Game On! Why Your Child Should Play Video Games

“Get off that game! You’ll go blind!”

It’s a tale as old as time: parents are chasing their children off video games all over the world. As a parent, you want to be sure your child is getting the most beneficial experiences possible. New and conflicting information seems to appear often on whether or not video games are “good” for you. Among the World Health Organization (WHO)’s new draft of medical conditions on June 18, 2018, they included “gaming disorder” as a diagnosable illness. Meanwhile, psychologists, researchers, and game developers point to how games can instill therapeutic, recreational and educational values in its players. It’s understandable that you want your kids to engage in a positive activity that helps them socialize and grow, but who’s to say your child’s video game isn’t doing both?

So video games are good for me now?

I know what you are thinking, “How can playing a video game for hours on end be good for anyone, let alone a child?” Video games provide players with challenging and engaging tasks that require the player to think critically and adapt new strategies as they progress.

According to a journal article entitled The Benefits of Playing Video Games published by Isabela Granic, PhD of Radboud University Nijmegan in The Netherlands, playing video games can help improve problem-solving skills as well as have motivational benefits. Dr. Granic says that video games are an ideal training ground for acquiring an incremental theory of intelligence because they provide players concrete, immediate feedback regarding specific efforts players have made.

Incremental theory of intelligence is the belief that intelligence is “malleable, or something that can be cultivated over time and effort.” This form of intelligence is extremely important, as it teaches children to maintain a positive attitude in the face of failure. Dr. Granic also mentions that there may be a positive correlation between playing video games and dealing with failure and “real world” success in areas like continuing to push past a problem instead of giving up.

Now of course, other settings can also help children learn and reinforce these lessons while playing games or working in groups, playing video games all day can have negative effects. Video game play must be done in moderation, so how much time should someone spend playing?

The answer may surprise you

A recent study from University of Oxford experimental psychologist Andrew K. Przybylski, Phd. entitled Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment was conducted using 2436 males and 2463 females, ages ranging from 10 to 15. What Dr. Przybylski was looking for was the effects of gameplay of a child psychosocial development. What he found may shape the way we think about children and video gameplay. Dr. Przybylski found that children who spend less than one-third of their day gaming—that’s no more than 3 hours a day—were shown to have higher levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction and lower levels of conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems and emotional symptoms. He also went on to say that “electronic play has salutary functions similar to traditional forms of play; they present opportunities for identity development as well as cognitive and social challenges.”

Now that we know more about the positive cognitive and behavioral effects video games have on kids, we see that maybe we shouldn’t be chasing them off these games. Video games played in moderation have been shown to increase cognitive function and be as beneficial as other forms of play. Video games also provide children with the opportunity to learn skills we may overlook, like critical thinking, strategy and spatial thinking. Some games promote physical activity in children with ADHD, as the risk for obesity is much greater. So the next time you see your child playing his or her favorite game, have a seat next to them and ask to play next because you’re never too old learn a new skill.

 

What do you think is a good amount of video game time for your family? Let us know in the comments!

Gifts from Dad: What Dad Passes Down To You

From the time we are born, we as humans have a special bond with our fathers. Typically, dads are known for teaching their sons how to throw a baseball or teaching their daughters how to change a flat tire, but fathers also pass on many other traits that literally make us who we are.

Genetically speaking, we bear more resemblance to our fathers than we do our mothers. Researchers at UNC School of Medicine studying gene expression, or the genes level of activity at creating RNA found that the genes being studied were parent-of-origin specific, with 60% of the genes activity level coming from the father’s side. Although we inherit the same amount of DNA from each parent, the father’s side has more influence on the features a child will develop.

Let’s take a closer look at what we can thank our fathers for this Father’s Day.

Sex

The most well known “gift” from dad, a child’s sex is highly dependent on the father’s sperm. The women’s egg carries the X chromosome that pairs with the chromosome from the sperm. If the sperm is carrying an X chromosome and links with the mother’s X chromosome, the baby will be a girl, while a Y chromosome brings a baby boy.

Eye Color

The color of your eyes is determined by dominant and recessive genes. Dominant genes will produce brown eye color, while recessive genes produce lighter colors like blue or green. If both of your parents have recessive genes, you have a chance to inherit blue or green eyes. however, if your father has brown eyes, you will likely inherit them as well.

Hair

On to more traits from dominant and recessive genes, hair texture is also influenced by our genes. The gene for full, thick hair is dominant while the gene for thinner or balding hair is recessive. So, if your father has a thick head of hair and your mother has thinner hair, you are likely to have flowy locks like your father.

Mental Health

Although the mother can pass on mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, ADHD or bipolar disorder to their children, older fathers are more likely to pass different kinds of genetic mutations to their children. Older men continue to produce new sperm, while mothers have all their eggs from the time they are born, therefore, fathers who have mental health conditions are more likely to pass them on.

Additionally, children that are diagnosed with ADHD are highly likely to have a parent or blood relative that also has it. Researchers need to conduct larger studies to identify the specific genes associated with ADHD, however, there is no genetic test to determine if someone has ADHD. It’s often helpful for the child to know someone like them to look up to and who can help with tools and tactics for success.

Teeth

According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Anthropology, children can inherit their tooth size, jaw size, and shape of their teeth from either parent. However, due to the fact that the father’s genes are more dominant than the mothers, you can thank your father for your pearly whites!

 

We have a lot to thank dads for this Father’s Day.  Our fathers have made us into the people we are today—with a lot of help from mom, of course! We thank fathers everywhere for their guidance, knowledge, and most importantly, their good genes.

 

What traits did you inherit from your dad? Leave a comment and let us know!

Embracing ADHD In Your Career

People with ADHD have a natural predisposition to impulsivity and hyperfocus, and society deems this lack of control over regulating attention a severe handicap. Headlines on ADHD highlight the negative aspects announcing how kids with ADHD are more likely to use illegal drugs and drivers with ADHD are more likely to get in a car accident. However, what if a person with ADHD could embrace their natural tendencies and use them to their advantage?  

Different professions require people to be good at different things. Being a surgeon requires a steady hand, whereas being an engineer requires a gift for mathematics. We can all develop skills, but people tend to be happiest and most successful at careers that accentuate qualities that come easily to them. For example, someone who is extremely shy probably wouldn’t enjoy being a stand-up comedian, but an extrovert could find the job incredibly rewarding.

Johan Wiklund, a professor of entrepreneurship, published a study about how ADHD can be advantageous to a career in entrepreneurship. Interviews were conducted on 14 participants who were entrepreneurs and also had an ADHD diagnosis. The study found that these entrepreneurs mostly credit their ADHD tendencies with positive effects on their career.

Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates are known as some of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, and interestingly, the qualities of a successful entrepreneur are complementary to the natural tendencies of someone with ADHD. Wiklund shares that his diagnosis of ADHD as an adult lead him to want to shed light on the positive effects of the disorder. In his study he found that impulsivity helped entrepreneurs with ADHD decide to start their business and hyperfocus helped them chase their dream.   

While many entrepreneurs are criticized for waiting for the perfect conditions to start sharing their product or service with the world, jumping in and pivoting on ideas are often skills people with ADHD possess and excel at when paired with the right environment, becoming strengths instead of weaknesses.

Yet entrepreneurship isn’t the only good career fit for those with ADHD. There are many other options for those who seek novelty and fast paced activity at work. Extraordinary individuals range from successful athletes to television stars demonstrate that ADHD doesn’t inhibit success. Everyone, with or without ADHD, have natural gifts and when these traits are highlighted or reinforced with other skills, these qualities that make us different become advantageous.    

If you have ADHD or know someone with ADHD, it’s time to embrace the natural tendencies. Find a treatment or routine that works best for you, but don’t fight what you’re naturally good at. 

What do you think are some skills or careers that people with ADHD are better at than others? Let us know it the comments!

Top 5 Celebrities Who Have ADHD

Perception seems to be changing, but there is a misconception that still holds in parts of society that being diagnosed with ADHD, ADD or an attention disorder somehow makes a person lesser than the norm. It’s as though having attention issues means you can’t be a successful person, and that having attentional difficulties is a big blemish or “problem.” That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes, people with ADHD might need to find coping mechanisms or take advantage of some accommodations like extra time. Some choose to take medication or pursue other treatments. In the end, we know that only you can decide how successful you’re going to be by believing in yourself and working towards your goals. Here is a list of some of our favorite celebrities that rose to the height of success either because of or despite an attention disorder.

Every year, I thought, ‘This is the year I’m going to start paying attention and doing my homework.’”

Scott Kelly

Kelly a retired American astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Captain admits that he never thought becoming an astronaut was possible because as a kid in school he had a lot of trouble focusing. However, this didn’t stop him from becoming a veteran of four space flights. Being an astronaut is an undeniable accomplishment and and with all the demands of the role, he didn’t let focus issues get in the way of that achievement.  Photo: Robert Markowitz – NASA/Flickr

“Having ADHD, and taking medicine for it[. It] is nothing to be ashamed of[,] nothing that I’m afraid to let people know [about.]”

Simone Biles

Biles is an Olympic gymnast who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She won four gold medals and one bronze medal, complete with her own signature move. Biles was diagnosed with ADHD when she was 7 years old. She is very open about her diagnoses and even tweeted that she didn’t think ADHD is anything to be ashamed of. Her dedication and focus to her craft break through the myth of what a person with ADHD can achieve. Photo: Agência Brasil Fotografias/Flickr

“The minute I got diagnosed it was like someone put glasses on.”

Ty Pennington

Pennington is a television host, artist, and model. He is well known for hosting ABC’s reality TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. He didn’t receive his ADHD diagnosis until adulthood but says he wishes he would have been tested sooner because it put his whole life into perspective. Growing up, he had always struggled with focusing and he used art as a way to cope. Once he received the diagnosis, he understood why he had been struggling, but that clearly didn’t keep him from creating amazing work. He encourages others to get tested and research treatment options. Photo: Lloyd Gallman/Flickr 

“I feel a little bit of relief because, for so long, I’ve been fighting it and I’ve been so frustrated with this inability to focus.”

Lisa Ling

Ling is an American journalist and is currently the host of This is Life with Lisa Ling on CNN. She was forty when she received a diagnosis of ADD. She says that she has noticed that she has always had trouble focusing, specifically on things she wasn’t interested in and even recalls that in elementary school teachers would often tell her parents she had issues focusing. Even without a diagnosis, Ling persevered and became a successful journalist.  Photo: Greg Hernandez/Flickr

“I’m an Olympic Champion and I have ADHD.”

Michael Phelps

Phelps is an olympic swimmer and the most decorated Olympic athlete. He was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and admits to he used to be embarrassed of having to take Ritalin. He recalls teachers treating him differently because he had ADHD and even had one teacher tell him he would never succeed at anything. Boy, did he prove that teacher wrong, and is now one of the strongest advocates for kids with ADHD. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

What do you think of these celebrities with ADHD? Do you have any other celebrities with ADHD that you look up to? Let us know in the comment section below!

Take Your Pills… Or Your Friend’s, Or Your Neighbor’s

About two years ago, I was sitting in my school’s library, the sun had set a long time before and the library was basically empty because everyone had already called it a night. I was staring at my computer screen close to tears. It was one of those awful weeks where the stars had aligned just right, and I had two exams and three ten page papers due. I felt the impending doom and paralyzed by stress, I wasn’t getting very much done. One of my really good friends sensed my anxiety, turned to me and said, “I have an Adderall that you can have, if you want it.”

Netflix recently released the new documentary called Take Your Pills and it sheds light on the secret world of illegal consumption of ADHD and ADD medication. Adderall and other ADD/ADHD medication are intended for people with diagnosed mental differences looking for a way to improve their quality of life. The decision to include medication in daily regiment is often not taken lightly for most families, and is a helpful method for people looking for an attention aid. However, Take Your Pills exposes groups of people without these mental disorders who have found that they like the effects of the medication.The documentary exposes how the drugs are being used as performance enhancers in hypercompetitive environments.

At the beginning of the documentary, college students describe their experiences with Adderall. Ariana, a college sophomore diagnosed with ADHD, recalls her experience of going to college and her parents telling her that she needed to get a lockbox for her medication. She didn’t understand why other people would want to take her pills but soon discovered she had entered a world where everyone was taking Adderall, and not as a treatment for ADHD.

Dr. Wendy Brown, Political Theorist at UC Berkeley, describes the driving force behind the use of Adderall as a performance-enhancing drug. She says that in hypercompetitive environments, people are being tasked with concentrating and performing at their highest capacity for as long as they possibly can. In these competitive environments the question becomes how can you come out on top. As a student, how can you beat everyone else?

I’m a college senior, and it’s hard to describe how easy it is to understand why people turn to performance enhancing pills to make ends meet. In college, there is no such thing as a work-life balance. You’re told that your GPA determines where you can go after college and you compete with your peers to make ensure that your future is bright. This is the same mentality used in every competitive environment where people turn to Adderall. Whether it be as extreme as a career in investment banking, or simply trying to get a promotion over other incredibly intelligent and very worthy co-workers, Adderall is used by students and adults alike to gain a competitive edge over their competition.

In Take Your Pills, Delaney, a college junior, calls Adderall “Rx gold” and very openly admits that people will steal the drugs because everyone wants to be the perfect student. She says that everyone wants to be beautiful and skinny, have amazing grades, and go out with friends. She says Adderall ties it all together; it’s a pill that lets you do it all. But is that really the case? And as we know choices come with consequences, and in watching Take Your Pills, we must ask ourselves, what are we giving up by having it all?

That night in the library, as well as every other time I have been offered Adderall, I have turned down the offer. I have never taken Adderall or any other ADHD or ADD medication, but I definitely understand the appeal. Take Your Pills shows many examples of students, athletes and coders who take Adderall and excel. While watching the documentary, I began to wonder if I had been doing college completely wrong, imagining a life if I had been begging my doctor for a prescription, but then I remembered what I decided that night in the library, a long time ago.

Not only is it disrespectful to those people actually needing the medication who are working hard, but I thought that even if it meant sobbing in the library in the wee hours of the morning, I wanted to feel that everything that I accomplished was a direct result of my hard work. We live in a society where it seems like there’s a pill to make you better at everything, and I decided that I wanted to take a step back and just be proud of myself for who I am.

Have you watched the Netflix Documentary Take Your Pills? Do you think people without an ADHD or ADD diagnosis are taking Adderall and Ritalin as performance enhancers? Let us know in the comment section below!

Legit ADHD Resources and How to Find Them

In a day and age focused on the idea of fake news, it is important to be able to differentiate between legitimate information and complete nonsense. Making the distinction might sound like a pretty straightforward concept but the stakes are high when it comes to information regarding your ADHD and other treatments. The Internet is filled with information, both true and false, and it’s important to know the do’s and don’ts when searching the web.

Where to Look
Johns Hopkins Medical Center has a few key tips for anyone trying to find reliable health related information online. The first pointer is to go to websites that are known to be credible. A good starting place for looking up reliable health related information about ADHD is Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library and MedlinePlus. These websites have been written and reviewed by medical personnel, and provide accurate, up-to-date information.

When venturing off of these trusted websites and trying to decide if information on a web page is credible, there are a few things to watch out for. First, make sure the information you are reading is current. Try to find the date when the information was posted. Medical information changes rapidly and something that was advised for patients with ADHD a few years ago could nowadays be recommended against. A good rule of thumb is that information posted more than three years ago is outdated.

Another important thing to note when looking on websites is the author and where the information is coming from. Information posted online can be written by anyone. Always check to make sure articles are written by a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or that the article is citing scientific studies conducted by researchers. Be skeptical of any information found online not written by a medical professional or information not backed by research.

Where Not to Look
A study published in the Journal of Medical Research  states that third-party analytics found Wikipedia to be the most viewed medical resource in the world. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia containing information on a variety of topics including ADHD. Wikipedia has more than 155,555 medical related articles and this medical content was viewed more than 6.5 billion times in 2013. The catch is that the information found on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with internet access.

A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association investigated how accurate the medical information was on Wikipedia. In the study, researchers investigated the accuracy of information on the 10 most costly medical conditions. Researchers compared the medical information found on Wikipedia to the information published in evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources. They found that for 9 of the 10 conditions there were significant differences between the two types of sources. Although some studies have found Wikipedia to be reliable, this study concluded that for medical information, –particularly information on the top 10 most costly medical conditions – is inaccurate and people using Wikipedia are being misinformed.  

Advice From an Expert
Adam Sage, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted research about where parents are looking for information about their child’s ADHD. Sage appreciates that the Internet makes information available to more people, but also warns parents to be aware that there is false information out there.

Sage’s advice to parents searching the Internet for information is to be aware that each child with ADHD is unique. He says, “Any parent will tell you that no two children are the same, so the experience of another parent isn’t necessarily the same as the one you will have.”

Another concern is that we distrust medical professionals based on what we have read online. A major part of Sage’s study was figuring out what questions parents had, and whether or not they were actually asking them during doctor’s visits. He cautions parents not to assume they know information about ADHD because they found articles online. “Occasionally, people assume the information they found is correct and that affects the types of questions they do and don’t ask their physician. Not asking questions prevents the doctor’s ability to correct any misinformation and that’s not always the best way to go into a conversation with your doctor.” He advises parents to get information about their child’s ADHD and to confirm what they’ve found online with a physician or qualified health professional.

What do you think about how medical information is shared on the internet? Do you have any reliable websites you love to get information? Let us know in the comments!

Where to Turn for Answers After an ADHD Diagnosis

Anyone who has a kid or knows a kid can confirm that kids ask lots of question. They ask everything from why the grass is green to why the sky is blue. As a parent you probably find yourself dedicating a good portion of your day to answering questions. You probably also find yourself having lots of questions.

When a child gets diagnosed with ADHD it is natural for parents to have lots of questions. With the unknown, there is a lot of uncertainty about what’s normal. Have you wondered where you can turn to find answers? As our experience with technology has changed, so has our method for finding the answers to our most pressing questions. In the meantime, researchers from all around the world have been on the hunt to understand more about the questions guardians have and where they’re turning for more information about ADHD.

Parents in Other Countries

Researchers in Australia, Italy and Spain have all studied parents of children with ADHD.

In 2010 Australian researchers found that 86% of parents of children with ADHD were getting information from physicians. However, in recent years the Internet has become more accessible and included more content, which has changed the way people search for information.

More recently in 2013, Italian researchers expanded on the Australian study and investigated what kinds of parents were seeking health-related answers online. They found that the majority of parents that turned to Internet searches were moms who were unsatisfied with the information they had received from their child’s general practitioner.    

Meanwhile during the same year in Spain, researchers examined the quality of information available on ADHD websites. Their study focused on the 10 top ranked websites in Spain. Researchers found that the quality of information found on these websites was quite low. However, even with low quality information parents who viewed these sites were more knowledgeable about ADHD and more motivated to find treatment for their child.  

Parents in the United States
Adam Sage, PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was fascinated with the research done overseas and was curious to see how these findings applied to American parents. At the beginning of this year he published a study in Clinical Pediatrics that investigated what kind of questions American parents are asking and where they are looking for answers.

What kinds of questions are parents asking?

Sage and his team found that the most common question that parents had about their child’s ADHD revolved around ADHD medication and the long-term effects of this medication. The top asked question was “What are the long-term effects of my child taking the ADHD medicine?” Other common questions that parents had included what could be done at home to help with ADHD and if the child would ever be able to stop taking the medication.

Where are parents looking for answers?

Sage and his research team found that 87% of parents searched the Internet for ADHD information and 81% of parents searched the Internet for information about ADHD medication.

The study investigated what were the top websites parents were using to get their information. They found that 74% of parents used WebMD to get more information about their child’s ADHD, while 20% of parents used Google and 14% of parents used Message boards.

More heads are better than one
All of these studies make it apparent that parents are turning to the internet to gather additional information about their child’s ADHD. Although the information that is being gathered by parents from WebMD, Google, and other websites can vary in its validity, the internet allows parents access to a wealth of information. The internet offers parents information about treatments and products that can help with a child’s diagnosis or tips for overcoming challenges and celebrating successes that make up daily living. With the speed of innovation happening for these families, it’s exciting that we live in an age where we can do our own research, answer some of our own questions, and then collaborate with specialists to find the best solution for our health-related questions.

What do you think?
Do you have a similar experience when faced with an ADHD diagnosis?  Did you look elsewhere for information about your child’s ADHD? Let us know in the comment section below!

Fidget spinners: Helpful or harmful for focus?

Fidget spinners have taken hold recently with everyone from children to adults across the nation as the newest craze to help with focus. These mesmerizing spinning pieces roll around bearings, but can we say they’re helping?

Children love playing with them and some have said that it allows them to focus better. Teachers aren’t so convinced with their ability to help students stay on task, and many schools have started banning them. This hasn’t kept sellers from claiming that fidget spinners are everyday tools, especially for those with ADHD and attention issues. Although it seems little research has been done on the use of fidget devices, we wanted to take a dive to see if we could learn anything from what we do know about fidgeting and executive cognitive functioning.

Mark Rapport, a University of Central Florida clinical psychologist and ADHD researcher, told a Vox reporter he assumed, “[u]sing a spinner-like gadget is more likely to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD,” as it takes away attention from tasks. His research, instead, shows that more full body movement—like cycling or running—engages the areas in the brain that aid focusing.

Meanwhile, Dr. Pilar Trelles, MD, a psychiatrist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, suggested to Health.com that “when someone is hypersensitive to the environment they might bite their nails, pull out their cuticles, or pinch their skin.” While these fidget spinners are a healthier alternative to expel energy, she notes that they are not a therapy and should not replace other recommendations.


Check out this family’s reaction to fidget spinners.

Especially when we consider the spectrum of differences experienced by people with ADHD, autism, and anxiety, we can assume that fidget spinners are likely to have different effects on different individuals. In fact, a pilot study with middle school students suggests that limited intervention of a stress ball might in fact help decrease distractions and increase grades during lessons for those with ADHD while not offering much help, and potentially increasing distractions, for typical students.

It appears that while these popular fidget spinners might be a solution for some people to explore, they might only be a fun (or distracting) toy for others. The best option may be to test out various accommodations and coping mechanism and see what works for your particular situation. Ultimately, if a solution shows promise in the areas we want to improve—such as focus, calmness, and impulse control—there’s no harm in trying it out.

What do you think about fidget spinners? Are they helpful or a nuisance? Let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Visiting the World Congress on ADHD

Last week, the sixth meeting of the World Congress on ADHD descended on Vancouver, Canada. The World Congress on ADHD is a biannual conference that is sponsored by the World Federation of ADHD, attended by clinicians, scientists, and other healthcare professionals. Our CEO Jake Stauch traveled north to hear more about the latest in ADHD research and I asked him a few questions about his experience.

Why do you think it was important to be at the World Congress on ADHD for NeuroPlus?
Although NeuroPlus is not a treatment, a lot of our users struggle with ADHD. Much of our team has a background as researchers and we are passionate about science and evidence-based innovations. Assessing and addressing attention issues are a core part of our product. So when there’s a conference about the latest research in ADHD and attention issues, we want to be present both to talk about the research and be a part of the conversations on the best way to move forward.

So, when thinking about that, what is some interesting research you heard about?
New research is starting to shed light on the long term effects of medication. Recent studies suggest that stimulant medication alone is not the best intervention for ADHD and there’s some evidence showing that while being an effective short term treatment option, there are diminishing effects from medication after the first year with some growth suppression in the long term. The best effectiveness is observed when medication is coupled with counseling with a  doctor every four weeks to adjust dosage. These findings have come out of Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (MTA) Study, the largest study on medication used to treat ADHD that follows the efficacy of various ADHD interventions  over long time periods.

How about in the areas of other kinds of treatment?
Neurofeedback, one of the core components of NeuroPlus, is accumulating evidence supporting its efficacy in addressing attention issues.  On the other hand, what’s interesting is the conflicting evidence on simple cognitive training—these brain games that we’re used to seeing in the market. Some studies are showing how they have a positive influence, especially in skills closely related to playing the game, but others are showing that these results may not extend to real-world situations. Researchers are very interested in these alternative interventions and it will be interesting to keep a close watch on the research in this field.

Any other observations you noticed from the presentations and conversations at the conference?
As an industry, researchers, clinicians and professionals continue to pursue an understanding of the differences among those with ADHD. There seems to be a growing consensus that what we call ADHD may be heterogeneous in origin, meaning that two different individuals with ADHD may have different deficits with different underlying causes. Because of that, the ideal treatment may be highly specific for each individual. By focusing on the label of “ADHD,” are we missing an opportunity to instead address the cognitive and behavioral deficits shared by people with a range of attention disorders? In other words, if you struggle with attention, whether or not you have ADHD, maybe a future intervention will provide relief from your most pressing challenges. We’ll have to wait and see what the research says!

Thanks for the insight from your travels, Jake! What do you think about the way we talk about ADHD? Do you think there’s a different way of talking about treatment?

Let us know in the comments or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter!

When it comes to ADHD, age is more than just a number

You could be increasing your child’s chances of receiving an ADHD diagnosis by pushing them ahead in school.

A recent report by NPR claims that the youngest children in the classroom are at a higher risk of acquiring an ADHD diagnosis. The article cites multiple studies  done abroad which indicate that children who are young for their grade in school are diagnosed with ADHD more often than their older peers. In sum, these studies highlight the importance of considering a child’s age within their grade when diagnosing a child with ADHD or prescribing them medication.

While age within a grade seems to be a predictor of diagnosis, it may not be a compelling predictor of disorder. One factor that complicates matters is that teacher-report serves as a focal diagnosis tool. Teachers, however, can be biased against the youngest kids in the classroom because they constantly compare them to older, more mature students. A study recently conducted in the U.S. indicates that where a child’s birthdate falls in relation to their school’s kindergarten cut-off date significantly influences their likelihood of diagnosis due to teacher-report, which could be misconstrued: “A child’s birth date relative to the eligibility cutoff also strongly influences teachers’ assessments of whether the child exhibits ADHD symptoms but is only weakly associated with similarly measured parental assessments, suggesting that many diagnoses may be driven by teachers’ perceptions of poor behavior among the youngest children in a classroom.” Comparison is intrinsic to a classroom setting, but may play to the detriment of those who are behind in their social development.

Not only does social maturation influence teachers’ perception and subsequent diagnosis rates of younger children, but also biological maturation. That is, a child’s maturity is connected to both their bodies and their minds. Evidence shows that children diagnosed with ADHD early in their school careers often show a significant symptom reduction as they age, indicating that misdiagnosis often occurs and is correlated with biological immaturity: “This study gives support to the theory that there is a group of children with ADHD-symptoms who have a biological maturational-lag who will show a decrease in their ADHD-symptoms as they show a maturation catch-up with increasing age.” In essence, children exhibiting immature behavior do not necessarily have ADHD, yet there is a strong bias towards diagnosing them.

While these misdiagnoses are understandable and probably somewhat inevitable, they could be dangerous. First and foremost, it may not be advisable to put a child on stimulants if they’re simply young for their class, for fear of purposeless side effects. Moreover, their symptoms may remedy themselves as the child matures. Secondary dangers include social effects. Children diagnosed without cause could experience a type of Golem Effect,  a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby a child transforms into the label they are diagnosed with… This phenomenon has parallels to Malcolm Gladwell’s “relative-age effect,  by which an initial advantage attributable to age gets turned into a more profound advantage over time.” Gladwell discusses this in the context of professional Canadian hockey players, who are far more likely to be born in January, February and March than in other months, due to the junior hockey league’s cut-off of January 1st. Because the oldest kids are more physically mature and seem better, they get extra attention, better coaching, and more practice, factors that compound over time and eventually lead them to become professionals. The same idea could hold true for ADHD diagnosis, but unfortunately, in the opposite direction. Children who are younger seem symptomatic and are labelled as such, limiting their ability in the eyes of teachers, who in turn put less effort into cultivating their abilities.

Gladwell proposes an interesting solution. He suggests that elementary and middle schools put students with January through April birthdays in one class, the May through August birthdays in another, and those with September through December in a third, in order “to level the playing field for those who—through no fault of their own—have been dealt a big disadvantage.” Promising as it sounds, we’re unlikely to see these kinds of systematic changes anytime soon.

More attainable for you, however, is the possibility of training attention skills to compensate for relative immaturity in the classroom. Products like NeuroPlus can help improve attention skills in children who are developmentally behind their peers. In this way, children can accelerate the maturation of their attention abilities in a safe and controlled environment, void of negative side-effects.

Regardless of the course you take, if you have a child who is young for their grade and struggling in school, know that attention takes practice and time.