and ambition.

These two forces combine to make children distractible, impulsive, and restless, the hallmark triad of symptoms of ADHD.  But the treatment for pseudo ADHD is not medication.  The treatment is to turn off the electronic devices, learn to use them in moderation, while increasing the daily dose of the other vitamin C, increasing the amount of human contact, play, and physical connection each child receives.

Pseudo ADHD is common, and highly treatable.  But you must first identify it and not confuse it with true ADHD.  The best way to tell the two apart is to look carefully at the child’s life.  If his ADHD disappears when he visits grandpa’s farm in Vermont, then is it pseudo ADHD. If it disappears when he is in a setting that is low on electronics and high on human contact and connection, then it is pseudo ADHD.  If the supposed ADHD disappears in a structured environment with limited access to electronics, then it is pseudo ADHD.  The last thing this child needs is medication.

He needs a drastic cut in electronics, and a big increase in vitamin Connect!

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Summer – Dr. Hallowell Style

Okay, here’s a “note from Ned”

Summer.  It’s the season of childhood.  No school.  Long days. Roads under repair. Beaches, beachballs, and the sweet smells of suntan lotions.  Hot dog trucks, standing barefoot on the white lines of parking lots to avoid the burning hot blacktop, ice cream vendors, and band concerts.  Fireworks on the Fourth of July and maybe a parade.  Old folks sitting on their porches cooling themselves with a handheld fan and a tall iced drink.  Baseball, of course.  The boys of summer.  Fenway Park, Wriggly Field, Yankee Stadium and Chavez Ravine.  The slide into home plate, the cloud of dust, and the umpires spread eagle “safe” signal followed by a torrent of anger from the team that thought the runner was out.  On the fields of those ballparks, the greenest grass you’ll ever see.  And the best hotdogs you’ll ever eat, the best mustard, and the most satisfying colas and beers.  The crowd rising in the bottom of the ninth when the walk off game winning home run settles into the right field seats as the dejected right fielder starts the long, sad walk back into the visitors’ dugout while the home team swarms the field and covers the player who hit the home run in bearhugs.  Men loving men, fans loving fans, and everyone, even the losing team, loving life.  Time stopped, joy protracted, boredom forgot.  …. Bicycles, honeysuckle, and dandelions.  Youthful romance.  Making out in the dunes and wondering how long love will last.  Wondering what’s love and what’s, you know, just the allure of the other.  But no pain in it, just the joy of being alive and not knowing enough to fear much of anything.  The crash of the surf, the smell of the salt air and the dry seaweed, the crooked piece of driftwood you lean against after kissing, or whatever you did.  ….  Cookouts, toasting marshmallows, burgers, and, when you’re old enough, cold beer.  Beer is summer, for some it’s wine, but white wine, or rose.  …. Hammocks, summer reads, lawn sprinklers, and hydrangeas, peonies, pansies, lilacs, lilies of the valley, and roses of all shapes and sizes.  … Restful, lazy afternoons, outdoor showers and the joy of being naked in nature, skinny dipping, and maybe stealing someone’s towel before they get out.  Miscellaneous mischief is summer, as the season is so forgiving.  Frequent comments come July to the effect of, where has the time gone, summer is half over and it feels like it just began.  …. Wondering what happens in winter where we forget how sweet and slow life can be and still be all we need it to be.  … Weddings are summer, and lobster salad served in a buttered, toasted top-cut hot dog roll, with some slaw and a big old stick of a pickle.  Steamed clams.  (You can see I grew up on Cape Cod.)  And corn.  Of course, corn.  On the cob.  Peaks in August.  Bits of corn stuck between teeth, picking out the bits while reaching for another beer and laughing when your girlfriend makes a face at you.  … Old cars, fixer-upper cars, with quilts and towels in the back seat and sand everywhere.  Pumping gas.  And music, of course.  On the car radio, blasting out from speakers somewhere, or in earphones as you walk along.  … Dreams, sweet dreams, stroked by the light in the lighthouse as it makes its 360 sweep every 12 seconds, counting the times the beam crosses your bed as you fall asleep late into the night.  Getting up late, too, coming down to blueberries and coffee and a ripe melon.  …. Juicy, summer is juicy.  The juice of life pours out in summer and bathes us all, salty sweat, saltwater, and the breezes that billow out the curtains in the upstairs bedrooms.  … Dogs running free, tubas in the parade played by the old man who still runs a barber shop and the trumpets played by the twins who own what’s still called the package store.  ….  This is the season to slow down and relish all we have, including that forgotten but still delicious condiment called relish!  I wish you all a glorious summer.  Revel in it, relax in it, and don’t forget to take a nap.

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