Hyperactivity has only been recognised since the 60’s, but since that, it has been an issue of research and and educational practice.
Hyperactivity refers to over-activity within children. It relates to a syndrome of symptoms often depicted by sleepiness, an easily over – stimulated personality, disruptive behaviour, restlessness, inattentiveness, poor writing and impulsive fighting. Performance will often deteriorate in unsupervised situations, the child may be isolated and will often have a poor self-image.
It is a significant disorder numerically, especially in the primary school age group. In fact, amongst children attending child guidance services, hyperactivity is one of the most commonly occurring clinical problems, especially in boys.
Diagnosis can be problematic due to difficulty in the measuring of symptoms and the wide spectrum of “normal” behaviour patterns within children. Where a case of hyperactivity is undefined, parents can be inappropriately blamed for mismanagement and often blame themselves.
Features of the Condition
Hyperactive children are usually fair skinned with blue eyes and blonde or red hair. Five out of six cases are male. They may be left handed, have a finicky appetite and an excessive thirst.
Hyperactive children may also exhibit impulsive behaviour, difficulty in relating to their peers, low self esteem and an unhappy personality.Associated physical features may be:
- Inattentiveness – Quickly lose interest and switch to an alternative activity in minutes.
- Overactivity – Disorganised, restless, ceaseless activity. Fidgets. Poor, fitful sleeper.
- Behavioural Problems – Disturbs other children school and at play. Disrupts games and and organised activities. Often very disobedient.
- Learning Difficulties – 50% are poor learners and have poor memories for spoken instructions. There may be problems distinguishing written words and spelling is often poor. They may have problems taking in new information and applying it. May be dislexic.
- Immaturity – Psychologically and emotionally. As many as 70% of hyperactive children are still cited by their parents as immature when in their teens.
- Stomach pains
- Chronic rhinitis
- Limb pains
- Mouth ulcers
- Allergic Conjunctivitis
- Intense thirst and a poor, fitful sleep pattern
Treatment of the Hyperactive Child
Once hyperactivity has been diagnosed, a three month dietary trial should be performed.
The first stage is to aim to eliminate foods and drinks containing artificial additives known to be responsible for hyperactivity in children, to cut back or remove other foodstuffs also known to be involved in hyperactivity, to identify and treat any medical conditions that could contribute to behavioural problems and finally, to identify and manage any other any other allergens involved in the child’s overall medical condition.
Eliminate all processed foods where practical and avoid all foods and drinks containing the following additives:
- E102 Tartrazine
- E104 Quinolin Yellow
- E107 Yellow 2G
- E110 Sunset Yellow
- E123 Armaranth
- E124 Ponceau 4R
- E127 Erythrosine
- E150 Caramel
- E210-219 Benzoates and Benzoic Acid
- E249 Potassium Nitrate
- E250 Sodium Nitrate
- E320 Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- E321 Butylated hydroxytluene (BHT)
- E621 Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- E622 Monopotassium glutamate
- E623 Calcium glutamate
Eliminate foods in which salicylates naturally occur. Salicylates is a chemical widely used in drug treatments and manufactured for commercial use. It also occurs naturally in certain foods such as dried fruits, berry fruit, oranges, apricots, pine apples, cucumbers, gherkin, tomato sauce, tea, endives, olives, grapes, almonds, liquorice, peppermint, honey and Worcester sauce.
Avoid aspirin and medicines containing aspirin – use paracetamol. All medicines coloured orange, red, green and yellow should be avoided. Medicines, tooth pastes, vitamin supplements and lozenges containing synthetic flavourings and colourings should also be avoided.
Avoid all sweets, cakes, fizzy drinks, crisps, ice cream and other suspect foods, taking into consideration any other symptoms displayed by the child. If other symptoms include stomach pains, limb, pain, asthma and eczema, it is likely that there is a problem with other foods.
The most common product is cow’s milk and milk products – if the child suffered in infancy, or still suffers, from three or more of the following complaints they may have a milk intolerance:
- Repeated vomiting
- Diarrhoea/ Constipation
- Snuffly nose
- Chestiness or Asthsma
- Poor sleeping habits
- Persisting bad nappy rash
Finally, ensure any co-existing medical conditions are being adequately treated. Also, have the child assessed by allergy testing to identify important allergens e.g. dusts, moulds and pollens.
Most children will, by now, show a significant improvement in symptoms. If a child still has marked thirst and occasional outbursts of temper, Evening Primrose Oil should be given.
N.B. There may be an initial deterioration in symptoms – but the child should improve after five to seven days. Some children are able to tolerate the offending foods in reduced quantities after a few months. Response to diet may be poor in families where adverse psychological or social problems exist.
Advice For Handling the Hyperactive Child
It is important to maintain a feeling of control. Be consistant – carry it through when you say “no”. Discourage excessive noise and too much talking all at once – this is especially important if there is a learning disability. Encourage quiet moments and deep breathing for relaxation. Reward good behaviour. Do not lose your temper over bad behaviour.Ensure home safety – cover vulnerable windows with perspex. Do not leave valuable objects and dangerous tools laying around. Put high locks on doors.
Make meals wholesome – and avoid snacking.
When selecting a school, ensure classes are not too large.
Remember your child’s hyperactivity is something to cope with not something to blame yourself for.
Yogurt 570 ml (1 pint) milk 2 tbsp natural yogurt 1 tbsp dried skimmed milk
Heat the milk almost to the boil. Allow to cool (until you can hold your finger in the milk for a few seconds) Mix the yogurt with a little of the milk, then combine with the rest. Cover with a teacloth and place in an airing cupboard (or a warm spot). Leave for 3-8 hours. When set, stir in some permitted fruit e.g. pine apple or figs and honey to taste. N.B. to make yogurt using soya milk, use the same method as above, but heat the soya milk only until it rises in the pan, stirring all the time.
Fritters 1-2 large parsnips or ½ swede 15g (½oz) unsalted margarine 55g (2oz) 85% wheatmeal flour Seasoning 2 tbsp oil
Boil the vegetable until tender. Mash well. Rub the fat into the flour and add to the seasoning. Mix well. Fry spoonfuls of the mix until golden brown.
Tuna Kedgeree 170g (6oz) Brown Rice 1 large tin tuna fish 2 tbsp chopped parsley 3 hard-boiled eggs, Seasoning A little oil
Mix the rice, fish, parsley and 2 chopped hard boiled eggs and seasoning. Heat the oil. Add mix and heat through. Top with sliced egg.
Lime Mousse 55g (2oz) ground rice 85g (3oz) raw cane sugar 2 free range eggs 570ml (1 pint) boiling water Juice 1-2 limes
Mix the ground rice rice to a smooth paste in a little water. Beat together the egg yolks and add to the rice with sugar. Add boiling water and bring gently to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes in the lime juice. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold into the mix. Stir in the lime juice. Serve immediately.