A landmark study published in the online journal Lancet Psychiatry last month has provided the largest definitive uncovering of long-suspected brain structural anomalies in persons who have ADHD. I, along with some others at the forefront of ADHD, have long maintained that there are genuine neurological and biological bases for ADHD. This study goes a long way to finalize this issue, which has remained controversial for decades.
Dutch neuroscientists analyzed MRI scans of the brains of more than 3,200 people (ages 4 through 63 with a median of 14) about half of whom were diagnosed as having ADHD. The brain scans revealed that five brain regions were smaller in people with ADHD: the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure involved in processing emotions like fear and pleasure; the hippocampus, which plays a role in learning, memory and emotion; and three brain areas within the striatum (caudate nucleus, putamen and nucleus accumbens) that help process the brain’s reward system. Brain volume differences did not correlate with stimulant use, suggesting that such discrepancies were not a result of medication.
Prevent sensory overload while shopping. Children with autism are especially prone to experience being overwhelmed sights, sounds, touch sensations and smells when out in public. If you are the parent, be alert to the specific triggers that cause this problem. Consider keeping a journal about possible triggers, noting the circumstance and the severity and duration of the overload reaction in your child.
To help you focus on the most likely ones, hunt for your child’s distinct mannerism that indicate overload. Teach your child to use a codeword to indicate discomfort. Steer clear of noisy areas with bright or chaotic lighting while shopping. Time shopping trips to occur during periods of least patronage of the stores you are going to. Bring earplugs or earphones and a comfortable visor or sunglasses for the child. Take your child’s hand when necessary for calming, always avoiding surprise touch.
Fragile X syndrome, named for the unstable condition of the X chromosome, affects boys much more often than girls. Girls suffer less obvious symptoms, often having a normal range of intelligence, and only about 1/3 of the girls with Fragile X syndrome have recognized learning problems. All children with Fragile X syndrome have numerous symptoms that overlap (and are often misdiagnosed and representing exclusively) ADHD symptoms. Poor concentration skills, difficulties with interpersonal relationships, anxiety in social situations and in unfamiliar situations are common symptoms. Occasionally prominent jaw and ears along with a long narrow face can occur. All children with this condition merit professional interventions, primarily targeting the ADHD symptoms.