ADHD “a meaningless label” - or not?

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Five studies including one from Australia have shown that children are who are younger and less mature than their classmates are being misdiagnosed and prescribed ADHD drugs.

A recent Western Australian study with more than 300,000 school children found the child’s birth date predicts whether they would be treated for ADHD.  The youngest children in the class (who were born in June) were twice as likely to have been prescribed ADHD medication than the oldest in the class who were born in the previous July, leading researchers to criticise over-prescribing.

We need to throw away the "meaningless label" of ADHD altogether, said lead author Dr Martin Whitely. "Sometimes they just need to grow up, sometimes it's trauma, bullying, eyesight, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, inappropriate teaching styles, they're too bright and bored in class or they're struggling and disadvantaged.”

“If my daughter has 'flavour' in foods she is rude, impatient, tantrums very easy and doesn't cope with not getting her way. Strict diet for us means we have a beautifully calm lovely kid who is very clever and great to be around. We did rpah elimination diet with a dietician” - from our facebook group

As ADHD prescriptions increase each year  - in Australia the number of people on ADHD drugs has risen by 31 per cent over five years - so do suspicions of the pharmaceutical industry’s motivations in promoting mind-altering stimulant drugs to children. 

In the US, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, MD PhD, one of the world’s leading paediatric neuroscientists, recently stated publicly that ADHD is “not a real disease” and warned of the dangers of giving psycho-stimulant medications to children.

But that’s not right either. When my child was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD, I know how relieved I was to find that I was not a bad parent, that there really was a problem with the child. And a study published last week in the Lancet backs that up. The first major physical study of ADHD, it  showed  that ADHD really is related to the brain. Researchers analysed the brain volumes of more than 3,200 people and found that those with ADHD had smaller brains and were underdeveloped in five key regions, including areas regulating emotion and motivation.

A diagnosis of ADHD should NOT mean an automatic prescription for medication. Why not do a 3 week trial of the RPAH elimination diet combined with 1-2-3-Magic (the easiest form of behaviour management) first in every case?

“My son was recently assessed for adhd and odd due to problems at school.  The elimination diet changed this overnight … the effort is worth it to realise you are not a bad mum with a bad child but a child who suffers from food issues. The whole family eats failsafe when we are together and it soon becomes normal. I am grateful every day for getting my "nice" boy back!” - from our facebook group

If it works, great. Diet won’t fix all the symptoms of ADHD – although it will get rid of ODD (oppositional defiance) and those are the symptoms hardest to live with. It still leaves symptoms of ADHD that may be able to be dealt with by management, or may be seen as positives – such as extra alertness and response times to a dangerous situation. If medication was regarded as a last resort rather than a first resort, the over-prescribing issue would go away.

“… for us the main culprit is salicylates - so fruit, veggies and flavours. This change stopped the need for looking into medication.  It doesn't solve everything but it makes things much easier” - from our facebook group

If diet does not work, then medication may be necessary as in the following two stories:

*We did failsafe (and continue to do so) for my daughter's ADHD issues. We have tried with just FS alone but she's quite a severe case and so she is medicated as well. She's particularly sensitive to preservatives so any consumption at all, no matter how small, and her behaviour is off the charts crazy for three days straight and her medication has no effect on her at all! So we are very careful, as it isn't worth getting lazy or not checking labels carefully. – from story [1420]

*After five years of the failsafe diet, almost five years of behaviour management in the form of 1,2,3 Magic, the final piece to our puzzle has been medication, in the form of Ritalin … The combination of diet, behaviour management and medication is the key to our success. Diet for us was not enough, however, I believe that without implementing the failsafe diet all those years ago, Nicholas would have needed a much higher dose of medication. I also believe that his developmental disorders, ADHD, high-level language impairment and features of Aspergers Disorder would have been much greater. His behaviour was often so violent that I was convinced he would one day be in a juvenile prison, or worse … without diet, the violent behaviours return. Medication helps Nicholas to stay on task, which enables him to complete his schoolwork and homework – from story [153]

See also the following stories for more experiences: [1286]   [224]

How to do a trial of diet

In our experience, the RPAH Elimination diet (from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney) is the most effective elimination diet in the world. It is a diagnostic tool to help you work out exactly which foods are affecting you, and how. For best success we strongly recommend consulting one of the dietitians on our list

Read more

Why a child's birth date predicts whether they'll be medicated for ADHD http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/why-a-childs-birth-date-predicts-whether-theyll-be-medicated-for-adhd-20170120-gtvyqo.html

Whitely et al, Influence of birth month on the probability of Western Australian children being treated for ADHD, MJA, Med J Aust. 2017;206(2):85. LINK https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2017/206/2/influence-birth-month-probability-western-australian-children-being-treated-adhd

ADHD is a brain disorder, not a label for poor parenting, say scientists. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/02/15/adhd-brain-disorder-not-label-poor-parenting-say-scientists/

Hoogman M et al, Subcortical brain volume differences in participants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults: a cross-sectional mega-analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2017 Feb 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28219628

Children's hyperactivity 'is not a real disease', says US expert   https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/30/children-hyperactivity-not-real-disease-neuroscientist-adhd

Fed Up with food intolerance by Sue Dengate – an e-book telling the story of our battle with ADHD and the search for an effective diet, including 6 years on a sugar free diet.…

”we embarked on the diet recommended by the RPAH allergy unit in Sydney. This involves removing all possible offending food chemicals and reintroducing them one at a time. In this way, I found out exactly which food chemicals affected my daughter. It was obvious that I had never taken salicylates seriously enough. She reacted to anything not on the low-salicylate list. Despite my previous efforts, my daughter was dramatically better on the elimination diet than she had ever been before … her diet was actually widened as a result” 

Introduction to Food Intolerance factsheet

ADHD factsheet

ADHD story collection (98 pages)