Neurodiversity, in a more modern application, describes the unique and multivariate differences in all people. Looking at all individuals, we can see vast differences in the brain and mental functioning with the processing, retrieval, and abstraction of incoming information. Variability appears in ideas and concept formation, adaptability to change, and accomplishing tasks.
Labels and diagnosis Helpful or Not, when Traits of Dyslexia, ADHD, or Autism Spectrum Appear
Dyslexia, autism spectrum, and ADHD have some characteristics that relate to myself and some of my family members. As a child, I had difficulty reading, mispronouncing words, and struggling in areas such as math and foreign languages. With prodigious effort and over-learning, I gained improvement and a certain level of mastery.
The Risk of Distraction and a Familiar Tale of Woe
We all experience what seems like a bit of inattention that leads to a disaster—a disruption in the flow and harmony of daily life. A burned tea kettle incident led to the exploration of the deeper operations of our inner psychology, its related outer expression, and the different levels of awareness and personal meaning of possessions.
My wife and I had sat down to watch a recent movie about a family with turmoil and conflict. After the first short segment, we suddenly became aware and jumped up. We had forgotten about the tea kettle…
Sam was lagging in his school work and was falling asleep on his school desk. His grades were failing. He was getting into fights, according to his principal. Other kids were bullying and picking on him. At home and school, he was often moody and irritable. He avoided social activities and liked to play by himself or watch TV. The school called his mother to make an appointment. What happened next totally caught everyone off guard. Help had come too late. [i]
are common in our population and may contribute to unique advantages or disadvantages. There now is better recognition and awareness of autistic traits. Current scientific evidence supports that there is a predominant genetic origin of AST.
Autism Spectrum refers to the varied presentation of individuals that may have unique strengths but also challenges with difficulties in social skills, communication, motor coordination, repetitious movements or behaviors, and early-life developmental issues.
“Unique Talent Attributes (UTA)” are distinguishing, often underappreciated abilities and talents,
found in a valuable minority of our population. Individuals can similarly have exceptional potential and skills, but also have significant difficulty in such areas as social and cognitive functioning. When labels as “autistic traits” or “Autism Spectrum” are inappropriately used, there can be unfavorable inferences or consequences.
I had an older brother who lived the best productive life he could. He was disadvantaged from birth with genetic and developmental differences that distinguished him from others in his age group.
People with attention, focus, or ADHD difficulties can be at a disadvantage in work, academic, and social situations.
ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or also referred to as ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder), when diagnosed, allows for a workplace or school accommodations under ADA laws (American Disability Act). Many with less apparent attention/focus (including ADHD) problems may not be considered impaired or disabled, even though they struggle to maintain focus and attention. When someone with focus or attention issues is in a positive fit with their life situation – operating within their capacity, they are often creative, talented, and productive citizens.
Meditation, Mindfulness, or Introspective Practices
have well proven their value in holistic mental health work for mood, anxiety, addiction, and health issues. Meditation can be an essential tool for happiness and mental health. Enhancement of longevity and decrease in brain aging has also been demonstrated as an added benefit. In many other areas, there are proven benefits as in work, school, athletic performance, sleep, and creativity. The mere awareness in meditation – that thoughts and emotion are of a changing and transient nature – is enlightening for those felt imprisoned by harsh negative thoughts and emotions.
Improper recognition or misdiagnosing of Attention/Focus Problems (AFP) and ADHD (Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder also referred to as ADD) can lead to severe adult problems as:
Severe job compromise or loss
Interference with relationships and family life
Loss of self-esteem
Development of mental and physical health problems
Not getting things done
Discrimination in the workplace
Marge* had gone to an ADHD specialist as she was losing her business and marriage. She couldn’t focus or attend to things and felt very scattered. She took a stimulant medication but developed disabling anxiety, panic and depression with suicidal thoughts. She switched her care to a more attentive holistic practitioner. Their work together revealed recent significant trauma. Six months before the onset of her problems, she was assaulted after leaving her place of business. Soon after, she developed severe problems with attention, focus and symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Also, it was found that she had a severe iron deficiency anemia and early signs of thyroid disease. She stopped her stimulant medication, started a PTSD therapy program and started treatment for her other medical issues. Her symptoms rapidly responded to treatment, and now her attention and focus are back to normal. Her business and marriage are now again successful.
* (To protect confidentiality, the above is a composite of many clinical experiences and does not represent an actual person or any prior patients.)
Having attention/focus problems (AFP) and ADHD difficulties can be problematic when an individual finds himself (or herself — gender assumed) in an adverse work or life situation. Examples would be: not being able to relate to others effectively, unable to get work done or meet the demands for performance and productivity. Ill health can develop from being chronically overextended, not getting adequate sleep or from continued stress from the AFP.
There is often discrimination against people with AFP and ADHD in work, academic and social situations; however, attention problems in all forms are common in our population. ADHD, when diagnosed, allows for a workplace or school accommodations under ADA laws (American Disability Act). Many with attention/focus (including ADHD) problems, if minor, would not be considered significantly impaired or disabled, even though they might struggle to remain focused or attentive at times . When in a positive fit with their life situation and operating within their capacity, many with AFP are some of our most creative, talented and productive citizens.
How do you recognize AFP and ADHD?
There are many conditions that can masquerade and significantly contribute to attention/focus problems or the actual condition of ADHD. Information gathering and a holistic consultation can be helpful, especially when there hasn’t been a good response to simple or conventional treatments.
A significant percentage of childhood and adolescent with AFP or ADHD will continue to have symptoms and problems into adulthood. The inattentive type of symptoms seem to be the most prevalent ones in adulthood – as difficulties with organizing, sustaining
attention, distraction, finishing tasks, procrastination, losing things, forgetfulness and making mistakes.
In adults with AFP and ADHD, symptoms as internal restlessness, substance abuse may be common. Less likely symptoms of hyperactivity, difficulties with decision making and poor impulse control could also, though less likely, be present. In Childhood and Adolescent, one would more likely see difficulties with fidgeting, feeling settled, relaxing quietly, talking excessively, intruding into the conversation, blurting out answers, or running & climbing dangerously. See the following links for further information: ADDA,Adult ADD Univ. of Maryland questionnaire and Web MD.
A holistic approach to AFP or ADHD is important especially when:
other safer and more natural approaches may be available
medication are use ahead of careful examination for other causes or contributing factors
marked improvement is possible when other causes or contributing factors are addressed in a person with AFP and ADHD
Contributing factors often overlooked (important to find before considering medication) include:
medication side effects
drug abuse & chemical dependency
medical condition as: thyroid problems, hidden infection, inflammatory diseases, or nutritional deficiencies
mood disorders as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or past trauma
environmental allergies & sensitivities
family disruption or dysfunction
major losses and worries including financial problems, job loss, marital problems
Holistic approaches to AFP and/or ADHD to be considered include:
identifying environmental illness, sensitivities and allergies
improving nutrition with diet with more organic, fresh whole foods, considering supplements as fish oil (omega 3’s), magnesium, zinc, B-vitamins (as B6, folic acid), melatonin, or iron if indicated
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