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Possible Link Between Prenatal Caffeine and ADHD

High maternal caffeine consumption is associated with ADHD-like behavior at 11 years old.

Danish researchers found a significant trend associating increasing levels of coffee consumption during pregnancy and the risk of having children with a behavioral profile that fits ADHD. The strongest correlation was between caffeine consumption at 15 weeks gestation, suggesting a developmental window when fetal brains may be more sensitive to the effects of caffeine. More research is needed before cause and effect can be determined.

PositiveTip: Pregnant women might want to avoid caffeine, especially during the early weeks of pregnancy!

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Being Younger than Classmates Increases ADHD Diagnoses

The youngest classmates before age 10 were more likely to have ADHD.

In a Finish population-level study, the youngest classmates in early elementary school were more likely to receive a diagnoses of ADHD until 10 years of age. Confounders such as learning disorders did not affect the finding. Ellen G White, an early health reformer wrote, "It is customary to send very young children to school.... This course is not wise. A nervous child should not be overtaxed in any direction." (Child Guidance, page 302)

PositiveTip: It is healthier for a child to start school a little older rather than "outgrow" an ADHD diagnoses.

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Sleep Can Improve ADHD Symptoms

A behavioral sleep management plan may improve ADHD symptoms.

A randomized Australian trial of 250 children with ADHD, most taking stimulants, and all experiencing moderate-to-severe sleep problems found a behavioral sleep intervention program resulted in significantly better improvements in parent-reported ADHD symptoms than the usual care group. Sleep problems, behavior, memory, and quality of life were all improved. Families were educated on normal sleep, sleep cycles, and sleep hygiene; then given a behavioral sleep plan.

PositiveTip: Just 10 minutes longer sleep per day can make a big difference in the ADHD child and the family.

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Parenting Skills Important in ADHD

Medications not always best for ADHD.

Interventions for pre-school children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) vary widely, and frequently include medications. A systematic review of the literature found training the parents actually topped medication and other interventions. Parent behavior training consistently resulted in better outcomes than treatment with medication. Limitations of this analysis included small sample sizes and reliance on parental reports of child behavior.

PositiveTip: Parenting skills may have significant impact on the behavior of ADHD children.

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Late Bedtimes in Very Young Can Have Long Lasting Consequences

Early bedtimes during preschool years reduces risk of ADHD.

Children who do not get early, adequate sleep before the age of 4 are more likely to develop ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). A study of 6868 preschool children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort has found that early, regular bedtimes is a strong predictor of normal development.  Lack of regular sleep in this age group leads to inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and ultimately lower academic performance.

PositiveTip: The long-term benefits of getting your young children to bed early are significant--in spite of the challenges.

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Children with ADHD Often Have other Disorders

Four million US children have ADHD and most have other disorders.

Data from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health of kids between 6 and 17 years with parent-reported diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) reveals they were far more likely than children without ADHD to have other disorders such as learning disabilities, behavior disorders and depression. Only one-third of those with ADHD had no other cormorbidities. Those with ADHD were also significantly more likely to repeat a grade and have school-related problems.

PositiveTip: If you suspect your child has ADHD, ask your physician to do a thorough diagnosis--then work closely with health care providers to provide the best treatments.

Early Childhood Sleep Deprivation May Lead to ADHD

Child sleep while mom is on the computer.The report from the Kaiser Family Foundation goes on to discuss other issues related to the media and sleep:

“Sleep problems in middle childhood tend to be persistent. This fact raises the question as to what, if any, are the long-term effects of media use on children’s sleep. It may be, for example, that there is a critical window early on in which good sleep habits are established.

One prominent sleep researcher has argued that sleep problems in early childhood may have adverse developmental impacts that are not fully observable until years later. This researcher speculates that early sleep deprivation in children is part of the cause of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

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Stimulants and Youth: A Sobering Association

Common stimulant medications linked to sudden, unexplained deaths in youth.

There have been increasing concerns in recent years that stimulant drugs commonly given for ADHD may be associated with an increased risk of sudden, unexplained death in young people. In a new retrospective, case-controlled study researchers have reported the probability that those using the most commonly prescribed stimulant (methylphenidate) was 7.4 compared to those who were not. (If it had been 1, then the probability would have been the same for each group.)