“My kid is so hyper…I am worried he has ADHD.”   Lot of parents voice this fear to me.  While hyperactivity may be  concerning, ADHD is much much more than just “being hyper”.  This post, though, is not about diagnosing ADHD.   It is about my journey and thought process in trying to avoid ADHD in my children.

Like many first-time parents, I can tell you that I did a lot of thinking and worrying about a myriad of things.   But being a pediatrician and seeing parents struggle with their child’s ADHD, I couldn’t help but think, “Can I prevent ADHD in my kid and other kids?”  Certainly there is a genetic component in many families that one cannot control.  We can do our best to have a healthy pregnancy by not smoking or drinking and getting timely prenatal care.  We can try to decrease our home and occupational exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and lead.  We cannot, however, prevent birth trauma, prematurity, and the stresses and catastrophes of life.

Some environmental factors, though, are indeed in our control.  One of them is to encourage the love of LISTENING.  Do babies really listen?  Unquestionably!!  Listening to a loving and gentle voice talking, singing, and cooing will teach them to concentrate.  Don’t put an “educational DVD” on.   There is absolutely no comparison between a baby who listens to his parent (or caregiver) singing a nursery rhyme versus a baby who listens to the same thing on TV.

Also, AVOID TV (as much as possible) in front  of the baby or the toddler.  As a new mom, sometimes I found myself taking care of the baby with the TV playing in the background.  While, I agree that keeping track of what is happening in the world restores some parental sanity, it can be done in small doses.  The fast-paced explosion of sounds, lights, and colors from TV or the computer can train their impressionable brain to seek that fast pace all the time.  Later, they can have a hard time focusing on slower activities like reading/reading comprehension and math logic.

Don’t forget that eating a HEALTHY VARIED DIET is crucial.  I can’t help but notice a pattern of sleep and behavioral issues in children who eat processed cheese products and high-sugar cookies/drinks for “snacks.”  Surely, these “foods” don’t provide any nutritional value to the body and by the way, we shouldn’t really call them food.

Be a SMART SHOPPER of toys and activities.  Fostering the fun in doing sit-down activities is important. Puzzles are great at not only building fine motor skills, but they ask the brain to concentrate, use logic, and build visual-spatial skills.  I personally like the wooden puzzles.  Once your child is able to pick up objects with the “pincer (forefinger and thumb),” introduce the big wooden puzzle blocks.   Start board games when you think they are ready and play as a family.  Age-appropriate blocks and legos are another excellent way for boys and girls to literally build their imagination.   Encourage the love of playing physical sports, but don’t forget the “mental” sports!

Remember the goal is to help increase their brain’s ability to focus, listen to their environmental cues, and respond appropriately.  Believe me, these are skills that they will use in all spheres of their life.   While I wish I could say that doing all these things can prevent ADHD, many factors are just not under our control.  Every child is unique, and it is hard to predict which child will have ADHD and which will not.  It is best to talk to your pediatrician who knows your child and your family well.

Please comment and let me know what you think.

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