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The Latest and (not-so) Greatest on ADD and ADHD

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Heavy metal toxicity
High levels of toxic chemicals - like lead, copper and aluminum - can be found in many ADHD children. Though the cause can't always be traced, some theorize that possible avenues could include tainted water, drinking from aluminum cans, and food prepared in aluminum cookware. Increased cadmium intake - as found in children who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, may increase ADHD symptoms.

Test: A hair analysis can screen for toxic metals.

Solution: Consult with a holistic doctor or nutritionist who specializes in nutritional balancing and hair mineral analysis. They should be able to provide you with products to help detoxify your child's body and supplement with important vitamins and minerals that may be too low. If your child is still being exposed to second-hand smoke, you may need to set new rules in your home or extended environment.

If you or a close relative have ADD or ADHD, chances are your child has it too. In fact, children whose father's had the disorder have a 30 percent chance of having it.

Test: While PET brain scans can measure the size of the brain (People with ADD/ADHD have 3 - 4 percent smaller brains than the rest of the general population.) and for low activity in the front-subcortical system (People with ADD/ADHD actually have less activity in this region because it controls impulses and attention), they can be costly and generally aren't covered by insurance for ADD/ADHD consultations. A less expensive (sometimes free) and more accurate assessment can be done with a professional cognitive skills assessment. The tests measure the strength and weaknesses of underlying cognitive skills, including things like auditory and visual processing, memory, processing speed, comprehension, attention, and logic and reasoning.

Solution: If a professional cognitive skills assessment reveals weak brain skills in one or more areas, you may want to consider cognitive skills training. While some parents choose to put their children on Ritalin, medication should only be used as a last resort. "Over 50 percent of our ADHD students will discontinue medication while in training," explains Tanya Mitchell, Director of Training for LearningRx, a national brain training franchise. "A child with ADD/ADHD will almost always have weak attention skills, but it often goes hand in hand with other weak skills. In most cases, cognitive skills training can strengthen weak cognitive skills drastically - as much as three to five age levels."

Although many scientists theorize that there's an ADD/ADHD gene, no proof has been found. Until then, look for solutions to decrease the symptoms of ADD/ADHD in your child's daily life. Even small modifications can make a big difference.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer in Colorado Springs. Her third book, "The Writer's Digest Guide to Queries; Landing articles, agents and book deals" is now available for pre-order.

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