Diet and Nutrition important for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common condition in children, but it is mostly perceived as naughtiness or moodiness, and a lack of discipline – particularly in South African townships. This is because many people are not aware about the condition. Children with ADHD have difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behaviour, and can be hyperactive.

Three to five percent of children are affected by ADHD. Until recent years, it was believed that children outgrow ADHD in adolescence. Hyperactivity often does diminish during the teen years, but it is now known that symptoms can continue into adulthood. In fact, up to 65 percent of children with ADHD will continue to exhibit symptoms in adulthood and in a major proportion it may still have a negative impact on their functioning in all aspects of life and society.

Males are far more likely to get ADHD, with the ratio of males to females with ADHD being 3 to 1. However, ADHD tends to be under-diagnosed in girls as they more frequently present with the inattentive type, which is more difficult to identify than the hyperactive-impulsive type.

It is imperative that children who present with ADHD receive appropriate and adequate treatment.

Diet and nutrition is very important for children with ADHD, advises Afrika Tikkun Nutritionist Ra’eesa Kerbelker. “Nutrition for children living with this condition varies from person to person; there is no one-size fits all diet for them, because each one may react differently to different types of foods.”

Raising awareness about disorders like ADHD and how parents and teachers can best support the development of children with ADHD is critical. The unique role of nutrition in each child’s body is also important to understand. All children deserve the opportunity to become the best they can be. What this means for children with ADHD is acceptance, patience and awareness of the challenges they are facing.

More so, Treating ADHD in children requires medical, psychological and educational intervention, as well as behavioural management. It therefore requires a team approach and also includes parent training. Parents need to be educated on how to cope with and assist a child with ADHD. Parental support is a crucial component in any successful treatment programme. Positive reinforcement, in which desired behaviour is rewarded, is the most appropriate and effective form of behavioural management. It is important that reinforcement is consistently applied.

Many children with ADHD can be taught in a regular classroom with minor adjustments to the environment, but some children require additional assistance using special educational services, especially if they have complex learning difficulties.

Patients with ADHD often present with emotional difficulties and problems due to the negative impact of ADHD on their lives. Psychotherapy and coaching helps with understanding the condition, taking control of the symptoms and making better choices.

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