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Kathy Hart on how she investigated environmental links to her son’s ADHD

Kathy Hart

Kathy Hart

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Updated: April 4, 2013 8:03PM

‘We think your child should be tested for ADHD.” This is certainly not an uncommon statement these days, as there are more than 6.4 million kids who currently have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) — a 53 percent increase over the last 10 years. So when I heard those words from my son’s school counselor, I actually wasn’t too surprised, as he was the reigning champion of “Most Detentions in the 6th Grade Class.” But suddenly, it was real. It hurt. It was MY son, and I was embarrassed. My first thought was, “They must think I’m a terrible parent!”

After doing some research through the National Research Center on ADHD, I discovered one of the most commons myths is that poor parenting causes ADHD. Even after reading this, however, I couldn’t help but wonder if my son was misbehaving because of the “perfect storm” in his life at that time.

• He was going to a new school.

• His parents were recently divorced.

• He was a hormonal pre-teen.

• He was the attention-hungry class clown.

• He was “too smart,” and not being challenged by his classes.

I also questioned the process of diagnosing a child. As I was answering the questions on the evaluation form, I remember thinking, “99 percent of parents would be answering the exact same thing! Most boys this age behave the way they’re describing.”

But after his evaluation came back with a positive diagnosis of ADHD, I immediately went into “mommy-will-fix-it” mode. I was not ready to put him on an amphetamine-type drug. I wondered if there were dietary, lifestyle and environmental issues at play.

I consulted a dietician friend of mine, Melissa Bowman, who has a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and works with a lot of high-profile clients. She suggested we do some functional nutritional testing to rule out any imbalances, insufficiencies, food allergies, etc. Looking at my son’s blood and urine samples, Melissa made several discoveries.

I’ll never forget her phone call. “Well, the good news is, we found something,” she said. “GOOD NEWS?!” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “These tests show some imbalances and metabolic disturbances.” I still wasn’t convinced that this was “good” news.

My son was not absorbing B vitamins properly, his omega-6 levels were very high, he had low serotonin and an allergy to dairy. These imbalances clearly were a factor in his behavior issues. While many professionals believe that ADHD is best handled through medication, I wanted to first make the recommended changes to my son’s diet to see how his behavior would change. I felt this gave us a chance at fixing the source of his issues.

This decision was met with some eye rolling. I know we’re supposed to trust our doctors and take their advice, but I wanted to look at every possible option before I put my son on what would likely be years of medication.

After nearly a year of a strict supplement regimen, dietary restrictions and weekly acupuncture, we’ve seen significant improvements in my son’s behavior. It hasn’t been easy on him — giving up his beloved dairy, remembering to take his vitamins twice a day and feeling labeled at school — but he sees so many other kids with similar health issues that the stigma isn’t what it was years ago.

After my son’s initial ADHD diagnosis, he qualified for an Individualized Education Plan at school, which sets goals for him throughout the year to help him succeed. He will be evaluated yearly — and we’re hopeful that next year, he will no longer be classified as ADHD. And, I’m happy to report, he’s already given up his crown as the Detention King.

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