As the new school year begins, parents worry about giving their child every opportunity to succeed. Few parents know this feeling better than those with children with attention deficits. For them, every day can seem like a battle, and making it through the school year can seem nearly impossible. Options can feel limited and answers can be difficult to find.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has become increasingly common, but parents are still frustrated as they seek answers. They know their child is bright, but see them struggle to live life to their full potential. I was that struggling child. I was diagnosed with ADHD, placed on Ritalin and labeled with a learning disability. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to search for a better understanding of my diagnosis.
ADHD is often categorized as a chemical imbalance in the brain, but as I care for children in my practice, I have found that it is more often a nervous system imbalance. The major function of the nervous system is to regulate how our body perceives and processes information. It controls and regulates all the organs, tissues and cells in our body. It keeps our heart beating, our lungs breathing and our stomach digesting, controls our muscles and runs our senses.
The autonomic (think automatic) nervous system is divided into two parts, which balance each other. The sympathetic hits the GAS, while the parasympathetic pumps the BRAKES. When we encounter something that is particularly stressful, our body shifts from parasympathetic to sympathetic to help us better adapt to this stress. As we do this, the nervous system changes our body chemically to better react to and process this stressor. It’s like stepping on the gas pedal. When the brain and the body are communicating the way they should, the body will step on the “brake” and return to its resting phase when the stress is over.
Children with ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders often live with an imbalance in this system. Imagine driving a Ferrari but not having brakes to slow yourself down. You’d feel out of control, too. Children with ADHD are literally trying to burn off that extra energy/gas. This sympathetic dominance (gas pedal pressed down) is the common component I see when working with kids with these diagnoses and is where the impulsive, hyper behavior often stems from.
When the bones in the spine, whose job it is to protect the nervous system, rotate out of alignment, the delicate nerves can become irritated. Many things can cause these bones to shift out of place, but I find that it often relates to a difficult or traumatic birth. Research is continuing to show that the alignment of the spine plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy, balanced nervous system. Chiropractors, trained to work with children, use safe and gentle methods to help the spine return to its proper position and restore balance to the body, helping children with ADHD manage their behavior more effectively.
There is no quick fix for kids with ADHD, but understanding how your child’s nervous system is reacting to its environment is a great place to start. If you have questions on how your child or grandchild may benefit from chiropractic care, please contact a chiropractor who specializes in the care of children.