Article by Heyward Bruce Ewart, Ph.D., Ph.D. Habil., LMT
(Publisher's Note: Be sure to read this article to the end where there are some great recommendations that have proven effective in treating ADHD)
Well over 20 years ago I noticed an obscure article in an esoteric journal that discussed the subject of ADHD causes. I cannot find a reference to it, although I have searched everywhere, and none of my colleagues have ever heard of it either. If the author will come forward, due credit will be given. What I do know is that the premise of that piece is very true.
In taking that small amount of information and adding my experience with children over 20 years of practice as a counselor, psychologist, and massage therapist, I have come to believe that ADHD causes are physiological and not psychological.
ADHD causes can be attributed to sensory deprivation or restriction of movement during the period from infancy to about age 3. I have yet to find a case of this condition where a child has not either undergone some necessary medical procedure or suffered abuse resulting in one or more of the major senses being blocked or a prolonged period of immobilization.
Interfering with the perceptive senses or restricting movement produces an "overcharged" central nervous system, whereby energy continues to build until there is an outlet. When this physiological change occurs, it becomes permanent. The result is that excessive amounts of movement and perceptual stimulation are required. If these are not supplied at frequent intervals, the child becomes irritable, then angry, and finally enraged.
Besides hyperactivity, the constellation of symptoms includes being stubborn, having a "short fuse" when it comes to temper, defiance, and a strong liking for very loud music or other noise, as well as every form of physical stimulation, including touch. Such would include very hot or very cold showers and back rubs; and activities that stimulate any of the senses, such as video games, sports, and most any kind of exercise. Massage therapy is extremely effective.
Some of the leading ADHD causes are surgery during infancy that requires strapping the baby down; orthopedic corrective devices, such as bars; prolonged confinement to an incubator; and even a difficult delivery whereby the baby is trapped in the birth canal. Tubes in the ears to correct hearing infections, procedures done to the eyes, and immobilization of any part of the body or the entire body are also included.
Why these procedures have this effect is not known. It is my understanding that when ulcer medications were being researched, it became necessary to produce ulcers in laboratory animals in order to test the trial medication. Researchers found that if they tied together the hind legs of any laboratory animal soon after birth, then an ulcer would develop within two or three days. Importantly, it was noted that the animal behaved in a hyperactive manner and further, that in later months it was not able to learn the tasks that the other animals learned, such as pushing a lever for a food pellet. Still more importantly, the animals thus restrained as newborns remained with these handicaps for the remainder of their lives.
Obviously, the animals did not have a psychological or emotional problem; they were not mentally ill. They had undergone a physiological change that altered their central nervous system.
With children, stimulation is an absolute necessity at very frequent intervals. For example, a young man in his junior year of high school had a life-long ambition of attending a certain university. Because of this condition, however, he was in trouble most of the time, and could not concentrate in class. He was failing. No matter how hard he tried, he was not able to stay focused in the classroom nor even to sit still.
He had been born prematurely and thus had been confined to an incubator for weeks. Not only that, but he was immobilized inside the device so that feeding tubes and the like would remain in place. All of his life, he had been hyperactive and easily angered, but once he "exploded," he would settle down quickly. He loved "burning hot" showers and loud music. By early adolescence he had gotten very down on himself because he seemed to be irritable most of the time. He was ashamed of himself and felt tremendous guilt over snapping at his parents and siblings.
When it was suggested to him that, in his case, the ADHD causes could be physical and not mental--further, that he was not responsible—there were tears of relief. I instructed him to get a portable radio with headphones and to play it every time he started to become irritable; also to take plenty of hot showers and to ask his mother to rub his back.
But the most important thing I did for this young man was to talk to an open-minded and cooperative counselor at his high school. She issued him a special pass that allowed him to go outside and run around the entire school building between classes.
The results were optimal. He graduated with a grade average sufficient for admission to the university of his choice. Once he was in college, he had much more freedom and knew well what to do for himself; that is, how to manage his condition.
Many times I have asked an unbelieving mother in my office to take her son (or daughter), who was running around the room, and begin to scratch his back. Time after time, the child would settle down. Then I would have the child do some jumping jacks until he felt tired. When the stimulation and exercise had been completed, the child behaved normally. I must repeat, however, that such measures are required on an hourly basis or more, depending on severity.
Some experimentation is required to find the most effective form of stimulation. When one 10-year-old boy became wildly out of control, he could be calmed only by hot showers.
It must be pointed out that neglect can easily produce this life-long condition. A child not fed when hungry is deprived of the sense of taste, and the strong sense of hunger goes unsatisfied. Similarly, a child confined to a crib is denied full movement, as is a child forced to remain in a stroller or high chair long beyond his endurance. Some children are locked in closets or tied down as punishment.
In short, a parent who does not meet a child’s needs as they occur is committing neglect. All needs are naturally occurring, and neither a child nor an adult can control when a need will arise. Because children cannot meet their own needs, a parent must. When needs are not met, all kinds of consequences can follow.
Fortunately for our young clients, even a half-hour-per-week massage produces great improvement in behavior, mood, concentration, and self-control. It seems there is a wide-open door for us not only to relieve the horrid symptoms of ADHD but to make children and teens feel so much better about themselves. By the way, research is needed on this subject, and adults should be included. My own guess is that adults will be helped as much as children through therapeutic massage.
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