More Than 1 in 10 U.S. Children has ADHD, U.S. Survey Finds

BrainATLANTA — The number of U.S. children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder continues to rise but may be levelling off a bit, a new survey shows.

More than 1 in 10 children has been diagnosed with it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which surveyed more than 95,000 parents in 2011.

ADHD diagnoses have been rising since at least 1997, according to CDC data. Experts think that’s because more doctors are looking for ADHD, and more parents know about it.

The condition makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control impulsive behaviours. It’s often treated with drugs, behavioural therapy, or both.

The latest survey found about 11 per cent of children ages 4 through 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD. That translates to nearly 6 1/2 million children. Half of children are diagnosed by age 6, the study found.

A 2007 survey put ADHD diagnoses at 9.5 per cent of kids.

The CDC survey asked parents if a health care provider told them their child had ADHD. It’s not known how thorough the assessment was to reach that conclusion.

ADHD diagnoses were increasing at a rate of about 6 per cent a year in the mid-2000s, but slowed to 4 per cent a year from 2007 to 2011. That may reflect that doctors are closer to diagnosing most of the kids with the condition, said the CDC’s Susanna Visser, the study’s lead author.

Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press
November 22, 2013

Food Additives and ADHD: What’s the Connection?

The role of food additives in causing or worsening ADHD is a controversial topic. Can removing certain foods from your child’s diet really help?

By Amy Paturel, MS, MPH and Medically reviewed by Kevin O. Hwang, MD, MPH

KraftDinnerDo food additives have a role in the rising rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?  This is a controversial subject among experts, but in fact, any child may be a little hyper after eating foods pumped with dyes, high-fructose corn syrup, and other artificial ingredients – whether or not he has ADHD. Unfortunately, such foods are more commonplace than you may think. Take any popular children’s cereal, for example, and you’ll probably see ingredients ranging from refined sugar, corn flour, and gluten to red dye #40, yellow #6, and blue #2.

But sugar and additives aren’t the only culprits. Several studies indicate that some children’s behavior significantly worsens after eating “healthful” foods like milk, eggs and wheat. Some potential problems in the diet include:

Food Colorings / Flavorings

In the mid-1970s, Benjamin Feingold, MD, suggested that enhancements added to processed food — including colorings, flavorings, and related substances — could trigger ADHD. And while a scientific review by the National Institutes of Health concluded that food additives affect only a small proportion of children with behavioral problems, recent research tells a different story. In a study of 300 children from the UK, researchers found that certain mixtures of artificial colors alongside sodium benzoate (a common preservative found in soda and ice cream) may increase hyperactivity.


Since most sugary products also contain dyes, caffeine, and artificial flavors, determining the role sugar plays in ADHD is a challenge. Even if a high-sugar breakfast triggers hyperactive behavior, there’s no way to identify it as the culprit in the midst of so many other potential offenders. “If you give a child jelly beans for breakfast, the crash and burn from the ‘normal’ physiology of blood sugar rising and falling is going to make him feel cranky and irritable,” says Roberta Anding, M.S., R.D., clinical dietitian at Texas Children’s Hospital. “It’s poor nutrition, not true ADHD.”

Milk and Wheat

For some children with ADHD, a diet that eliminates gluten and milk products may produce improvements in behavior. “Milk products and glutens such as wheat are the foods most commonly linked to behavior changes,” says Dana Laake, R.D.H., M.S., co-author of The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook. “And they’re not mandatory foods for human survival.” When the body doesn’t absorb these foods properly, it triggers an allergic response (think brain fog and mood swings).

Focused Elimination

If you think changing your child’s diet may help his or her ADHD symptoms, start by eliminating potential triggers for a week or two, suggests Laake. Then test your child by reintroducing foods one at a time and seeing how he behaves. If it turns out your child is sensitive to milk or other major sources of nutrients, remove those foods, but work with a dietitian to ensure your child gets the necessary nutrients for growth and development.

“The more restrictive the diet becomes, the more you need an expert to make sure you’re not treating one problem and creating another,” says Anding. The big risk is malnutrition since children have a greater need for complete nutrition than adults, thanks to growing bones, developing organ systems, and building immunity. And if elimination diets are taken to the extreme, they could cause a deficiency in key nutrients like calcium and B vitamins – the very nutrients associated with reducing symptoms of ADHD.

Whether refined sugars or additives affect behavior or not, most children would do best to avoid sugary, processed foods, Anding notes. Perhaps the best solution for any child – with ADHD or not – is to make sure he or she gets a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole unprocessed foods. After all, the body simply works better when it has the proper fuel.

Vitamins and Supplements for ADHD

vitamins and supplementsSome supplements may help you get a grip on ADHD symptoms and challenges. Others don’t. Find out which is which.

When to Go Beyond Food

Most ADHD professionals recommend eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and some lean protein with every meal to help manage symptoms. However, not everyone eats the right foods to achieve beneficial levels of certain nutrients. In other cases, our bodies don’t produce some nutrients we need, so we have to get them from supplements. Find out which vitamins, herbs, and supplements may treat ADHD symptoms.

Go for Omega-3s

If you are looking for a single supplement to add to your diet, it is omega-3 fatty acids. Besides being good for heart health, recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids improve symptoms of ADHD. A comprehensive look at many studies showed that omega-3’s are about 40 percent as effective as stimulants in relieving symptoms.

Take Optimal Amounts of Omega-3s

According to Dr. Newmark, kids between four and eight years old should take between1,000-1,500 mg. a day. Older kids should get 2,000-2,500 mg. daily. Look for a product that has twice the amount of EPA to DHA—the two main types of omega-3’s. Liquid or capsule forms of omega-3 fatty acids are best. The gummy and chewable versions have lower amounts of EPA and DHA, requiring your kid to take too many to reach the recommended dose.

Think about Zinc

Some studies have shown that children with ADHD may have lower levels of zinc and taking supplements may reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity but not inattentiveness. High levels of zinc, however, may be dangerous. Have your doctor check zinc levels before taking a supplement. If you do add a zinc supplement, Dr. Sandy Newmark suggests that children with ADHD take a 20 mg. supplement daily.

Do Not Sell Yourself Short on Iron

Some experts believe that iron deficiencies may contribute to ADHD symptoms in children. A study completed in 2008 showed children who were not anemic but had low ferritin levels, a protein needed to store iron in the blood, showed significant improvement of ADHD symptoms after 12 weeks of iron supplements. Before taking iron supplements, speak with your doctor about checking iron levels: High iron levels can be dangerous.

Calm Down with Magnesium

Low levels of magnesium in the blood can decrease attention span. Some small studies have shown that adding magnesium supplements decreases some symptoms of ADHD. Magnesium also helps with sleep and relaxation – big challenges for children and adults with ADHD.

Vitamin C is Key

Vitamin C, says Dr. Hallowell, is important in modulating the neurotransmitter dopamine at the synapses in the brain. (ADD stimulants are effective because they increase dopamine levels in the brain.) Hallowell recommends vitamin C from food, which is more effective than that found in pills. If your child doesn’t eat foods high in vitamin C, try a daily supplement. (One caution: Don’t take vitamin C less than an hour before or after taking ADD meds. It prevents the med from being absorbed.)

Cover Your Nutritional Bases

A daily multivitamin, containing the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals, is important for optimal brain health. Many of the multivitamin/multimineral products on the market contain sugar, preservatives, and artificial colors, which may increase hyperactivity in children. Look for brands that are low in sugar with no artificial colors or flavors.

Mix It Up with Protein Supplements

If your child doesn’t eat high-protein foods, which are key to increasing attentiveness and focus, or is a picky eater, give him a protein-powder drink in their place. You can mix it with his favorite juice or milk to help the protein go down easier. Look for brands that are low in sugar and free of artificial flavors and preservatives.

Help for Sleep

There is limited evidence that supports using herbs in treating ADHD. The herb valerian can calm hyperactivity and may reduce anxiety, but it doesn’t improve concentration. Valerian also helps with sleep problems and lessens the “rebound effect” that some kids experience when stimulants wear off. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist who specializes in herbs about this herb.

More Help at Bedtime

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in our bodies to help us get to sleep. When we turn off the television, dim the lights, and settle down for bed, our body produces melatonin and we become sleepy. But for those with ADHD, sleep is sometimes difficult to come by. Melatonin supplements can help and are safe to take. Always start with the smallest possible dose.

Give Ginkgo and Ginseng a Try?

Some small studies show that Ginkgo biloba helps improve memory and, when taken with ginseng, can decrease impulsiveness and distractibility. Other studies have shown no or minimal improvement. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist who specializes in herbs before trying them. These herbs can cause health problems, especially if you have a history of diabetes, seizures, or schizophrenia. They may also interfere with other meds.

Heed the Warning

“All natural” is not synonymous with “safe.” Many herbs and supplements have side effects, may cause or worsen health problems, or interfere with prescription medications. Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. When your doctor asks if you are taking any medications, be sure to tell him about all vitamins and supplements you take on a daily.

Listen to Your Body

For many supplements, there isn’t a lot of research to determine a recommended daily dose. Pay attention to your body and adjust the dosage if you notice something is wrong. For example, you may be taking zinc supplements and find yourself getting stomachaches. Discontinue or cut back on the supplement to see if the stomachaches disappear.


Published on ADDitudeMag.com

8 Healthy Snacks for Kids With ADHD

By Beth W. Orenstein
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

Foods that are rich in fiber and protein can help kids with ADHD stay alert, calm, and focused. Keep these easy snacks on hand for both their appetite and their ADHD.

boy eating watermelonLike all kids, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) need to eat a healthy diet, and that includes choosing healthy snacks. But feeding kids who have ADHD can be extra challenging for several reasons. First, medications can decrease their appetite. Second, kids who experience hyperactivity expend more energy and may need more calories than some of their peers. And third, if they eat too many sweets, they can suffer from mood swings when their blood sugar spikes and then crashes. As a parent, you have to know the right balance to strike. These eight kid-friendly ideas can help take the guesswork out of snack time.


Kids who have ADHD benefit from the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that fruit provides. If your child turns up his nose at a whole banana, try making a fruit shake from fresh fruit and yogurt instead. Blend bananas, strawberries, peaches, orange juice, and ice in the blender, add some yogurt for thickness, and serve. Choosing nonfat Greek yogurt will give your smoothie extra protein. “Don’t be afraid to be creative when it comes to what you put in your smoothie,” says Jessica Crandall, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. You can use any mix of fruits — try mangoes or pineapples for a tropical flavor. For a boost of protein, add a scoop of peanut butter. And you can sneak in extra fiber and omega-3 fatty acids with ground flax seeds.

Mini Pizzas

Mini pizzas are a fun, quick snack — and you don’t have to tell your kids they’re healthy. Make a mini pizza on a whole-wheat English muffin (that’s the fiber) with low-fat cheese (that’s the protein). Protein helps feed the brain and reduces hunger-induced mood swings. It also fills kids up for longer because it slows the food on its path from the stomach to the small intestines. Fiber, a complex carbohydrate, takes longer to digest and keeps blood sugar levels stable longer.

Hummus Spread on Pita

hummus and pitaHummus is a Middle Eastern spread made from ground chickpeas and tahini (sesame seeds). It’s a great source of protein, fiber, and many of the vitamins that kids with ADHD need to stay calm and focus better, says Heather R. Mangieri, RD, LDN, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and owner of Nutrition Check Up in Pittsburgh. Serve it on fiber-rich whole-wheat pita that you’ve cut into pie-shape pieces. Try including colorful veggie spears for dippers as well.

PB&J on Whole Grain Bread

For kids with ADHD, Mangieri says, snacks should contain protein — which helps with memory and learning — and a couple of other food groups. “Think of a snack as a mini-meal,” she explains. One classic idea: Peanut butter — an excellent source of protein — on whole grain bread. Or try a PB&J-banana sandwich. Bananas, a great source of potassium and vitamins B and C, have been found to boost immunity and even lift moods.

Whole-Grain Crackers or Pretzels

What kid doesn’t crave potato chips? The problem is, potato chips are loaded with fat and have little to offer in the way of nutrition. To satisfy your child’s craving for crunch-worthy foods, offer whole grain crackers, baked chips, or pretzels instead. Hot-air popcorn is another healthier alternative that provides lots of fiber and can be a nice addition to your child’s ADHD diet. Pack some in your child’s backpack for when hunger strikes.

Veggie Sticks With Tasty Dips

veggies and dipWhen your child opens the refrigerator or kitchen cabinets, “you want them to see healthy snacks, not cookies, candies, or salty snacks,” Mangieri says. Cut up fresh vegetables — for example, carrots, celery, and sweet peppers — into bite-sized pieces, and leave them in the fridge for easy snacking. Peanut butter, cottage cheese, and low-fat dressings make great dips for cut-up veggies and may entice kids whose ADHD medications dampen their hunger, Crandall says.

Dried Fruits and Nuts

Dried fruits are another great source of fiber for your child. They have little protein, but they go well with nuts, which can provide the protein needed in an ADHD diet. A dozen almonds will net about 3 grams of protein. However, if you don’t watch portion sizes, dried fruits and nuts can quickly add extra calories to your child’s diet. That may not be a concern, since many kids with ADHD are hyperactive and need more calories anyway, Mangieri says. But it’s a good idea to divide the snack into small servings so your child doesn’t overeat.

Snacks With Hidden Nutrients

If your child with ADHD is a fussy eater, one way to get him or her to eat healthy snacks is to disguise the healthy ingredients. Try baking carrot cake or zucchini bread. “A diet high in sugar can cause swings in your child’s blood sugar levels, exacerbating ADHD symptoms,” Mangieri says, but you can usually cut the amount of sugar in the recipe by a quarter or a third without affecting the taste too much. You also may be able to substitute applesauce for the oil.

11 Things Teachers Need to Know About ADHD

By Eileen Bailey

The large majority of teachers, if not all, have had a child with ADHD in their classroom at some point. Most have knowledge of what ADHD is, how it impacts a child’s ability to learn and know and implement strategies to make classroom life better for these children. But, despite all the research and available information, there are still some teachers that don’t really understand ADHD. They aren’t aware of how to best manage their classroom to help those with ADHD learn. The following are some basic points about ADHD that teachers should and need to know.

1.   ADHD is a Real Disorder

After years of research and worldwide experts agreeing that ADHD is a real neurobiological disorder, there are still some who believe it is a made up diagnosis – an excuse for bad behavior. In 2002 an International Consensus Statement was issued, stating, “…the notion that ADHD does not exist is simply wrong. All the major medical associations and government health agencies recognize ADHD as a genuine disorder because the scientific evidence indicating it is so overwhelming.”

2.   ADHD Behaviors Are Not a Cause of Bad Parenting

When a child with ADHD acts up in class, doesn’t listen or doesn’t hand in homework, it is easy to blame the home life, after all, it is the parent’s responsibility to instill discipline and to follow up with homework assignments, right? But ADHD behaviors show up in many ways – hyperactivity often shows up as constant fidgeting, getting up and walking around the classroom; impulsivity shows up as blurting out answers in class, jumping ahead in line or disrupting the class; inattention frequently shows up as not paying attention, losing items (including homework papers) and the inability to focus on a topic for a prolonged length of time. These symptoms aren’t a result of bad parenting but are part of the disorder and must be treated as such for any improvements to take place.

 3.   Positive Reinforcement Works Much Better Than Negative Reinforcement!

Children with ADHD tend to respond to positive reinforcement to correct undesirable behaviors. When you, as a teacher, react in a negative way, these behaviors may worsen, not improve.

4.   Children with ADHD Do Not Want to be Singled Out

Children with ADHD usually feel like they don’t fit in with their classmates. They feel different and out of place. They usually don’t like it and, just like all children, want to fit in and be liked. They don’t want you to call attention to their ADHD or their weaknesses; it is humiliating. Instead of singling them out or making them feel bad about their inability to sit still or find their place in the book while reading, find constructive, positive ways to help them learn.

5.   Every Child with ADHD is Unique

Some teachers may believe that they know how to handle your child in class because they have had children with ADHD in their class before. But every child with ADHD is unique and symptoms don’t always appear the same. For example, one child may struggle with hyperactivity, always fidgeting and having a hard time sitting at their desk for more than a few minutes. Another may not have hyperactivity but may become easily distracted, finding it difficult to follow a lesson for more than a few minutes. Strategies to deal with one child won’t necessarily help another. Each child must be treated as an individual.

6.   When Something Goes Wrong, It Isn’t Always the Fault of the Child with ADHD!

When a ruckus erupts, it is easy to place the blame on the child with ADHD, after all, he is usually at the center of any confusion or disturbance! But, simple statistics tell you it can’t possibly always be his fault; there are other children in the class and they aren’t all perfect angels all the time. Instead of rushing to judgment, take the time to investigate situations to find out who should be reprimanded.

7.   Hands On, Kinestethic Activities and Approaches to Learning Work Best

Many children find lectures, worksheets and endless “desk” work boring, mundane or tedious. For children with ADHD, these tasks can be downright torturous. Most children, not just those with ADHD, learn better through interaction; lessons that evoke several or all of the senses tend to be remembered. Changing teaching strategies to incorporate more kinesthetic approaches to learning will help all your students.

8.   There Are Some Simple Ways to Make Your Classroom More “ADHD Friendly”

Keep your day structured and consistent, post daily rules, schedules and assignments on the board, allow for scheduled breaks regularly throughout the day. In addition, specific accommodations, such as seating at the front of the class or using secret signals to get a child back on track are helpful.

9.   Medication is Not a Cure for ADHD!

There are many medications that help to reduce symptoms of ADHD but the most effective treatment is a combination of medication and behavioral strategies. Just because a child is on medication doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do anything else.

10.   IEP’s Need to Be Followed

When these documents were created, the parents and educational professionals determined that a child needs and deserves certain accommodations within the classroom and the school to help him succeed. Even if you don’t agree with the accommodations listed, you still need to follow the document. This is a legal document and parents can take legal steps when it isn’t followed.

11.   Parents Need to be Kept Informed

Children with ADHD frequently don’t communicate with their parents about homework, tests or projects. This isn’t because they don’t care, it is usually because they have forgotten all about them. It is best to come up with a regular form of communication with parents. This can be a “parent blast” email each week to let everyone know about upcoming test dates, projects that are due, upcoming field trips or other important classroom information. Some parents will request daily or weekly “reports” on behavior, grades, etc. These parents would not have requested this information if they didn’t feel it would help them support their child in school. Try to accommodate any requests for parent-teacher communications. If no request was made but a child with ADHD is falling behind or not doing well in tests, reach out to the parents before the end of the marking period.


Back to School Tips for Children with ADHD: 7 Tips to Help Your Child Tackle ADHD

by Shane Perrault, Ph.D.

Julian was just like most other 14 year old boys — energetic, fun loving and sports-minded.

Summer was about to end, and the only thing on his mind was making the football team. He dreaded school, but was willing to do anything that would get him on the field again.

Calling the playJulian did not want to re-experience last year.  Athletically, he was on top of the world… starting in football, basketball, and baseball.  Academically, the world was on top of him…beleaguered with low grades, discipline problems, and missing homework assignments. Because of the latter, the school stopped him from stepping foot on the field of dreams and told him to study harder.

For Julian, it was the worst of both worlds.

Just when he thought things could not get any worse, they did. His parents enrolled him in a popular motivational tutoring program, which promised better study skills, better organizational skills and better grades. Although he didn’t like it, this was his ticket to the athletic field.

Yet after six long months, his grades still had not improved, and he was again unable to play sports. Discouraged and defeated, his confidence shrunk even further. Julian went from someone who made academic mistakes, to feeling like he was a mistake.

“Something has to give,” his parents told me during the intake meeting. “We are losing him. We have tried everything, and don’t have a clue on how to help our son.”

Upon completing an assessment, we realized Julian did not have a motivational, organizational, or a study problem.  Julian had ADHD, attention deficit hyperactive disorder. Following his diagnosis, we put together a treatment plan that addressed both his short-term and long-term needs.

To meet Julian’s short-term attention needs, a physician prescribed medications to help him focus. For his long-term attention needs, we placed him on “Play Attention TM,” a computer-based attention training system that has been educationally proven to help children develop ther ability to focus, and reduce impulsivity. We also included learning style training to help him harness his natural style of learning, and parent training to reinforce the behavioral changes we agreed upon. In all, Julian began to better understand how ADHD was impacting his life, learned how to better manage the challenges related to the disorder, and developed his ability to focus.

Twelve months later, Julian has taken control of his life and is off medications – and is doing well academically and athletically. This season his parents will proudly sit in the stands watching him play in his first high-school football game.

Here are a few steps I recommend you take to help your son or daughter tackle ADHD.

1.   Become Your Child’s “Parent Advocate.”

You must learn as much about ADHD as possible. Period!

It is critically important to understand the challenges your child may face and the resources available. Know the teachers, the treatment team, and the law. I recommend the following book to any would-be parent advocate, “Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book,” by Michelle Davis.

2.   Put an Interdisciplinary “Treatment Team” in Place.

Before school starts, connect with your psychologist, physician, nutritionist, neuro-psychologist, and/or coach to plan for the upcoming year. Have them evaluate your child’s learning style, neurological functioning, strengths and limitations. If possible, select teachers that play to your child’s strengths. Also, talk to your providers about proper nutrition and computer-based attention training programs.

While medications help manage the symptoms in the short-term, recognize that “pills don’t teach skills.” Sound nutrition, proven computer-based attention training programs, teaching children to maximize their learning style and building academic confidence permanently improves attention and teach skills necessary for success in the classroom and with friends.

3.   Develop a Schedule, and Strive for Consistency and Structure.

Beginning a week or two before school starts, re-adjust bed and wake-up times. With young elementary school aged children, eliminate the fear of the unknown by introducing them to their new school, teacher and bus schedule before the first day. Children with ADHD function much better if they know what to expect. In addition, let your child get comfortable with the new supplies, organizational and/or attention training systems they will be using this year.

4.   Make Meaningful Behavioral Changes.

As you well know, children with ADHD are frequently impulsive and often seek immediate gratification. Accordingly, they tend to do best when given more immediate and frequent feedback and consequences. You might also consider using incentives before punishment, and striving for consistency. I also recommend the following book to any parent of a child with ADHD, “Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents,” by Russell A. Barkley, PhD.

Although it may be difficult at times, try not to personalize your child’s problems or disorder. Inattentive and impulsive behaviors are common symptoms of ADHD, which experts conservatively estimate affect between 5 to 7 percent of school age children.

5.   Be Positive!

Your child’s biggest liability may be their thoughts rather than their reality. Beliefs determine behaviors. If your child approaches the new school year with the fear that they are about to live out their worst nightmare, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be wise, be optimistic, and be loving. If you do not believe in them…why should they believe in themselves?

I know it can be frustrating, but let your child know that whatever the school year may hold, “we will get through it together no matter what.” Let them know that you are in their corner… fighting with them, cheering for them and proud of them. Also, discover and teach them about some of the many extremely successful adults with ADHD.

For a list of successful people with ADHD, you can go to the website for my book, www.Focus-book.com. The book is entitled Focus: Unlocking the Secret Entrepreneurial Powers of ADHD.

6.   Celebrate Every Success!

Our kids will hear plenty about their flaws and their failures… so make sure you celebrate their successes, even small ones.

7.   Last, But Not Least of All, Take Care of Yourself.

Contact CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD), and join a support group. Also, pursue a hobby or some other personal passion you may have dropped over the years.