Off the Beaten Path for ADHD

I have learned as a mother of four children with different needs that it’s okay to go off the beaten path.  Three of my four children were diagnosed with ADHD (both daughters towards the end of their kindergarten year and my youngest son at the beginning of seventh grade).  My husband was diagnosed with ADD in his early 30s.  My children were all diagnosed through a psychologist and my husband was diagnosed through his physician.  This is where the commonality ends though.

My husband has been on medication for over fifteen years for his ADD and my three youngest children all started with seeing both a psychologist for therapy and psychiatrist for medication.  The problem was that all three had some form of negative side effects such as weight loss, lethargy, mood swings, etc.  My daughters have tried medication off and on three times with either success from the medication and side effects or no success at all.

It was due to their experience that I wanted to have my youngest son have a DNA test done that specifies what his body would and would not respond to (this was for medication for ADHD, ADD, anxiety, depression, etc.).  He is a very petite young man and can not afford to lose any weight.  Well, all three had a negative side effect regardless.

So my three youngest children took a break from prescribed medication for their ADHD.  I then tried to do the elimination diet with gluten and dairy.  I noticed a significant change when I introduce gluten back into their diets, but not with dairy.  So we used that approach and still do.

This, in addition to weekly visits with a therapist (she does provide both family and individual therapy), helped my oldest daughter.  She has progressed from weekly therapy appointments to every-other-week therapy appointments.  My youngest daughter is doing well solely with a gluten free diet with no artificial colors, preservatives, flavoring as well as no high fructose corn syrup.  The problem was that my youngest son was still struggling.

The gluten free diet was helping him with focusing, but he still exhibits a lot of anxiety and anger.  He goes to therapy weekly, but will not acknowledge his feelings and therefore, having a difficult time moving forward with his therapy.  So at this point, my son, husband, and myself were very frustrated.  My husband really wanted him to take medication for his ADHD and I wanted to find another way to help our son, but in a natural way (i.e. diet, supplements, etc.). I’m very hesitant about going this way because he is so low on weight and height and he can’t afford to lose any more weight. So I was wondering what else I could do to help our son.  As a mother I want to help him so he can be the best young man that he can be.

At this time I discovered that an integrative pediatrician (a doctor that uses a whole approach of finding ways to help children) was moving from her private practice to a new location that was covered under our current health care plan.  I gave her a call.

Her new office was ninety miles away, but I was so willing to see what she could do to help our son.  Our first appointment went well.  The new pediatrician asked a lot of great questions and took the time to listen and answer my questions and then before we left had my son have some lab work done.

Two weeks later we received the results of his lab work and found out that he was low in vitamin D, iron, zinc, and his body was having problems absorbing necessary nutrients and minerals.  I found out that when a child is low in vitamin D, iron, and zinc, it can affect a child’s well being (i.e. problems remembering things, struggles with anxiety and anger problems, increases sensory problems, etc.) and that the malabsorption doesn’t allow him to absorb the necessary minerals and vitamins to thrive both mentally and physically.

Now he is on a variety of supplements to help with all of that, a continuation of gluten free diet (gluten can affect absorption of necessary nutrients and minerals), organic plant based powder to go in smoothies (to help him incorporate more fruits and veggies in his diet), and daily trial of fruits and vegetables.  This will not be an overnight fix by any means, but will take a couple of months to see results (according to his integrative pediatrician).  She is also referring us to a dietitian to assist in developing and incorporating recipes that will help him as well.

All of these dietary and supplement changes should also assist him in his weekly therapy appointments to address anxiety and anger issues as well as utilizing new tools that he has learned from his therapists.

This has been a twelve year long journey that has included multiple therapies (speech and language, occupational, feeding group, etc.), doctor visits, and mental health therapy appointments.  I am excited to see how all these new changes will help my son both mentally and physically.

It is important to note that I am not a doctor and solely sharing my son’s personal experience with his mental health and additional struggles. As we all know, each child is different.