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olistic Healthcare for Children

Attention Problems in Children

© Randall Neustaedter OMD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Holistic Healthcare for Children by Randall Neustaedter OMD. View all columns in series

Managing Attention Problems
The first step when addressing attention functions is to understand them in the individual child. Parents who discover and describe their child’s attention styles will have a tremendous advantage in developing strategies that improve attention and define when apparent problems may actually be strengths. For example, once parents understand that a child’s impulsive style is the very nature of the creative process and that most breakthrough ideas are impulsive, they can achieve a deep appreciation for the exuberance that has previously been so frustrating. This can lead them to develop ways to enhance and enrich their child’s experience of her own impulsivity. The cure then lies within the awareness. Then their understanding becomes a spark to develop solutions that can take the form of enrichment, bypass strategies, and advocacy in the school system. When parents see the child’s emotional reactions to frustration in their true light, they can take steps to correct the situation rather than continue in their own emotionally charged responses to the child.

This understanding occurs in the child as self-awareness. As soon as a child is told, possibly for the first time, that distractibility is a tremendous advantage, she is freed from her previous negative reinforcement and empowered to achieve a higher level of self-confidence. Distractibility and hyperattentiveness to the environment can lead to constant discovery and personal evolution. Daydreaming can open the doors to dimensions that are hidden behind the mind’s limiting control mechanisms. If creativity and intuitive understanding are the keys to reality, a child with free-ranging association is at a distinct advantage for the process of discovery. The problem is that these qualities are usually only admired in accomplished adults who have rejected many of society’s values. Our culture is so intent on rationality as the most valuable commodity of mind, and children’s creativity is constantly suppressed. Those qualities that foster natural creative expression deserve our recognition. A child who feels this admiration for her true nature will blossom. Then areas of attention that are weak can be addressed. But they must be seen in perspective and the child must feel validated for who she is as a creative being.

The correct homeopathic medicine can free the child. This is especially true in the area of attention. Since attention problems reflect an imbalance in the body, they will usually normalize under the action of a remedy. For example, in a child who cannot remain still long enough to focus on a task, the homeopathic medicine will enhance the natural ability to calm the mind and willfully bring motor activity under control. This is an ability that a homeopathic medicine encourages in the same way that immune system function improves after homeopathic treatment.

Similarly, Chinese medicine views attention problems as an overactive response to an energetic deficiency state. For example, the underlying deficiency of Kidney yin allows Liver yang to become excessive. Stated another way, the lack of controls allows unwanted, random energy to rise up, causing the syndrome of restlessness and impulsivity. The treatment principle in Chinese medicine is to tonify the deficiency while calming the disturbance using stimulation of acupuncture points and herbs. Dietary interventions that improve attention include eating foods high in phosphatidylserine (eggs), taking a fish oil supplement with vitamin E, and avoiding the food triggers that interfere with concentration and efficient brain function.

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About The Author
Dr. Randal Neustaedter has practiced holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and Doctor of Oriental Medicine, as well as education director of the Holistic Pediatric Association, author of Child Health Guide and ...more
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