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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stephens-Sarlós Erzsébet

ADHD - What can we do to reduce or eliminate the symptoms?

Support for children and parents

a bored child at her study desk

For those who just want exercises for ADHD and don't wish to read this full article, simply look at the video package containing exercises and sensory stimulation tasks for treating ADHD.  Otherwise, read on!

According to an article published in 2022 [1], in Hungary, the number of children aged 6-18 diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is estimated to be around 70,000 (around 5-6% of the children in this age group.) The percentage in other countries is similar or even higher. It's important to emphasize that this figure is for diagnosed children. It does not include those who are also suffering from similar issues but do not have an "official" diagnosis.

I am frequently told by parents or educators that a certain child has selective hearing and only pays attention to what's important to them (and sometimes not even that). In their school tests, the first page is flawlessly written, but as they progress to the second or third page, errors multiply, even though the tasks aren't more difficult. In the first two or three classes of the day, they can still focus, but then they “rev up,” lose interest, and refuse to work. They are unable to recall what was discussed at the end of the class. The same applies to what they've read.

Music teachers complain that many children cannot concentrate for 30 minutes but sometimes even 10 minutes poses a challenge, even in one-on-one lessons with the teacher completely focused on them.

More and more sports coaches report that children are inattentive. It's difficult to teach many of them the basic techniques of a sport, even though the child themselves chose the sport so theoretically they should be motivated to pursue it.

a bored teenager playing guitar on his bed

Every day I am contacted on all available channels (text messages, emails, phone calls, Messenger, Viber, etc.) with pleas for help because THERE'S A PROBLEM WITH THE CHILD. Either they have ADHD, or it's suspected, and they need a solution quickly.

Parents are tired, desperate, and at a loss.

Here, I will try to explain briefly what is behind the scenes in a significant portion of cases.

Firstly, it's essential to understand that if the child is unable to give proper attention to a task, it's very difficult to remember anything and the efficiency of learning falls far short of the ideal. So, the ability to pay attention definitely influences performance, whether it's about school, learning music, or sports.

bored children at school

Now, let's take a closer look at ATTENTION. It has been shown that the "functioning" of attention is associated with several aspects of the brain’s right hemisphere [2]. My experience confirms this. When I perform tests related to the functioning of the hemispheres, the results for children exhibiting ADHD symptoms typically indicate overactivity in the left hemisphere and weaker functioning of the right hemisphere. (Note: this is not the same as dominance – whether a child’s dominant side of their body is on the left or right).

So, an important task is to "awaken" or stimulate the right hemisphere. For example, the results of hemisphere stimulation using a metronome have been reported by the Harvard Medical School and the McLean Hospital in very significant research findings. [3]

Appropriate sensory exercise routines (which are contained in my ADHD video package and my book) should be done once or twice a day, depending on the child's condition. These take approximately 4-6 minutes each time, and for these, the child doesn't have to do anything; the parent performs the tasks. In fact, in cases when a child is uncooperative and resists doing sensorimotor training exercises, it's advisable to start with the sensory exercises.

But let's return to the topic of attention. This is a complex phenomenon. For it to "function well," it's not only necessary to have relative balance in the operation of the hemispheres but also the following characteristics:

  • Concentration, the ability to filter out the multitude of stimuli we encounter which is irrelevant and even disturbing. This enables us to focus on a task.

  • Intensity, which expresses whether the concentration is shallow or deep.

  • Sustainability, the ability to maintain attention and duration of focus.

  • Attention Sharing, which occurs when both concentrated attention (what we're focusing on) and attention control (what we're monitoring) work simultaneously. This is possible only when the operation under control is well-practiced. Otherwise, it's not attention sharing but rather alternating attention. Experts advise individuals exhibiting ADHD symptoms, both children and adults, to avoid overstimulating environments. This is especially relevant in situations where focus on a specific task is required. With competing stimuli, their attention isn’t shared but rather alternates and jumps, leading to fatigue and complete loss of attention.

  • Transfer, redirecting attention from one thing to another. This can be deliberate or spontaneous. Both those individuals exhibiting ADHD symptoms and those with autistic traits often have difficulty transferring their attention. For example, a child playing with LEGO might completely ignore a parent's repeated calls to come to dinner. This phenomenon is called:

  • Stickiness, meaning that the individual, whether a child or an adult, gets stuck in a particular activity and is unable to switch. This significantly hinders the learning process. [4]

At every moment, we are surrounded by a multitude of sensory stimuli. It would be impossible to process them all simultaneously with the same level of quality. So the nervous system has to take action. Attention is the ability to selectively pick out external and internal stimuli from our environment. It highlights, sharpens, and makes more accurate the information it focuses on. What we perceive from sounds, smells, visual cues, tastes, and more is determined by attention. Attention creates optimal conditions for the perception, recognition, and processing of information, which are then consolidated with the help of attention and stored in what is called working memory.

For sensory perception and awareness to be perfect, early childhood reflexes, often referred to as primitive reflexes, need to function properly during early infancy. If sensory perception and awareness are not perfect, it can lead to sensory integration difficulties. These difficulties not only indicate immaturity in sensory and other areas but also the persistence of primitive reflexes. The reason these reflexes do not disappear over time is because the nervous system still requires them. I write extensively about this in my book and also covered the topic in one of my earlier blog posts.

Improvement in sensory perception, awareness, and sensory processing is closely linked to the disappearance of primitive reflexes. This can be most effectively achieved through appropriate exercises. However, this doesn't mean that the issue will be resolved overnight. Based on my experience, the maturation process takes approximately 4 months to 1.5 years when performing the exercises regularly.

An increasing number of scholarly articles are now being published regarding the role of various neurotransmitters in inhibiting primitive reflexes. As I see it (although I should note that the sample size is not sufficient for generalization), it's not only the presence of inhibitory neurotransmitters in adequate quantities that's necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system, but also the balance between stimulatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. It appears that this can be most easily addressed through regular practice of appropriate exercises, as well as by reducing or eliminating the intake of certain foods.

I provide an ADHD video package including exercises that, when performed regularly, contribute to reducing or eliminating the symptoms of ADHD.

I will write about undesirable foods in a future post. Until then, I wish you success with performing the exercises, which will result in a more balanced, happy child and a calmer, better-rested parent.

a mother and her son exercising

[4] Czigler István: A Figyelem Pszichológiája, 2005. (Hungarian language)

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