If your child didn't speak until he was 4 years old, didn't read until he was 7 and his teacher described him as "mentally slow, unsociable and adrift in his foolish dreams," you'd be concerned. Your concern might turn to despair if your child was expelled from that school and later was refused admittance to a polytechnic institute. But Albert Einstein's parents didn't give up, and their son eventually formulated his Theory of Relativity, which has become the foundation of modern physics. Thankfully for the rest of us, Einstein was allowed to pursue his creativity without the blanket of drugs like Ritalin, which is what's often prescribed for children like him today.
Having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, has been described as living in a fast-moving kaleidoscope, where sounds, images and thoughts are constantly shifting. Those with ADHD feel unable to keep their minds on tasks they need to complete. They are distracted by the sights and sounds around them and are driven from one thought activity to another.
Someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD describes it in a more positive vein: "When you have ADHD, you have boundless energy and enthusiasm, you're an imaginative thinker, extremely curious and don't give up easily," says Steve Plog, founder of the Results Project, a Florida-based nonprofit organization. Plog decided to do something about his ADHD, although he says he would not trade having ADHD for anything in the world. "Because when you get back in control, you can really accomplish a great deal," he explains.
Proper nutrition is the key, Plog emphasizes. "Studies dating back to 1962 have demonstrated the link between better nutrition and improved academics."
Plog now works to provides nutrition for children with ADHD rather than medicating them with drugs like Ritalin. It sounds too simple -- curing a "mental disorder" with diet -- but he says it works.
Sugarcoated breakfast cereals and processed fast foods are daily fare for many of America's children. "We're living in a world of toxicity and malnutrition," says Mary McRae, a certified nutritional health professional in Spokane. "Supplementation is a necessity these days, with our nutritionally depleted food and stressful lives."
In the Results Project, a nutritional supplement of fruits and vegetables is given to parents of ADHD children ages 5-18 to administer to their children free of charge for one grading period (about six weeks). "Two fruit and vegetable supplements contain a full serving of flash-dried broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, kale, onion, papaya, pineapple, tomato, turnip and aloe vera formulated in a base of vegetable gelatin and natural fruit fructose," Plog states. "They contain no artificial preservatives, colorants or chemical stabilizers and are listed by the FDA as a safe food supplement."
The supplements used in the Results Project are manufactured by Mannatech Corp., a glyconutritional research and development company known worldwide for its research in cutting-edge glycosciences (or biochemical carbohydrate) technology. The fruits and vegetables used in these supplements are grown to full maturity -- unlike most fruits and veggies that are picked before they mature so they don't spoil on the way to market and maintain a better shelf life.
"Unless a fruit or vegetable has reached full maturity," explains Maggie Holdridge, a Spokane biochemist, "the phytonutrients have not yet reached it and are left behind in the roots, vine or tree. When produce is picked before it ripens, it's nutritionally depleted food."
"The Results Project brings in professional speakers to talk to the student body and PTA about ADHD and other learning difficulties," says Plog. "Health care practitioners and doctors will also speak about how health relates to education." At the end of the grading period, report cards from before and after supplementation are compared. The outcome has been astounding.
In 1997, Plog introduced the Results Project into a low-income grade school in Chicago. Amirah Ysrael, principal and founder of the Israel Academy, said: "Quite honestly, this was one of the best things that ever happened to us. The benefits for the children were obvious. In general, they appeared to have more energy for their homework and seemed more focused and able to concentrate. The school was quieter, and I experienced a calm over the entire school that I had not experienced during my 17 years as founder of the academy."
Maida Jackson, secretary of the School Board of Directors for the Israel Academy and parent of a child involved in the Results Project, said, "Though I was at first reluctant to have my daughter take part in this project, we experienced an improved school environment overall. Miraculously, my daughter finished graduation requirements that should have taken six months in six weeks' time."
If parents want to keep their children on the supplement after the study is completed, they can purchase it for a nominal cost or fund-raise for it through their schools.
So who is funding this program? "We raise the money in each community from concerned local business people to buy the nutritional supplements for children to take for one grading period," Plog explains. "If the parents are satisfied with the results, which they overwhelmingly have been, we show them how to start the self-funding program as a fund-raiser for the school on an ongoing basis."
The National Institute of Mental Health states that ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders among children. In the United States, 4 million children are on the psychiatric drug Ritalin each year, which the NIMH recommends as treatment for the disorder. However, the DEA places Ritalin in the same category as morphine, opium and cocaine -- a category with the highest potential for abuse. Even with warnings from Ritalin's manufacturer that "frank psychotic episodes can occur with abusive use of Ritalin" and psychiatry's Diagnostic & amp; Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders stating that the major complication of Ritalin withdrawal is suicide, the drug continues to be the medication of choice for children with disruptive behavior.
Ritalin, Dexedrine and Cylert -- all prescribed for ADHD -- are stimulants and can be addictive. Some long-term studies of children who have taken stimulant medication do not show that these individuals are better off then those who did not take the medications. Yet the U.S. uses five times more Ritalin than the rest of the world combined.
Are Ritalin and other stimulants a magic bullet or are they just easier and quicker than a lifestyle change? Steve Plog calls it "cubicle training" -- medicating kids to keep them subdued.
Fourteen-year-old Matt Schervel, who has been diagnosed with ADHD and takes Ritalin, tells his own story: "Schools don't like extremists who like to think and question. They are dreamers. That doesn't mean that they are wrong. They just don't fit the norm, so they are labeled as ADHD. The doctors dope us up with Ritalin and control our minds. It screws up our minds and makes us one-dimensional. We get headaches and almost depressed getting on and off it. It takes away extra imagination and flow of mind. I can't think right and for six hours of the day, I'm not me. I'm what the system would like me to be."
Just a little under a month ago, Steve Plog came to Spokane to talk about ADHD and introduce the Results Project. Interested people have volunteered to help raise $50,000 to help 500 or more kids in our community. "It comes out to about $60 per kid," says local fundraising chairperson Marvel Peterson.
But it's not just about selling supplements, say the local supporters of the program -- although Mannatech is the only manufacturer of the supplements used in the program. They say that if you attend their informational meeting, you will take away valuable information on ADHD and nutrition even if your child doesn't end up participating.
"Why don't we try nutrition as our first line and fall back on drugs if that doesn't work, instead of vice versa?" asks Plog.
& & & lt;i & There is an informational meeting on the Results Project on Thursday, Jan. 25, at 7 pm at the Shriner's Hospital Auditorium. For future meetings or information, call 926-9355. Or check the website www.resultsproject.net. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &