A few years ago, my family embarked on the Feingold diet to help my then-6yo-son and much older husband deal with their horrible attention problems. We eat as a family. There are no short order cooks in my house. What one person eats, we all eat. What one is restricted from, we are all pretty much restricted from. We’re a family and nobody is ostracized within our home.
The benefit to this is that sometimes, other people derive positive benefits from what we’re doing–completely unexpected. So while the Feingold diet did nothing for the attention problems of the 6yo, it DID have a rather significant impact in some problems that both the 6yo and I were having in another part of our body. Significant enough that we continue to eat this way. The 6yo’s poop accidents and bedwetting all but ceased, and mommy’s excessive urination problem (that was finally to the point of the doctors giving up and simply offering medication) halted. Voila…
But I digress… we’ve met, right?
I still had a distractible child. Highly. Well, in and amongst some of the information in the Feingold monthly newsletter was information about a vision problem that was often mistaken for ADD/ADHD. It was called “convergence insufficiency”. I felt like I’d had an “A-HA!” moment. I went off to a pediatric optometrist, told them about the distraction problems we were having, and told them what I had read in the newsletter. They did their tests–complete with dilating his eyes–and said that this was not his problem.
Ugh… I was seriously down-hearted. We’d removed soy, dairy, corn and gluten. We’d removed artificial colors, preservatives, and naturally-occuring salicylates. We had him on a significant dose of pharmaceutical grade fish oil (which did wonders for him neurologically, but not for attention). Yes, there were still plenty of other things to look at–but I was worn out. Our journey with my son was overwhelming for several years. I just once would’ve liked a quicker answer than we were getting to his challenge.
Years go by and Little Mr. Distractible becomes Big Distractible Boy and life becomes more difficult to manage. He starts to notice his distraction and occasionally, our impatience with it makes him feel like a lesser child. We had taken a break from looking for solutions to allow him time to potentially “grow out of it”. But he was 8 going on 9 and had not grown out of it yet. He was a voracious reader, though. Nothing distracted him when his nose was in a book, and he put his nose in a book pretty much anywhere he went. Literally–anywhere.
Suddenly he started having “red vision”. Picture someone holding up a transparent red film in front of your eyes. Best we can tell, this is what was happening to him. Our pediatrician had us track it. He clearly suspected seizures (since our son has a seizure history). I tracked it. It was happening far more often than I realized. So off we go to the developmental optometrist that was highly recommended by a few parents… nearly an hour away.
Well, not only is our son farsighted, but after a battery of vision processing tests that were spread out over several days–they determine that he has “convergence excess”… the sibling of the “convergence insufficiency” I had him tested for years earlier. Essentially, my son’s eyes aren’t able to work together in a way that keeps his brain so pre-occupied sorting it out that it’s not able to focus on anything else. Solution? A pair of eyeglasses and some vision therapy to teach his eyes how to work nice together.
How bitter am I for the years we have suffered needlessly. And if you have an ADHD kid, you KNOW what I’m talking about.
His new glasses had an orange racing stripe on the side. They were a serious adjustment, but they promised to give some immediate help to the situation. And while we were at it, the rest of us got our sight checked. Sight–not vision. So they look to see that our eyes are taking in input properly and accurately but they don’t test how our brain is handling or managing any of that information.
And it IS different.
The doctors we used are in the Chicago suburbs. Their site has some interesting information and there is a link at the bottom to find a doctor near you.
In the end, this was only one of the things that contributed to my son’s distractibility. This wasn’t the end of it. But it was a noticeable part of it and correcting this mattered.
For more things to rule out (and this is not an exhaustive list, by the way) be sure to look at my Gimme5 tip sheet of “Things to Rule Out Before Getting an ADD/ADHD Diagnosis”. Rule them out even if you’re SURE “that can’t be it because…” Get a professional to objectively rule it out. Because you will be surprised at what you might find.