Thursday, August 9, 2012

How We Are Treating ADD Without Meds

Disclaimer: My blog is not a substitute for for advice from a healthcare professional. Always consult a doctor before making choices about treating medical conditions.

So, if you read my blog, Starting Homeschool, I talked about our struggle with our almost 5 year-old son with focus and concentration during school time.  I really wanted to find out if I could get this to improve without meds, so I did some googling.

These are the main 3 articles that influenced my strategy:

The main points that I got from these articles lead me to conclude that:
1) milk proteins affect the attention spans of children suspected to have ADD
2) a small dose of caffeine can have the same effect as Ritalin on treating ADD
3) food with protein can help ADD kids focus
4) cereal and milk for breakfast (which is what we were eating almost every day) is not a good start for people with ADD

I would like to also mention that there are other very credible sources out there that suggest a complete change in diet.  While I think that is a really great way to go, I honestly don't have the time/money to put into that.  It just isn't the option that is going to work best for my family.  I have a family of 5 and one on the way, so there is no way I can cater all of our meals around one family member.

So, I was thinking about trying a protein shake with coffee, but I wasn't sure about using protein powder in a kids drink.  I suppose I could have shopped around for more options, but I didn't.  When I was grocery shopping, I had all the kids in tow, and I needed a quick solution.

So, here it is - our strategy in probably the simplest form possible:

1) We are eliminating milk, yogurt, and ice cream (except on special occasions) from our son's diet.
2) We are giving him 6 ounces of coffee in the morning.  I put a little almond milk in it and a little sugar to help minimize the bitter taste.  (Almond milk is even available at Wal-Mart, so no out-of-the-way trips to the health food store.)
3) I have begun cooking breakfast every day.  The main staples are eggs and some sort of bread.  On some days, we also have canadian bacon (on breakfast sandwiches) or turkey bacon.  One day we just did eggs and grits.  I am not doing things that are complicated, but I am sticking to some sort of protein and a carb.
4) No breakfast cereal.
5) We are limiting his sugar, mainly in the first part of the day.  After our lesson is done in the afternoon, I am okay with giving some sugary treats.  I am trying to be realistic about it.

And, that is it.  Some things to keep in mind here are:
1) I only do school in the morning, so if we add an afternoon lesson, I might need to give him more coffee.  I will tackle that if or when we need to.
2) This helps him focus on his work, but it does NOT stop him from jumping around and being hyper when it is time for play.  That is perfectly fine for me.  I want him to be able to expel energy when necessary.  My main concern was that getting through his lesson was like pulling teeth.  I wanted him to focus instead of being taken over by distractions, which is what was happening.
3) I am allowing him some milk products like cheese, but in small amounts.  I realize that I can't keep him from ice cream all of the time, so that is a special occasion thing.  In the meantime, we are allowing frozen treats that don't contain milk.  We got some Minute Maid juice bars, which are made with 90% juice.
4) We have been doing this for less than 2 weeks, so it will take time to know if these are lasting results.

The Results:

The first day I honestly didn't know if it was going to work.  I really didn't see much of a change.  But, by day 2 and 3, I saw a dramatic improvement.  He is now completing assignments in half the time.  He still has some distractions, but they are manageable.  I couldn't be happier with the change I have seen in him.  My mother-in-law saw both the before and after (because she substituted for me while I went to the doctor a few times), and she was also very amazed at how different and better he was at staying on task.

He is now completing his work at the same pace as his brother, who has never showed any signs of ADD.  I will post any updates if things change.

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