[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]According to a 2011 report from the Center for Disease Control, the rate of ADHD diagnoses was 11% in children ages 4 to 17. When I was that age the diagnosis rate was about 3% – 5%. If you want to do the math, I’m 43. Recommendations on how to treat the disorder have changed over the years, and we’ll get to that. But first, I wanted to share my experience, as someone who has dealt with Attention Deficit Disorder his entire life. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]I always had attention issues. Growing up, the only places these issues didn’t plague me were music class, choir, and band. Everywhere else, I had all the classic symptoms: loss of time, easily distracted, constant talking, and the strangest for me – hyperfocus. Hyperfocus manifested itself quite strongly, and I didn’t know what to call it or how to talk about it until years later. When I had moments of hyperfocus, the world around me seemingly slowed down, my heart felt like it was racing, and my periphery narrowed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I was never diagnosed as a child. It was my wife, a public school music teacher, who first suggested that I have myself screened. She witnessed many moments of distraction, loss of focus, and even hyperfocus, which seems counterintuitive to the name of the disorder and its other symptoms. Throughout my undergrad and masters degrees, I was able to use various coping mechanisms in class to overcome ADHD challenges. I’d sit in the front row, constantly ask questions, and borrow friends’ notes, take them home, and retype them. All of this worked until I started my doctoral studies. I finally caved and sought help.
I’ve often been asked what ADHD (I never experienced the “H” part) felt like. This was my best description: if a thought started at the back of my head, and found completion as it moved to the front of my head, I felt like there was a bundle of straws going in every direction between the back and the front, preventing the thought from making the journey efficiently. In my case, I was diagnosed at age 36, and my doctor and I decided to try a medication. The first day taking the meds I went to the library. It was as if all those straws were lined up in perfect parallel. Those thoughts that were getting lost? They now had a clear path from onset to realization. In the past, I’d get a few pages of notes after a three hour visit to the library. That day? I took 35 pages of well organized notes that stuck in my head in perfect order.
This was the right choice for me. I don’t need to take the medication every day, only when I need it. That usually is when I need to do in-depth, complex reading.
My wife calls them my “do the dishes” pills. She says I notice things that need to be taken care of much more readily if I have taken one on a given day. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Current CDC Recommendations
The CDC now recommends behavior therapy as the first line of treatment in young children. It is beneficial for parents with children who have been diagnosed to learn as much about ADHD and to go through parent training in behavior therapy. The CDC states:
“Children who have ADHD act in ways that are often challenging for parents. Children may forget things they are told, be overly active, and act before thinking. They might not be able to get positive attention the way that other children can; they tend to misbehave and might be punished more frequently than other children. Even if children with ADHD really try to follow rules, they might not be able to. This can have a negative impact on their self-image, and cause them to give up trying or to act up more often.
A therapist skilled in behavior management can help parents understand how ADHD affects their child. Parent training in behavior therapy is used to help change problem behaviors by building parenting skills, improving the relationship between parents and their child with ADHD, and helping children manage their own behaviors.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Music and ADHD
But what about music? This is, after all, a music education blog! Well, a recent ADDitude article, the online magazine offering strategies and support for the ADHD community, provided the following:
“Music strengthens the areas of the brain that, in the child with ADHD, are weak. Music builds and strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial, and motor cortices of the brain. These areas are tied to speech and language, reading, reading comprehension, math, problem solving, brain organization, focusing, concentration, and attention issues. Studies indicate that when…children with ADHD learn a musical instrument, attention, concentration, impulse control, social functioning, self-esteem, self-expression, motivation, and memory improve. Some studies show that children who have difficulty focusing when there is background noise are particularly helped by music lessons.”
It makes good sense that these experiences start at an early age. And research supports that. Get them involved from birth. The impact music has on the brain is tremendous.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Sharlene Habernyer, the author of the above referenced ADDitude article, provides a list of strategies she used with her son, Brandon, a child diagnosed with ADHD. Here are some of them:
- Start group music lessons. When he is about 18 months old, find a group music program for your child.
- Dance to the music. Movement for an ADHD child is a must! In fact, movement is an indispensable part of learning, thinking, and focusing. As a child moves to different cadences and rhythms, his physical coordination and ability to concentrate improve.
- Draw what you hear. Many ADHD children are creative and in search of creative outlets. Drawing or doodling engages motor skills, organizes the brain, and stimulates artistic juices. After a busy day at school, and before your child jumps into homework, give her paper and crayons, put on some classical music, and let her draw.
- Read music books. I’m a strong advocate of reading to your children every day. Reading builds focus, concentration, vocabulary, speech and language, and writing skills. I read many books to our sons, some of which were associated with music: Swine Lake, by James Marshall (a great book to introduce your kids to the ballet Swan Lake), and Lentil, by Robert McCloskey.
- Start private music lessons between the ages of five and seven. If you are a parent with ADHD, take music lessons along with your child.
- March in the morning. Children with ADHD usually have a hard time attending to tasks during the busy morning hours. Every morning, play marching music (John Philip Sousa tunes are great) and march from activity to activity — getting dressed, making beds, eating breakfast, brushing teeth — with feet moving and arms swaying.
- Sing your way to school. Teachers want students to be ready to learn when they come to class. So, on your way to school, sing in the car or play classical music.
So…what are you waiting for? Kindermusik provides experiences that benefit every child. And the more you are involved, the better! [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]