"Jimmy" couldn't sit still or concentrate and acted out during class. He felt like he was always in trouble as he needed frequent redirection. His grades were lower than his capability even though he really tried.
Discouraged, the 10-year-old boy told his mother, "Sometimes I wish I were never born." "Monica," his mom, felt guilty, helpless and alone. The teacher in Jimmy's after-school program suggested he might benefit from medical attention.
Monica was reluctant to put Jimmy on medication. She met with child psychiatrist Ranjay Halder, who is medical director at Manatee Glens, the specialty hospital and outpatient practice.
"I explained to her that ADHD is a real medical illness, just like diabetes or heart disease. There is research now that clearly shows abnormalities in the brain," said Halder.
Most children with ADHD do well with a combination of medication and structure at home and at school. But there is additional help available at Florida Clinical Research Center, which offers clinical trials.
Andrew Cutler, MD founder of FLCRC explains, "Each person in a clinical study receives a thorough medical and psychological evaluation and testing at no charge. We offer careful monitoring and teamwork throughout the trials."
Dr. Cutler also noted, "FLCRC is one of only a few places in the world that conducts a classroom study. It's fun for the children and very helpful for those in research."
Manatee Glens also operates a middle and elementary school classroom in collaboration with Manatee County schools to give students a jump start before returning to traditional classrooms.
ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex part of the brain, the executive center that is responsible for self-awareness, planning, prioritizing and organizing. Thus, those with ADHD are easily distracted.
Additionally, the prefrontal cortex regulates three circuits. The first is attention. If the ADHD sufferer is interested in something, he/she can hyper-focus on it. This explains why many children with ADHD can play video games for hours while they can't pay attention in class.
The prefrontal cortex also regulates motor behavior, which explains why many with ADHD just can't sit still. And finally, the prefrontal cortex regulates emotional behavior. So, while students may throw temper tantrums, they can also be cheerful, exuberant and enthusiastic.
Working with children with ADHD presents challenges to adults. These children tend to get into trouble when they become bored, tired or over-stimulated. So, give them a job, even if it's as simple as sharpening the pencils.
It's also important to avoid asking "why" questions. "They can't tell you why they did something or why they acted a certain way," said Dr. Cutler.
Don't give complicated instructions. For example, don't say, "Go clean your room." That's too complex. Instead, tell them, "put your shoes in the closet then come back to see me for your next task."
The ADHD brain is less efficient and has to work harder, so it's crucial to keep it fueled. When dehydrated, the brain suffers so keep healthy drinks flowing. When blood sugar levels drop, ADHD brains are prone to fatigue or irritability. Those with ADHD need to eat protein or fruit snacks every three to four hours.
For more information about clinical trials, visit www.flcrc.com.
Mary Ruiz is President/CEO of Manatee Glens, the specialty hospital and outpatient practice for mental health and addictions headquartered in Bradenton.