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Attention to Details: Inattentive? A Cure May Be on the Way

For children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the introduction of Ritalin several decades provided huge strides in the treatment of this disorder. A related behavioral profile referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperaction Disorder (ADHD) is common in children and effects about 10% of school-age children. Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. Ritalin and similar drugs work well in treatment. A subgroup of ADHD is commonly known as ADHD-I (Inattentiveness) and the argument of treatment via stimulants has yet to be fully resolved.


Children suffering from inattentiveness display symptoms like having a lot of difficulty staying focused on tasks, or remembering what they have read, or in keeping up with their work in school, homework or tasks at home. Research has shown that these children do not respond to stimulants anywhere near as well as children identified as being ADHD hyperactive. Inattentive children, if they’re going to respond at all to drugs seem to assimilate better with very light doses, small doses.

Yet, more and more researchers are focusing on behavioral modifications rather than drug therapy. And the effects may be more successful in the long term.

Roots of the Problem

A disconnect with neurotransmitters in our brain is the actual root of all types of ADHD. The two neurotransmitters that cause the major symptoms of ADHD are Dopamine and Epinephrine and Norepinephrine. A low amount of dopamine in our brain will cause hyperactivity and impulsivity. A low amount of norepinephrine will cause lack of focus, lethargy, and mental fatigue.

Scientific research bears out that the neurotransmitter action in the brain is complex. None of the neurotransmitters work independently. The variety of symptoms in ADHD are also interrelated and complex. All the treatments for ADHD work to optimize neurotransmitter function in the brain. Ritalin has been successful because it increases both brain dopamine and epinephrine.

Conversely, studies show that the drug Guanfacine has been shown to regulate the flow and effectiveness of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain reducing hyperactivity, while improving working memory, and diminishing impulsivity and distractibility. What’s becoming apparent is that treatment of any kind needs to be gears towards the individual needs of each child. There is no across-the-board cure-all. This much is fact.

Behavioral Parenting and Behavioral Classroom Modification

Because more and more research is pointing to minimally effective results using stimulant medication in improving important areas of functioning such as long-term academic achievement, the shift to strategy and skills training both at home and in the classroom is becoming the focus of ADHAD-I intervention. In the classroom, children are taught systems for organizing school materials and managing/planning homework responsibilities. At home parents reinforce behavior with rewards and positive feedback. In both cases, strict adherence to schedules, tasks and repetition is paramount. Checklists with operationalized definitions of behavior are used to monitor skills implementation.

A non-medication solution may have been present all the time. It just took understanding the inherit differences of ADHD-I versus other attention deficit maladies impacting young children.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of peter burge

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