May 2016

The ADHD Conundrum

There are more than three million Americans diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) per year. That’s almost one percent of the U.S. population added to the “epidemic” per annum by physicians, psychologists, and other mental health professionals. The ADHD apologists—those who actually believe in the ADHD myth—insist that the dreaded neurobehavioral disease/disorder/disability (or whatever you want to call it) is known to be chronic; it could last for years or even devolve into a lifelong quagmire of suffering.

ADHD-in-childrenWhen speaking about an individual with ADHD, it is critical to note that the label does not refer to an actual disease state; that is because ADHD is not a disease, a true disorder, or a true disability. It is merely a syndrome of phenomena, including behavior patterns, that upsets others in some manner. Supposedly, ADHD primarily reflects an individual’s executive functions. Executive functions refer to the higher-level cognitive skills one uses to control and coordinate other cognitive abilities and behaviors. Some refer to executive functioning as the “cockpit” of the brain.

Many children are slapped with the ADHD diagnosis (note how the term diagnosis sounds more scientific, valid and impressive than the term label) because of insufficient time devoted to helping children adjust or to help them discover strategies to support them. Donna Ford, Professor of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, is the author of Recruiting and Retaining Culturally Different Students in Gifted Education. She reports that the rush to saddle children with a disorder, with little prior intervention, contributes to misidentification and societal over-medication.

Interestingly enough, the diagnostic process for ADHD is woefully subjective and arbitrary. There is no biological test for any mental illness; there is even less evidence of any biological marker for ADHD, notwithstanding the assertions of some that the frontal lobes are less active in brain scans. Diagnosis usually involves a brief history, a couple rating scales (showing that parents or teachers don’t like the child’s behavior), and voila, a lifelong neurobiological illness is born!

Treatment for this deadly malady is actually well managed through Cognitive and Behavioral techniques. Since executive functions are skills that must be learned, it only follows that they can be improved through appropriate training. The functional term for this is discipline. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the Center for Child Health Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, states that “Our current diagnostic approaches are too black and white for a disorder that exists on a spectrum. We should shift from treating their distraction as a clinical disease, to targeting the best ways to help children maximize their ability to focus.”

Park Ridge Psychological Services was established to help children and families with the most innovative and evidence-based treatments available, not only assess for ADHD-like symptoms and discover what is truly causing these problems (it’s almost never ADHD), but to help manage and treat whatever emotional, social, and behavioral difficulties exist without the harmful, debilitating effects that come from psychotropic drugs and other psychiatric treatments.

Even when drugs are utilized, clients and their families learn strategies to help them pay attention and adjust behavior patterns to increase functioning, minimize risk, and increase joy and peace in life.

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How Much of Your Financial Hardship Does Your Child See?

debt-clipart-gg61765200When looking at financial hardship we generally think debt. Debt can come in many different categories such as mortgage, student loans, or credit card loans (aka, “unsecured debt”). Did you know that some debts can affect your child positively, while others can have deleterious effects on your child’s sense of well-being and even manifest in behavioral problems?

Lawrence M. Berger of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted a study to understand the effects of different types odebt-clipart-gg64276319f parental debt on their children. Berger found that “Higher levels of home mortgage and education debt were tied to fewer behavioral problems, while increases in unsecured debt were tied to more behavioral problems.” The study surveyed mothers of children ages 5-14 about their debt, as well as their children’s behavioral tendencies. The mothers surveyed included about 9,000 children.

This study was able to find that unsecured debt—such as credit card debt, medical debt, payday loans, or any other cash advances that generally involve very high interest rates—may ultimately trigger stress and anxiety in parents. The study also found that, with certain solutions, such as an iva advice, the debtors were able to repay loans quicker, thereby improving their mental condition. Researchers gathered that a parent influenced by financial stressors could potentially compromise their children’s emotional state and create a negative effect on their parenting. When parents are visibly affected by the anxiety of unsecured debt, their children’s emotional well-being is threatened.

Solution #1: As a parent be sure to remain calm when you discuss financial matters in the vicinity of your children. Be mindful about the things you say around them, because they take their emotional cues from you. Parents can make a conscious effort to present a calm, unified front when it comes to stressful matters; for children, if Mom and Dad feel everything is OK, then it must be so. Make sure you have discussions about difficult financial (and other) matters privately, out of earshot of your children. They perceive a great deal more than you might presume.

Solution #2: Avoid unsecured debt as much as possible, or, if you already have unsecured debt, make a plan for diminishing/eliminating this debt as soon as possible. Having a plan will help you feel more at ease, which will trickle down to your children

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Depression and Its Influence on a Young Brain

A recent study by Dr. Joan Luby, director of the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University’s School of Medicine, highlighted the notion that children under the age of six can and do experience depression. Until recently, many people believed children that young lack the capability to understand, process or feel these emotions, thoughts, and behaviors  to such an intense degree.

Dr. Joan Luby and her team of researchers followed 193 children between three and six years of age. The research team followed and monitored these children for 11 years, collecting data periodically from brain scans. They found that “The early experience of depressive symptoms was the factor that predicted the alteration in gray matter development.” Grey matter is one of the essential brain tissues; one of its critical roles is joining brain cells and carrying signals between them. Grey matter is intricately involved in decision-making, memory, hearing, seeing, and emotion.

In effect, 90 of the children in Dr. Luby’s study were eventually diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Through brain scans (done at three different points in each child’s development), researchers found that these children had less voluminous grey matter that was especially thinner in the cortex—the location of the brain important in the processing of emotions.

What this study did not purport to do is determine the direction of causality. That is, was a difference in grey matter responsible for producing depressive symptoms or, more likely, did the depressive experience—behavior patterns, thought patterns, and profound emotions—cause a reduction in grey matter?

559873c4789729afaa88c51859053371The author did, however, suggest at least one solution: Dr. Luby believes that Parent Child Interaction Therapy—Emotion Development (PCIT-ED)—can be used to address symptoms of depression in children. Dr. Luby states that “the healing process really begins with improving the relationship and interaction between parent and child”. This encouraging news aligns with the heart of Park Ridge Psychological Service’s mission: to equip parents as the primary agent of change and healing for their child.



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Your engagement with your child matters!

For the longest time it has been known that there is nothing parents could do to influence their children’s attention span. Many parents even turn to pharmaceuticals when their children’s inability to focus for a long time causes problematic behavior in settings such as school. What if there was a safer way to help your child? A study by Chen Yu, a professor of psychology at Indiana University, revealed that “the gaze data showed that when parents turned their visual attention to a young child who was playing with a toy and interacted with the infant, a parent’s responsiveness extended the amount of time a child remained focused on that toy.” Professor Chen Yu states that there are things parents can do now to help their child’s attention span:pi5Xxd9iB

  • As you parent, you must stay actively engaged with your child, especially during play time. Simply sitting next to your child does not count; you must ENGAGE with them!
  • Let your child explore and find something that catches their attention that you both can engage with. Do not be so quick to pick things for your di6o989i9children to become engaged with.
  • Respond to the behavior of your child! Response time is an essential ingredient, your children needs to know that you are involved.

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Cannabis, what information are we missing?

The public needs to be informed on the risks of cannabis use. Currently, there are as high as 24% psychosis cases resulting from heavy cannabis use. Looking at the trends now, 22.2 million of the U.S. population use cannabis compared to 14.5 million 20 years ago. The difference from the “pot” 20 years ago, however, is that the cannabis today has donea THC potency that is 12% higher. Data collected between 2007-2014 has brought to light that the individuals who smoke most in the U.S. are 15-16 years old. This could not be more alarming since adolescents do not know or realize that there are genetic risks for psychosis or addiction. As a public we need to be warned that substance treatment clinics treat as much as 75% of their patients as a result of cannabis use.  Are we ready America to know the Truth?