Healthchat: Kids and attention deficit disorder

If you missed my most recent health chat on children and attention deficit disorder, here's the link to the transcipt. My experts fielded a range of questions, including the one below:

Q: Why don't we hear more about the connection between learning disabilities and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder?(ADHD?) It seems that this is a chicken and egg question. Are learning issues causing ADHD symptoms or is ADHD causing the learning problems? It seems that it is much easier to prescribe ADHD with meds than it is to navigate the complexities of learning issues.  – Ann.

Response from Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral developmental pediatrician and family therapist and the author of several books on attention deficit disorder.

A: “Ann is a genius. The reason why we don't hear more about this connection (chicken and egg) is that there are no pharmaceutical companies pushing learning disabilities while there are profits to be made with the diagnosis of ADHD/ADD. I feel strongly that special education and behavior modification approaches should be tried first and then if the child is still struggling then medication make sense.”

After the chat ended, my other guest expert, Katherine Ellison and I continued to talk  about the use of meds, one of the most asked about topics.  Here’s what Ellison, the author of “Buzz: A year of paying attention:” told me:

“Meds are bar none the most controversial aspect of this disorder. More than 2 million kids are taking them and parents caught in between tremendous hype that usually has a profit motive coming from the pharmaceutical industry and the alternative industry which is pushing a lot of untried supplements and costly interventions. It’s really tough for parents.

What’s often ignored in the debate is that kids stay on the meds only, on average, a year and then most stop. The bottom line, whether they’re dangerous or effective, is that you can’t count on them. There are real compliance issues and they only treat the symptoms. If you really want to get lasting solution you want to get something more sustainable.”

Ellison dedicates a chapter in "Buzz" to neurofeedback, which she calls a “promising strategy.” It's basically biofeedback for the brain,” she said during the chat. “The big problems now unfortunately are that the therapy is expensive and not covered under most medical plans. And it's hard to find a really good therapist.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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