By Leslie Lindsay
I am delighted to introduce Dr. John Taylor, a nationally known AD/HD specialist and president/founder of ADD-Plus for our new series, “The ADDed Benefits of AD/HD.”
He’s the father of eight (!), three of whom have been diagnosed with AD/HD.
In addition, he has written thirteen books on the subject and countless publications and journal articles. I think the guy knows what he’s talking about!
If you’re just now joining us here at SPEAKING OF APRAXIA, then don’t be alarmed…you are in the right place! This is where we talk about all things childhood apraxia of speech (CAS). Just for this series, we’re focusing on one of the very common conditions that often accompany CAS: AD/HD.
Leslie Lindsay: Thank you for agreeing to be with us today, Dr. Taylor! I think many parents have questions and concerns about AD/HD. What are some of the most common myths you’ve heard about the diagnosis and what message might you to parents?
Dr. Taylor: The most common myths about ADHD include:
(1) diet has nothing to do with symptom picture;
(2) toxic chemical exposures have nothing to do with symptom picture;
(3) sugar doesn’t make them worse and has a “bad rap” as a symptom exacerbator;
(4) AD/HD doesn’t exist and is a falsehood promoted by the pharmaceutical industry to make more profits;
(5) the only locus of abnormality is within the brain;
(6) it can’t be accurately diagnosed until the child is six years old;
(7) the child’s most common problems are behavior control problems;
(8) the problems it generates within the family are mild and easily eliminated by mediocre-level parenting.
My messages to parents include exploding the above myths and conveying the contrasting realities. Nutritional manipulation, especially trickle-feeding of protein foods, is one of the strongest and safest ways to reduce symptoms, at least for 60% of children with ADHD. Toxic chemical exposures drive up symptoms in about 80% of children with ADHD, according to a massive amount of research over the last 35 years (over 400 studies in journals). Sugar is a villain, but a weak one easily compensated for by protein; man-made sugar substitutes are usually a worse option; natural stevia is the best sweetener and doesn’t worsen ADHD symptoms. The loci of abnormality for most children with ADHD are six organ systems: brain, digestive tract, skin, immune system, blood sugar control mechanism, and blood itself (two abnormalities recently detected). Accurate diagnosis, if the diagnostician follows my guidelines, is highly probable by age two for those with a moderate to severe level of ADHD. The most common problems are academic, with 80% of children with ADHD benefitting from special academic methods or accommodations; 40% of them have learning disabilities. The most common complaint they actually make when interviewed by mental health professionals is that they don’t have enough friends. Family stressed generated by ADHD are severe, and I often refer to ADHD as a family splitting force; prevention of such damage to the relationships within the family is seldom if ever accomplished by mediocre parenting performance.
Leslie Lindsay: For me, I hear a lot of, “S/he’s just being a typical, energetic kid.” How can we tactfully point out that ‘no, there is something else going on.’ And frankly, whose business is it, anyway?
Dr. Taylor: The three most common diagnostic run-arounds these parents receive in the early years of trying to discover what is wrong are (1) “Boys will be boys” (75% of these children are male); (2) This is just a phase; s/he’ll grow out of it”; and (3) The child’s aberrant behavior is the parent’s fault as in being too lax and spoiling the child or being too firm and failing to support self-esteem enough.
To get beyond these simplistic off-the-mark conclusions, document evidence that the child is showing key ADHD symptoms to a significant degree. To make this issue even more confusing, all ADHD symptoms come from the range of “normal” experience, so that it is safe to say that everyone has some of the symptoms at some time or other. The diagnosis is, in fact, that these symptoms occur too much, at too great an intensity, in too great a number to be passed off as “normal.” A great place to start for a hyperactive child is a screening checklist for hyperactivity. A very accurate one is available free of charge as a download from my website.
As to whose business it is, it is definitely the parent’s and child’s business to become aware of, and thoroughly knowledgeable about, any significant medical or psychiatric condition the child has. If the child has ADHD, it is therefore also the child’s “business.” That’s why I wrote the book for children with ADHD to read, as a source of wide-ranging insights and assistance for their daily coping at home and at school.
Leslie Lindsay: Let’s talk about girls. I happen to have a 9-year old daughter with AD/HD who is very bright, creative, and inventive. In fact, she talks about being an inventor/engineer or artist when she grows up. Yet, it’s my understanding that girls often are hard to diagnose because they present with slightly different symptoms than boys. Can you explain the differences between how each gender presents?
Dr. Taylor: Your daughter is typical of most children with ADHD. There are six talent areas to hunt for, and they spell MADAM-C. They are mechanical, artistic, dramatic, athletic (the least common of the six) musical, and computer skills. Hyperactive girls tend to be tomboyish, and there is apparently an underproduction of or blocking of estrogen-related phenomena in both boys and girls with ADHD. Girls with ADHD are more likely to be regarded as distractible and being chatterboxes, while boys are most distinctively seen as aggressive and hyperactive. Whereas only 20% of hyperactive children are girls, about 40% of kids with “pure” ADD (without the hyperactivity) are girls. Among children with ADHD, girls do better socially and academically than boys do. They’re also less likely to become substance abusers and delinquents during adolescence than boys with ADHD.
Leslie Lindsay: Okay, full disclosure: when I was a child/adolescent psych R.N., it was one of my worst fears I’d have a child with AD/HD. Looking back, I sort of cringe at that fear. We can’t control these things anymore than can control the color or hair or eye color our kids have. That said what advice would you give to a mother parenting a daughter with AD/HD?
Dr. Taylor: My advice would be to follow all the guidelines in the various chapters of my comprehensive guide for parenting any child with ADD, “Helping Your ADD Child.” The chapters on enhancing the child’s self-esteem, improving the child’s social skills, getting the best professional help, reducing symptoms by the four avenues (physiological, psychological, sensory-motor, and academic) and regaining family harmony would be relevant. Interview your daughter once a month about how her life is going, detecting any problems and making sure her emotional needs are being met well.
Leslie Lindsay: Yet when we try to encourage our kids to be themselves, to do their best, to highlight their gifts, we still get frustrated. What would you identify as the common “problems” parents and their AD/HD kiddos have with one another? And how can we overcome them?
Dr. Taylor: Self-esteem and its attendant issues are at the root of much of the conflict in families with children who have ADHD. Use “Super Strokes” (download from my website, “ADD Extras”) and avoid praising and similar judgmental methods that aren’t powerful enough to bolster the sagging self-esteem characterizing most children with ADHD. Having the once-a-month personal private interview is also a valuable tool to reduce parent-child conflict in these families. A common problem is the parent’s feeling forced to nag and remind; many of these parents have told me statements such as “If I don’t nag him, he won’t get it done.” Yet nagging is a parenting error to be diligently avoided. My various resources explain how, but the important thing is to get out of the nagging role. Tell your child once then follow up with some sort of action; in other words, speak with the tongue in our shoe, not just a constantly wagging tongue in your mouth. The launch of each day is also a problem time for many of these families. The majority of hyperactive boys and girls are yelled at most mornings before they get out the door to go to school. The consequent toll on their self-esteem and their ability to cope with the stresses of the school day is devastating. Plan for an orderly launch of the day; set things out the night before, and have a peaceable breakfast available for the child.
Leslie Lindsay: Your book, THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR KIDS WITH AD/HD is designed for kids ages 8-12 and contains “kid-friendly tools for making each day great.” Can you describe some of those tips and tools?
Dr. Taylor: I wanted my guide to be frankly helpful and usable by any child who has ADHD, with or without the “hyperactivity” component. One “tool” is a four-step procedure I developed by working directly with kids who have ADHD to improve their decision-making. Hyperactive kids make decisions carelessly and impulsively, and kids with “pure” ADD make their decisions too slowly and too cautiously. Two more “tools” are my nutrition and sleep guidelines; most parents of these kids don’t understand how to manipulate sleep and nutritional variables to reduce the symptoms. Other tools include a fun idea list of things to do when they become bored or are stuck inside on a rainy day. There are dozens more of these unique “tools” that don’t appear in generic books for these kids.
Leslie Lindsay: Many thanks for being with us today, Dr. Taylor! What a fantastic education.
Dr. Taylor: Thank you. This is an important topic, and these children and their families need this information.
For more information on Dr. Taylor, his publications, and worksheets/screening tools, please visit: ADD-Plus
Bio: Regarded as an innovator in the field of ADD, John F. Taylor, Ph.D. is a family psychologist and father of eight children, three of whom have ADD. His practice has focused for over twenty years on children and adolescents with ADD/ADHD. He authored one of the first books devoted to ADD/ADHD family relationship issues (THE HYPERACTIVE CHILD AND THE FAMILY). His recent book “Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses” helps children with ADHD, autism, and other conditions featuring impaired sensory processing.
A prolific developer of techniques and resources for ADD/ADHD as well as a captivating speaker, he has often been featured at conferences and on nationally broadcast talk shows. He has authored numerous books and parent educational materials as well as many articles in professional journals, including the “Sharpening Your Counseling Skills” column in the journal PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR COUNSELORS. A consultant and item writer for the recently published Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-3), he is listed in WHO’S WHO IN THE WEST and WHO’S WHO AMONG HUMAN SERVICE PROFESSIONALS, and THE INTERNATIONAL WHO’S WHO OF PROFESSIONALS.
Among Dr. Taylor’s over 200 creative articles, audio and video productions and books are
- The Hyperactive Child and the Family
- A.D.D. School Success Tool Kit Video
- The Answers to A.D.D.Audiotape Series
- The Attention Deficit Hyperactive Student at School
- Anger Control Training For Children and Teens
- Person to Person: Awareness Techniques
- Social Skills Solutions Video
- Why Can’t I Eat That?
- Diagnostic Interviewing of the Misbehaving Child
- Intimate Encounter
- Understanding Misbehavior
- Motivating the Uncooperative Student
- Family Power Series
- Counselor Survival Guide Series
- From Defiance to Cooperation