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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) & Autism Spectrum Disorders

Are you concerned that your child may have symptoms of ADHD, but don't want to put them on stimulant medication? For many parents and teachers it is hard to find the line between normal childhood energy and hyperactivity, and between normal distraction and attention deficit disorder. This is because many of the behaviors that are a normal part of childhood growth and development are included in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. For some children problems like hyperactivity or difficulty completing a task are truly a marker of an imbalanced nervous system, but in many situations those same behaviors are expressions of a child's need to find orientation and connection with the world. Being able to calm and focus your concentration is a skill that needs to be learned--we are not born with it automatically. And it is important to try to determine why a child shows a particular behavior, and find ways to help the child to bring it into better balance. A vital part of working with children is to say: "how can we help the child do this better, and give them the skills so that they focus their attention from the inside, out?" not just prescribe medication to suppress behaviors, from the outside, in.

ADHD has become a prevalent diagnosis (recent studies estimate 11% of children nationwide, or about one in nine children) which either means that there are many more children affected, or that it is being applied to a broad range of behaviors. Too often it is used as a generic label for a broad range of disruptive or concerning behaviors, including: fidgety movement, trouble completing tasks, interrupting in class, rough play. But it misses the question of "why is the child doing this?" Is because everything is so interesting in everything that they can't help flitting from object to object? Is the child dreamy and inattentive, too caught up in his or her own thought process? Is the child agitated, and constantly seeking (or perhaps avoiding) contact with other children. When we work together to try to find the root of the problem many more therapeutic options become available. We incorporate behavioral approaches, exercises and experiences for strengthening and training the nervous system, and anthroposophic medicines (herbal and homeopathic) as part of our treatment plan.

A few more thoughts:

  • Building healthy sleep habits improves daytime function. A child who is too tired will not be fully able to participate in classroom activities. We always look at the quality and rhythm of sleep.
  • Nutrition: improving eating habits, with good fats and protein in the morning helps keep an even blood sugar. Working to build good rhythms around nutrition helps, because if my body doesn't feel good because I am hungry or hypoglycemic then I can't pay good attention to you. Highly processed foods and carbohydrate-rich foods can worsen behavioral problems.
  • Media (TV, movies, almost anything that has a screen) works to make us pay attention, but simultaneously limits our participation. Media revs us up, and works to keep us in that stimulated state. It does not teach us how to engage with the world in full way, and many children are over-stimulated and have not had the opportunity to really learn to self-regulate their activity. Thoughtful exploration of the kinds and amount of media exposure is an integral part of our approach to working with ADHD.

Our therapies for ADHD are based on building a view of the whole child. It is an approach that has been successfull used world-wide:

Anthroposophic therapy for ADHD  with the conclusion that "Children with ADHD symptoms receiving anthroposophic treatment had long-term improvement of symptoms and quality of life."

Autism, Asperger's Syndrome and sensing the world

autism treatmentAutism and Asperger's syndrome are also on the rise. Autism spectrum disorders are particularly marked by challenges in how we sense the world--how we pick up social clues, how we notice tags in our shirts or waistbands in our pants, how we relate to the people and objects around us, how we find anchors to orient ourselves in our environment (repetitive questions and focused interests) and in our body (hand flapping or other self-stimulating movements). We should understand them as sensory weaknesses which are related not just to whether a sense is function or not (as is the case with blindness or deafness), but more with how impressions are interpreted and responded to. Sometimes we do not sense something enough--almost like being a little bit numb; other times a sense impression seems to heightened, and we cannot help but respond to it--like light or noise sensitivity.

 

Anthroposophic medicine recognizes that there are more sensing pathways than the traditional fives senses of sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. Twelve elements of our sensing life--some which go inward and help us feel ourselves in our bodies, and some which allow us to move outward to the surrounding world and to meet another person--need to be nurtured and developed.

 

We can briefly characterize the progression of the twelve senses in the following way: beginning with the sense of sight and then moving more inward (becoming more aware of yourself), we can see a progression to taste (bringing something into my mouth and dissolving it to make it my own), then smell (which affects us more immediately and viscerally than taste), then touch. Touch is placed here, because when touch is disturbed--either too sensitive to everything which is distressing and makes us avoid itchy or tight clothes, or too numbrb, so that we meet everything too hard or too fast or too big--then that experience of touch deeply influences how we feel in our body. The next step inward is balance (the vestibular sense, which lets us know we are moving in an elevator even when everything looks the same), and self-movement (also called proprioception, the ability to know where our limbs and body are in space, using special nerve cells in the joints). Finally, we come to something which can be called the "life" sense, or sense of well-being: am I tired? Am I hungry? Am I ill? Am I vigorous and enthusiastic? Do I feel good inside?

 

If we move out into the world, we go from sight to warmth. Warmth? Yes, warmth. With our sense of warmth (which is commonly lumped in with the sense of touch, but one has a more inward quality, one more outward) we begin to approach the qualities of an outside object or person. Our interest in that person is a reflection of our sense of warmth. Nurturing the sense of warmth helps us better meet the outside world and our communication (link to fever and autism study). Beyond warmth we come to hearing, defined merely as the perception of sound. Then within sound, we can further sense words and language, and beyond words and language, actual thought. It is possible to hear sounds but not recognize words, and also to hear words and not understand thoughts. Beyond thoughts we come to a sense of the true character and intention of the other person. In an outward progression we go from sight, to warmth, to hearing, to word, to thought, to a full perception of another human being.

Sensory Nutrition

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What Clients Say...

... Dr. Blanning was able to help manage serious medical conditions for not one, but both of my children (separate illnesses at separate times). We had spent *thousands* of dollars at Children's Hospital and our Pediatrician and not been able to manage their illnesses. If you are considering an Anthroposophic doctor, I couldn't possibly encourage you more to see Dr. Blanning. YES!...Read More

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