Thursday, September 3, 2009

Non-Toxic Strategies for our ADD/ADHD World

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© photo copyright Carrie Boyko 2008

All-Natural Halloween Candies
and Other Goodies Provide Healthy Fun

Am I getting out of my niche here....just a bit? Maybe not. I've been there. That 20 years of experience with a kid who was often perceived as ADHD, even though he is not, gives me the background to write about our own challenges and solutions. I'm not trying to replace your pediatrician. Absolutely get more than one opinion if you are concerned about your own child's learning, social or behavioral problems. Consult a qualified psychologist if you have already encountered significant issues with school. There is no time like the present to get a definitive diagnosis and take action.

So what action can you take? Ritalin? Adderall? These may be the best course of action for certain cases, but please understand that not every child needs them. Diet can often significantly change a child's behavior, and therefore his ability to learn, focus, concentrate and learn social skills that will help him mature gracefully. After all, making friends is a key to life's abundance. But I digress.

My last post promised a few strategies to deal with these issues, whether or not you choose to use medication. With proven studies that many children react to certain preservatives, food colorings, artificial additives, artificial flavorings, etc., you have the opportunity to find out if any of these present issues for your own child. It's easy to test for their presence, and relatively simple to make the necessary changes, when you find a problem substance.

In my family, the offender was food coloring. Some find it to be BHT, a common preservative. There are others as well. That's what the Feingold program is all about--helping you sort out the possible food additives that can cause these behavioral problems, and then eliminate them from your child's diet.

It has been quite a few years since I have had to employ these, but they still stick in the back of my memory. It's a mom thing, I suppose. Here's some that I remember best:

  • Every day that my child ate a solid breakfast, things clearly went smoother. This was a key that I learned early on, and focused on getting a filling and healthy balance into that tummy before school.

  • When it comes to school, first and foremost, I recommend that you meet with your child's teacher and counselor about foods that are served at school, in addition to lunch. Coming to terms on how to replace reward treats, party foods and such for your child need to keep in mind age and potential embarrassment.

  • My solution for these times was always to volunteer to provide the beverages. Since food coloring consumption is much higher with drinks, these are the worst offenders, therefore the ones I chose to target in preventing problems. By bringing 7-Up or homemade lemonade I was able to make the kids all happy, and keep my child from drinking 2 glasses of fruit punch or orange soda that would end up disrupting the whole party.

  • At parties for candy-related holidays, such as Easter and Halloween, I ordered and donated naturally colored M&M's, real licorice sticks, natural chocolate candies, and naturally-colored/flavored lollipops. The teachers loved this and I especially enjoyed having my child return from school in normal mode.

  • Our kids' Halloween take was traded in a game of "this for that" every year after the big night. My job was to make sure I had plenty of tempting goodies for that trading session. Sometimes a few dollars were thrown in to the mix to buy out much of the big batch, eliminating a good deal of the sugar as well. You can get more ideas at my previous post, Taming the Candy Monster.

  • Packing lunch for my child worked well to provide the needed balance, along with a treat or two to keep the sweet tooth at bay. My goal was to try to avoid the common trades that often occur at the lunchroom tables. When they did happen, it was generally obvious to me after school. Amazing what a difference the right foods were making.

  • After-school snacks needed to be filling and satisfying, to assure that hunger would not ensue when my kid was visiting friends. I also spoke with some of the parents, talking about the foods to be avoided.

  • Inviting friends to our home was generally the best practice to assure that acceptable snack foods were served during play dates.

  • Likewise, overnight stays were mostly at our home until my child was old enough to make better decisions about food choices. Tip: If you want your child to be invited back, his or her ability to choose well is imperative. Behavior following a bad food choice could make or break the parent's willingness to invite your child again.

  • Plenty of physical activity and mental challenges are needed by most ADD or ADHD children. While my child did not suffer from these conditions, the same solutions worked well. With a bright, curious child, satisfying the need to learn and get answers keeps the mind busy and burns off much of the stress of a boring day at school. Sad to say, but many of them are just that. Adding additional challenge with athletics and social activities will help your child focus better at school.

  • Learning to cook your child's favorite foods without the offending substances will show your child a commitment to his/her happiness and success that will pay off in more ways that you can know. Involving your child, if old enough, in this process, will also send a strong message about the importance of follow-through. The Feingold cookbook, while basic, offers plenty of strategies and ways to work around the typical food additives that affect many children adversely.
If you have a child with learning problems, socialization issues and trouble in school, I cannot urge you enough to give this plan a try. Perhaps you'll find one food additive, as I did, that can easily be removed from his/her diet and solve your problems easily. Isn't it worth the effort to help your child be successful?

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