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Attention Deficit Disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders – ADD ADHD

Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – ADD  / ADHD – belong to a spectrum of neurological disorders with no known physiological basis or so it was thought.
The spectrum goes from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) through Learning Disabilities, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, to Pervasive Developmental Disorders and Autism.

To read case studies detailing ADD & ADHD click here

The neurological mechanisms involved in all the ADD and ADHD disorders are very similar and there are very high levels of co-morbidity (conditions together) which means the 50% of ADHD patients will have OCD and 50% of patients with Tourette’s syndrome will have ADHD. It is this co-morbidity that makes the whole spectrum of learning disabilities, including Dyslexia and Dyspraxia so difficult to diagnose. However, armed with this knowledge it becomes easier to identify the unique characteristics of an individual child’s’ learning and developmental problems.

No one child is 100% dyslexic but presents his/her unique pattern of co-morbidity which constitutes their particular developmental delay. Therefore, the child diagnosed with ADHD may in fact present with 30% ADHD, 30% Dyspraxia, 20% Dyslexia, 10% addictive tendencies and 10% OCD.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Recent research has shown that a significant number of children with apparent attention deficit have a retained primitive visual reflex. Put simply an area of the right hemisphere of the brain has to decide which stimuli in our peripheral vision are potential dangers and which can be ignored while still fixing our gaze on our chosen target. Now imagine what would happen if you could not ignore any movement in your periphery and you had to look at each and every movement.

If this area of the right hemisphere is under developed the defensive reflex cannot be over-ridden and you must respond to any movements detected. Now imagine if you put a child with a retained visual defensive reflex in a classroom full of activity and ask them to concentrate on a piece of work they have been given. The chances are the child will demonstrate the basic characteristics of ADD.

The type of poor visual fixation described above has also been found to be associated with convergence insufficiency (the inability to bring the eyes in towards the nose). To be able to read well it is necessary to bring both eyes in toward the nose, hold this convergence, track smoothly left to right across the page and then finally process the information taken from the page. If any of these elements are missing or defective, then the child will struggle to read and focus. Here again we see a typical comorbidity occurring.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD per se is characterised by behavioural problems in reacting to an average situation and the diagnosis is based on the history of the manifestation of three types of behaviour:

•    Inability to perform everyday tasks / distractibility
•    Impairment to control impulses / impulsivity
•    Restlessness / hyperactivity

ADHD is now considered to be due to an under functioning of the anterior cingulate gyrus. In c. 98% of boys it is the right cerebral hemisphere that is at fault. It is of interest to note that the anterior cingulate gyrus is one of the sites in the human brain where von Economo neurons VENs are found and also where Calcium Binding Calretinin cells were discovered in 2001. Von Economo neurons were described in detail in 1925 by von Economo and were called spindle cells until 2005. They have been extensively studied by John Allman, Patrick Hof, Esther Nimchinsky and Bud Craig. VENs are found in greater numbers in the right cerebral hemisphere.

For further information see the Research and Resources pages.

Many children with ADHD appear to be addicted to junk-food and in particular sugar. It has been suggested that this addictive nature may predispose the sufferer to go on to be a smoker, an alcoholic, a drug user and potentially a criminal. It has been said that 70% of young male offenders have the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

Ritalin is not a cure for ADHD as this medication neither corrects the disorder nor addresses the patients’ unique problems and may in fact fuel any addictive tendencies the child may already have.

Fortunately, with greater knowledge and understanding of the mechanisms at work new treatments are now available to tackle the problem without the use of potentially harmful drugs. Computer generated treatments can go right to the heart of the problem addressing brainstem, cerebellar or prefrontal lobe dis-ease rather than treating/masking symptoms.

Diet and supplementation have been found to be at least as effective as medication and of course do not have any side-effects. Research from around the world has related hyperactivity in particular to zinc and/or magnesium deficiency in the diet. 60% of the brain is fat and of that fat 20% has to be essential fatty acids. It has been said that the average diet of both children and adults does not contain sufficient omega 3 necessary for brain growth and maintenance and that some children struggle to process (metabolise) the omegas and may require supplementation with vitamins C & B complex, zinc and magnesium.

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