I have been an educator and have worked with children for several decades, starting my teaching career in the late 1970’s. As you can imagine, I have seen a lot of changes and trends over the years, most have been pretty positive. However, for the first time in my career I am worried about the health of our kids. Until recently it was rare to have a student on medication for a long-term illness. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that we educators began to become familiar with a mental health diagnosis called Attention Deficit or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Even during the first few years in this century it was relatively rare to have a student on medication for ADHD. However, in the last decade children are being diagnosed with ADHD at an alarming rate.
ADHD What is it and Why Do Are So Many Kids Diagnosed With It?
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD (That is roughly 6.4 million children.) Some experts, though, say ADHD may occur in 8% to 10% of school-aged children. Boys are about three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with it, though it's not yet understood why.
Kids with ADHD act impulsively, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what's expected of them but have trouble following through because they can't sit still, pay attention, or focus on details.
The diagnosis of ADHD is remarkably prevalent. In fact, at Academy School, approximately 15 % of our students have been diagnosed with more than half of them on medication. Coupled with students that have asthma, food-allergies, and pre-diabetes, 1 in 5 of our students have a serious health condition that typically requires medication. Even more shocking to me is that the number of children affected is increasing and reaching epidemic proportions.
Many medical experts claim that we don’t know why so many children are experiencing health problems, however, there is emerging research that is beginning to link these and other chronic conditions with changes that have also taken place in our family’s grocery shopping cart. In other words the food that we are feeding our children could be making them ill.
I will summarize some of the latest research and what families can do to remain healthy in the next edition of The Caller.
Diet and Kids, Part Two:
In the last edition of The Caller, I began the conversation about the changes I have observed in
education since the start of my career. Focusing on one issue that affects 15% of our student
population, Attention Deficit or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) leads us to
wonder what is different and what can be done?
It can certainly be said that greater awareness in the medical community and parents has lead
to an increase in the number of children diagnosed. However, removing that variable, there is
still a growing trend in our student population.
Food for Thought:
While the is still no proof that sugar alone is a trigger for ADHD, there is evidence that for some
children, the complex mechanism involved in blood sugar regulation may cause a spike in
adrenaline and other hormones that may contribute to hyperactivity and inability to
concentrate. Over 80% of the food on the grocery store shelves contains added sugar. Consider
monitoring and limiting your child’s intake of sugar to no more than 25 grams per day. (Sugar is
listed on the nutritional label under “Carbohydrates”)
Essential Fatty Acids. How many of our children like eating oily fish like salmon – or
walnuts? The oils contained in fish and some nuts and seeds are essential to our health. In
other words, if we do not ingest these substances, our body cannot make them. According
to webMD.com “Recent research has documented a decrease in omega-3 fatty acids in
the blood of children with ADHD. As a result, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids is now
recommended for children with ADHD.” Speak to your child’s doctor about considering a high-
quality fish oil supplement with DHA.
GOOD bacteria. Did you know that one study indicated that the number of bacterial cells in the
human body outnumber human cells by TEN to ONE? Cutting edge researchers are beginning to
turn their attention to what is referred to as the “human microbiome” to try to understand
myriad health conditions including ADHD, autism, obesity as well as hundreds of other chronic
conditions. We know that much of that bacteria reside in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and what
we eat, in addition to exposure to antibiotics, can affect those numbers.
Dr. David Perlmutter, neurologist, cited a study In Pediatric Research – Nature that studied 75
infants for 13 years. They were randomized for only some to receive a particular probiotic
(healthy bacteria for the gut). The conclusion was that early supplementation of appropriate
probiotics may contribute to reducing the risk of “neuropsychiatric disorder development” later
in childhood. Of course, more studies are necessary to confirm this observation, but it certainly
opens up a discussion regarding healthy, natural ways to help our children flourish.
While the cause remains unknown, pulling together pieces of the puzzle may provide some
insight into non-prescriptive, supportive treatments for our children that any family can
In the next few weeks, we will begin the student placement process for the 2015-2016 school
year. Our goal is to have twenty-one, well-balanced, heterogeneous classrooms. To do so, we
must have both a micro view (focus on the individual learner) and macro view (focus on the
It is a lengthy and time-consuming process as we consider and weigh a number of factors
before placing each child. In general, students who have older siblings tend to get placed with
their sibling’s former teacher, but this does not always happen. Other considerations such
as scheduling for special needs, however, may take precedence. While your child’s present
teacher is directly involved in the placement, she/he is not allowed to make recommendations
to parents for a specific teacher. We consider social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral
growth as well as special needs of all of our learners.
While we cannot accept requests for specific teachers, we welcome any information you would
like to share about your child’s learning style. At Academy, we value your knowledge of your
child and we respect that you may have thoughts about which type of classroom environment
he or she would best be suited. If you would like to give input about your child for this process,
please do so in writing, including email, to me on or before Monday, April 13, 2015.
Community Night RescheduledCommunity Night is canceled for this evening. Rescheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, December 11. Same time, 5-7pm. Spread the word to other Academy families about the change, and see you tomorrow for butter braid pick-up, Book Fair extended hours, and open gym.
Posted Dec 10, 2014, 6:35 AM by Eileen Parks