So you or someone else significant suspects your child may have ADD (or ADHD). What do you do? Well, the first step should be to determine if the disorder is actually there. There are generally two paths to take to make this determination, although they often ultimately lead to the same destination.
Schools vary widely in their ability and willingness to assist the parent in this matter. My brother is an elementary school teacher, and a good one, as are many of his peers. However, there is a wide range in the ability of teachers, as well as schools, in assessing and working with children with this disorder.
Some teachers are judgmental in their opinions regarding ADD. They may believe a child willfully misbehaves. Everyone knows a dangerous “little” about ADD. School personnel are often more objective than parents, as they can compare the child to hundreds of other children in their professional experience. However, teachers listen to the popular press, have family members with ADD, glean information from other sources, and often base their opinion on what they’ve heard, and not on the true facts. With good intentions, school personnel may believe or imply to parents that bad parenting, low ability, and/or emotional problems are behind the difficulties. Some teachers have been known to tell parents not to treat the problem, but rather just employ harsher punishments, and that indeed is a very bad answer.
Many teachers advise (insist?) that medication is the only answer. On the contrary, there is a significant alternative, as we shall see later. Furthermore, many schools are often very slow to actually do any such testing on children (six months to a year is not at all uncommon), and these results are often quite vague (often yielding results such as “learning disorders” or “disabilities”). This leads the parent back to option #2 – testing by an outside, independent professional.
Most of these professionals rely on symptoms to make their determinations. Since there are other possible causes of ADD symptoms, only a neurological evaluation (EEG analysis), which looks directly at the organ in question, the brain, is the proper, objective method of testing. If the disorder is present, it’s best to treat it rather than teach the child to only compensate for it.
Medication and neurofeedback are the only methods of treatment which actually address the brain’s misalignment. Medication is effective; however, possible side effects and the necessity of lifelong use of these drugs are often very discouraging to parents. A very successful alternative to drugs is neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a drug-free, painless procedure in which the child learns to retrain the relevant attention and behavioral mechanisms of their brain, alleviating the condition. Fortunately, once training is complete, no further treatment is necessary.
Dr. Stephen A. Ferrari is the Director of Alta Neuro-Imaging Neurofeedback