Supporting our intense, spirited children: ADHD and beyond
Listening to our Kids
As a parent of a child with dyslexia, I know first-hand that nothing compares to the feeling of heart-bursting compassion, concern and passion for wanting to help our kids with special learning/processing needs find their way. It can be overwhelming to navigate testing, diagnoses and the array of supports, diet changes and treatments. It can feel like an additional full-time job to figure it all out.
Very often, parents of children who have different learning needs, attention or behavioral difficulties, developmental delays or fall within the broad autism spectrum recognize that their kids have so many gifts and potential. We see in them a spark of brilliance, delightful uniqueness or maybe the accumulating effects of being misunderstood.
I recently heard of a parent of a child with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who asked their son what it felt like to have so much hyper energy, he quipped: “it’s like winning the lottery over and over all day long!” How wonderful to hear from the child how exhilarating their experience may be, even while we can see where it negatively impacts them. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting 11 percent of school-age children in the United States. A legitimate ADHD diagnosis is given when problems with attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors are sustained and significant enough to interfere with everyday functioning. Without early diagnosis and proper intervention, kids with ADHD are prone to face learning difficulties, family stress, depression, difficulties with peers, accidental injuries and more.
To medicate or not?!
Children are often prescribed medications – sometimes at very young ages – to help with symptoms broadly related to “attention disorders”. The question of medicating kids with attention disorders and other behavioral issues can be tough. I get it – decisions around medicating are unique to each family and some medications can really help children (and adults) focus and engage in ways than can be truly transformative. Of course the side effects are often a major down-side to pharmaceutical treatments, but some additional questions arise, like:
When does a child’s big energy/opposition/inattention cease to be normal behavior and become pathological?
Does staying on the medication long-term lessen symptoms over time?
How much clinical research has been done on the adverse effects of psychotropic drugs on the developing minds of young children? (Not Much! This paper emphasizes limited evidence supporting safety or efficacy of psychotropic meds for kids; and this 2019 publication raises serious questions about long-term effects of psychotropics on children and difficulty in stopping the medication. This recent NYT article also notes that research around long-term effects of medication in children is insufficient.)
These questions and many more are taken up in Ritalin Free Kids by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman. This important book gives an overview of how homeopathy works and can be used to effectively support kids struggling with any of the above issues. I have recommended this book to some of the parents of children in my practice, and they have found it to be accessible and full of relatable case examples.
A few examples of homeopathic remedies for children with ADHD, learning or behavioral difficulties
Used for children who can be sweet, timid and fearful or be the class clown, acting goofy and acting out. It is indicated for apparent arrested or delayed mental, physical or social development; for children who are shy, self-conscious, with self-limitation, feeling defective. It is indicated for those who feel that they are being laughed at, mocked, or criticized; for those who feel incompetent and incapable; and for those who are timid due to fears, especially the fear of making a mistake. It is used for those who feel that they are being watched; for those who dare not look up; for those who act childish and immature; for those who have difficulty with schoolwork. It is used for those who are behind developmentally; for those who are often the teacher's pet; and for those who tend to tics and glandular swellings.
Often indicated for children with significant delay or learning who may be brighter than they may initially appear. They may seem dull, and cannot grasp complex concepts, though they may be highly advanced in one isolated skill area. They can have difficulty relating well to others; have narrow focus; don't understand danger; have seizures or autism; have an unanimated, coarse appearance; can hug or bite; masturbate or show a premature interest in sex. These children rely on basic instincts and need instant gratification; are upset when not understood; cannot tolerate music or bright objects; often present with eczema, nail biting, and may have a protruded tongue or a gaunt face.
Indicated for those with bad temper, who are very irritable and impatient; who are complaining, frustrated, restless, and thirsty; who are contrary, not knowing what they want; who demand one thing and then want something else. The chamomilla child is fidgety and quiets down once she has attracted attention. She wants to be carried everywhere, but will whine and scream. She will settle down if carried, bounced, or rocked. The child can show aversion to being touched with hypersensitivity to pain, feel pain is unbearable, feel that everything is intolerable, and can become so hyperactive that she will get exhausted and begin to cry. The child can also show dullness of the senses with a diminished power of comprehension, as if they were hard of hearing. All symptoms are worse at night.
Indicated for children who are cross, contrary, and disobedient with very difficult behavior. These children do not want to be touched or looked at and turn away when approached. Nothing satisfies them for long. They are restless, fidgety and fretful, especially during sleep. They grind their teeth at night and wet the bed, and are prone to having parasites. Their sleep is restless, accompanied by jerking, frequent swallowing and coughing. They often sleep on their abdomen or the hands and knees. They may have an irritated nose causing a constant desire to rub, pick, or bore into it until it bleeds. Their ears can be itchy. They often show twitching of the face muscles and eyelids, and can be inclined to seizures. Their appetite can be ravenous with strong thirst, and craving for sweets.
Indicated for difficult children with poor impulse control; for those who talk excessively with episodes of mania and rage that might include hitting and screaming, also inclined to depression after a manic phase; can be manipulative, lying, and violent; seem unable to think; unresponsive to questions or cannot bear anyone talking to them; intense and violent excitability with fear, delirium, and the fear of being poisoned; feelings of abandonment, jealousy, suspicion; fears of dark, dogs, water; very animated, seeming silly and foolish; smiling and laughing at everything, often inappropriately; talks nonsense; acts out ridiculous gestures like a dancing clown or animals, trying to be center of attention, often with sexual overtones; giddy; loves to run around naked, can be a totally shameless exhibitionist with bizarre behaviors for shock value, including cursing; tries to embarrass parents; jealous of their siblings, often may injure them; cannot tolerate being covered up.
Indicated for children who show extreme violence and/or fear. They can have severe hyperactivity, are easily terrified, and inclined to violent agitation and fits of rage; and whose speech is loud, fast, and possibly incoherent. These children show feelings of terror and abandonment; are afraid of the dark, dogs, evil, suffocation and abandonment. They also fear death, being alone at night, become overly vigilant to combat these fears and become violent if controlled or restrained. They have nightmares and night terrors that become increasingly worse between midnight and 2 a.m. They often awake screaming; see ghosts, or are frightened by shiny objects. Their thirst is great, yet they have a fear of water. They are aggressive; bite, kick, strike; use threatening language; can be clingy; can have seizures or personality change after a head injury, frightful episode, or trauma (especially being chased by dogs). These children can also be sweet all day and have terrors at night.
Indicated for children who love to be the center of attention. They can be frenzied and love to sing and dance, often soothed by rhythmic activities like drumming or tapping. They can also become more agitated with music. These are the children that climb and jump “off the walls”, seeming to never tire of activity. They are restless and hurried and can feel as if there is never enough time, as if they have been insulted, or have a sense of a stranger in the room. They can see faces on closing eyes, have episodes of raving delirium, can be mischievous and sneaky, tease and hide or cut things. They can be erratic and have sudden mood changes.
Indicated for children who are fidgety and restless, and especially known for restless feet and legs. These children have an overactive nervous system; twitching, jerking, and may even have convulsions; they are sensitive, irritable, and prone to rage. They often make mistakes in writing and speaking; feel like they have broken a rule; can have a tendency to lick everything; and may even look like little old people.
These are just a few of the scores of remedies that may be indicated. It is very common to find that diet changes, food eliminations, or behavioral and other adjunctive therapies are needed in combination with homeopathy to provide holistic support to the young person. As one example, there are many studies showing that candida overgrowth is often found in children who cannot filter out extraneous sensory input; tailored diet changes can set up the child's body for optimum, sustained healing.
Seek professional help Homeopathy has a great deal to offer our kids who struggle to flourish mentally, emotionally or physically. It can be used alongside pharmaceutical medications or help a child avoid or reduce dependence on medications. Your child might need any one of our over 4,000 homeopathic remedies; the specific symptom pattern of the individual child will indicate which of the many possible medicines best matches. Be mindful that the issues discussed here are chronic rather than acute problems; they are not conditions that you should treat yourself. Put your child's homeopathic care in the hands of an experienced practitioner who can take an objective view and offer your child the best possible support to be their best self.
If you'd like to explore what homeopathy may have to offer you or your child, I invite you to book a free introductory consultation.
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, https://chadd.org/
Master, Farokh, Clinical Observations of Children Remedies, 2017, B. Jain Publishers
Reichenberg-Ullman, Judyth and Ullman, Robert, Ritalin Free Kids, 2000. Prima Health