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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Children and youth who have too much difficulty focusing their attention to be effective learners are often diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The process of diagnosis usually uses a list of symptoms. Questionnaires filled out by parents and teachers, sometimes supplemented by observations produce the profile of symptoms. If a certain number of symptoms are present, the diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed.

There is a long established underlying assumption that ADHD is a biologically driven attention problem. This is a serious issue, because although this assumption is being challenged for many children by current research, assuming biological causation makes professionals more likely to recommend medication.

Recent research has shown this to be scientifically problematic because we know little about the basic mechanisms of attention and its normal variations.

Two areas of concern for parents emerge when medication is the first treatment choice for children, especially young children:

  1. Little is known about the long-term side effects of the medications used.
  2. While sometimes medication is needed, medications alone do not address the problems related to children’s academic performance and relationships with family members, peers and others. Indeed, many research studies show that long-term academic results are not improved by the use of medication alone.

The 2011 treatment guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatricians say that “behavior management strategies should be the first line of treatment for young children with ADHD.”

At the Vancouver Learning Centre a multimodal approach is used when attention is the problem, whether the child is using medication or not. This approach includes academic training; rehabilitation for learning disabilities; coaching for emotional, social and relational issues; training in appropriate learning behaviour; and especially Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). These learning strategies are included and integrated into the overall program as appropriate to address attention problems.

Wherever possible, the collaboration of the family and the school is sought to strengthen the outcome for the child.

The improvement of effective learning attention is the important outcome when these procedures are used.

It is important to understand that many factors go into creating a long-term successful educational outcome. Using a single approach like medication, while simple and sometimes effective in producing behaviour that is more acceptable in the classroom, may not be the full answer for children whose lack of disciplined attention compromises their educational outcomes.

  Red Flags for Parents of Children and Youth with Attention Difficulties (ADHD)

For your consideration, if your child’s difficulty with attention has been raised, here are some points to think about:

  1. Your child’s age. New Research: In a recent study of nearly 1 million children in the United States, the youngest boys in the classroom (with December birthdates) and the youngest girls (also with December birthdates), were 30 percent and 70 percent (respectively) more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This raises the alarming possibility that hundreds of thousands of children are placed on medication simply because they are developmentally behind their peers. [Research reported in The Monitor of Psychology June 2012 by Harris Friedman PhD (University of Florida), Kevin Keenan PhD (University of Michigan) and David Elkins PhD (Pepperdine University)].
  2. Your child’s maturity. Is your child ready for school? Was he or she ready when they began kindergarten? Research shows that children who enter kindergarten or Grade 1 academically and behaviourally behind never quite catch up. Early intervention in the preschool years offers the opportunity for these children to get a head start before they start school. (See Early Childhood Developmental Delay). However, at any time in the school journey the Vancouver Learning Centre programs address the issues of emotional and behavioural maturity in a proactive manner.
  3. Lifestyle Issues

    • Sleep. Research shows children deprived of sleep tend to be hyper-aroused. They manifest fatigue by getting hyperactive. From the outside they may look energetic, but really it’s the opposite. It has been proposed that the reason is that hyperactivity helps these sleep deprived children stay awake.
    • Nutrition. Excess sugar and especially processed foods may cause children to be hyperactive.
    • Exercise. Children who lack regular physical exercise may have difficulty producing the attention that that is required for the disciplined focus of learning. Even a few minutes of physical exercise (such as a part way walk to school) can help children focus in school.

Whether your child is on medication or not the Vancouver Learning Centre can help with a long-term multimodal response that will improve academic and life outcomes.

Next Steps

  • If you would like to have answers as to what can be done, you can book a complimentary interview with Vancouver Learning Centre Director Andrew Taylor by telephone at 604-738-2277 or by e-mail.
  • If after you are fully informed through the interview and by reading this website you are interested in proceeding, Andrew will provide you with an assessment date to begin the process.
  • If you have further concerns or questions you can speak to VLC principal and senior psychologist, Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, either by telephone or by booking a further personal complimentary interview.
  • The assessment will provide a clear statement of the student’s cognitive and educational strengths and weaknesses along with a detailed program that is offered as a proposal. The program is delivered by the Vancouver Learning Centre’s highly qualified teaching faculty, one-to-one.


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