Kids Love Dr. Barton

ADD - Is It For Real?

by Dr. Douglas Barton, M.D., Pediatrician 10/13/2008

            With all the conflicting reports in the media regarding the condition known as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), I thought I’d take a moment to look a little more closely at the condition.  This was brought to a head for me this evening during my last appointment of the day.  “Why are you here today?”
            “I’m just here to get my shot and go home,” the teen patient said, rather irritated that I had actually asked.
Well, most pediatricians don’t “just give a shot” and send you home.  We want to know how you’re doing.  Are there health concerns?  Are there changes to your regular routine that can make a healthy difference?  As it turns out, her grades were awful.  “You have to understand.  For me, getting a C is like getting an A for other kids.”  I was dumbstruck, yet I’ve heard similar comments before.  I hadn’t seen this young lady in about 5 years, so we explored further.           
            It turns out that she has trouble completing her work, she can’t remember what it is she’s supposed to be working on, she is very easily distracted and has trouble returning to the task at hand, and she often ends up with incompletes on work that she’s actually done… she just didn’t get it turned in because she forgot or it was lost in the book bag.  The worst thing is, she thinks she’s dumb!  She is upset by her poor grades, she’s tired of being nagged by her mother, she’s tired of being different than all her friends.  She knows there’s something wrong, but she entirely blames herself and gives up because she’s dumb.
            The truth is, in order for people to organize their thoughts, stay attentive to their work and play, and complete tasks, they have to have adequate amounts of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the frontal portion of their brain.  These chemicals are messengers or communicators between one brain cell and the next.  If there is not enough of these messengers,  some of the brain cells never get the message from the next cell back in line.  Take, for example, two lines of people stretched over 500 yards.  One line has a person every 10 feet, the second has a person every thirty feet.  Now start a message at one end of both lines.  Which line is most likely to get the message all the way to the other end?  Now add a lot of background noise.  This is how a child with ADD feels in a room of 20 or 30 other kids.  He or she might have done just fine in a quiet room, but once you add the noise, their brains just aren’t’ passing the correct messages.  They get distracted, they take forever to complete tasks, they may never complete the task, they may get lost in the process of completing a task.           
            While there are many opinions regarding the reality of ADD, scientific evidence has demonstrated a group of kids with a certain group of symptoms that desperately need help and support.  They may need medicine, they may need behavioral modifications.  There is a very small possibility that diet and discipline may help.  What’s very clear is that these symptoms are very real and these kids desperately need our help in a variety of ways.



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