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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit and Physician Lim Sock Ling on August 2, 2022

How To Best Support A Child With Attention Deficit Disorder

Does your child have problems sitting still or learning? If so, they may have attention deficit disorder. Here's what you can do to help them.

Attention deficit disorder min scaled

Attention deficit disorder is on the rise among children all over the world. In the United States, many children are not tested unless their parents notice symptoms and ask for testing. This makes it difficult for kids to learn, setting them up to struggle for the rest of their lives.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about attention deficit disorder in kids, including how to identify it, what causes it, and what experts say you can do to help support your child.

What Is Attention Deficit Disorder?

ADD is characterized by inattentiveness in children.

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a chronic condition that causes concentration problems, forgetfulness, and impulsiveness. It usually begins in childhood and lasts into adulthood.

ADD is diagnosed in children under 16 who have 6 or more attention-related symptoms for 6 consecutive months or longer. Older teens only need to exhibit 5 symptoms. Neither group should show signs of hyperactivity.

Symptoms of ADD may include:

  • Trouble paying attention or becoming easily sidetracked
  • Avoids or does not like long mental tasks (including homework)
  • Has trouble following directions at school, home, or during play
  • Being disorganized and forgetful
  • Does not appear to listen when spoken to
  • Does not pay attention to details
  • Often loses things
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Struggles with instructions

Children with ADD often go undiagnosed because parents and teachers credit these symptoms to daydreaming.

ADD vs. ADHD

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, refers to many of the same symptoms as ADD, but with hyperactivity present.

This means that in addition to the symptoms listed above, your child may also fidget, have trouble sitting still, or talk too much.

So, what’s the difference between ADD and ADHD? According to doctors in the United States, there is none.

Back in 1994, doctors decided that all attention deficit disorders would be listed as ADHD, even if no hyperactivity was present.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), ADHD can be categorized as one of three conditions:

  • Mostly inattentive presentation (this used to be called ADD)
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation 
  • A combination presentation (this includes both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms)

Children with ADD are often inattentive while children with ADHD are inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive. Your child will be diagnosed based on their specific symptoms.

How do I know if my child is hyperactive?

Children with ADHD tend to be inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive.

Your child may be hyperactive or have ADHD if they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Always on the go
  • Does not sit still or squirms while seated
  • Interrupts often or blurts out answers before a question is finished
  • Has trouble waiting for their turn
  • Talks too much
  • Tapping their fingers
  • Gets up when it’s not appropriate (such as when the teacher is talking)
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate situations
  • Unable to play quietly

What Causes Attention Deficit Disorder?

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) lens, ADHD occurs due to a weak constitution combined with acquired environmental and dietary factors.

According to TCM Physician Lim Sock Ling, “The primary causes of ADHD in children are a weak body constitution and lack of Kidney essence. A child with Spleen Qi Deficiency or Liver Yang hyperactivity may also be at risk of ADHD.”

“Symptoms associated with these body constitutions include restlessness, inability to focus, irritability, night urination, indigestion, poor appetite, poor sleep quality, impulsiveness, fidgeting, recklessness, and interrupting,” Physician Lim stated.

TCM Treatment Options For ADHD

A child with ADHD may fidget with their hands or fingers and have problems listening.

TCM supports the use of herbal formulas and acupuncture to help children with attention deficit disorders.

As with all TCM treatments, parents should consult a registered TCM physician to diagnose the condition and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Herbal remedies

Parents can consider incorporating the following ingredients or herbs in dishes to improve a child’s weak constitution: 

  • To invigorate Kidneys: Walnut, goji berries, black sesame seed, sea cucumber, and black beans
  • To strengthen the Spleen and support digestive health: Si Shen Soup
  • For nourishing Yin and invigorating Kidneys: Lui Wei Di Huang Pills
  • To improve sleep and calm the mind: Pearl powder

Acorus tablets comprising Acorus, Polygala, Fushen, Alpinia, Curcuma, raw Rehmannia, dragon bone, dragon teeth, oyster shell, bamboo sap, and Succinum may help.

They are designed to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in TCM. They are relatively similar to compounds that treat other mental issues, such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. 

In a six-week trial of 50 patients using saffron or methylphenidate, the group using saffron capsule showed the same efficacy as the methylphenidate group.

Some herbs need to be used with caution. For example, saffron may not be appropriate during menstruation as well as for people with a bleeding disorder. 

Acupuncture

Using similar TCM principles, acupuncture acts on the Heart, Spleen, and Kidney to balance the systems and manage ADHD symptoms.

Acupuncture is increasingly practiced in some Western countries as a therapeutic intervention. However, existing evidence may not be rigorous enough for acupuncture to be recommended for routine use.

Commonly used acupuncture points are: 

  • Bai Hui (GV 20)  
  • Si Shen Cong (EX-HN1)  
  • Qu Chi (LI 11)  
  • San Yin Jiao (SP 6) 
  • He Gu (LI4) 
  • Tai Chong (LR 3) 

Dietary intervention

TCM emphasizes balance. Therefore, the herbs used are likely to be different for every child because each has a different body constitution. Hence, it is important to seek professional advice before giving them to your child.

Deficiencies in iron, magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc are linked to ADHD. Consider diet therapy by adding herbs to dishes: 

  • Walnut is good for the heart and brain as it contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and folate
  • Green bean soup is rich in magnesium, potassium, folate, fiber, and vitamin B6
  • Angelica Sinensis Radix, Astragali Radix, and saffron help improve blood formation 

Watch Our For Signs Of Attention Deficit Disorder

It is important for parents to observe their children for signs of other problems alongside ADHD. Examples include anxiety disorder, depression, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, dyspraxia, and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Doing so ensures that appropriate treatment can be made. 

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