Doctors, Parents Have a Better Understanding of Attention Disorders

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Byline: Jenny Senczysen Daily Herald Correspondent


CORRECTION/date 11-03-1999: To correct a story in some editions, the phone number for the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association is (800) 233-4050.


A child diagnosed with attention-deficit or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder faces many challenges in social situations.

But symptoms can often be lessened and nearly alleviated with proper treatment. And health experts say treatments are getting better and better.

Dr. William Walsh, founder of the Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Naperville, says his patients are treated with vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Before therapy is prescribed, each patient undergoes an extensive evaluation that includes a three-page questionnaire, a physical exam, and testing of hair, blood and urine samples.

"We have the world's biggest and best chemistry base on people with behavior disorders," said Walsh, who founded the center in 1989.

Many of Pfeiffer's patients need only be seen for a checkup after four to six months following the initial visit and they only return to the clinic once a year thereafter.

"Our goal is for our patients not to need a doctor, including us," Walsh said.

Known as minimal brain dysfunction in the 1980s and a host of other terms before that, ADD is marked by poor attention span, weak impulse control and, sometimes, hyperactivity.

Children with the disorder are often easily distracted and have a difficult time concentrating. They leave tasks unfinished and many times lose their school supplies and books. A child may have difficulty waiting his or her turn and may act without thinking.

Add in the hyperactivity factor, and the child may fidget constantly, talk a great deal and possibly have difficulty remaining seated or playing quietly. Even with these symptoms, it may be difficult to diagnose attention-deficit, especially in a child under age 5. Only a team of qualified professionals can make the diagnosis once other possible causes are ruled out.

Attention-deficit can be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain or to other physical causes, including brain damage from lead paint. It is more common in children whose parents have had or still have the condition. And it is more common in boys than girls.

Research has found that a child's environment does not cause this condition, but it can make symptoms more or less severe.

As research continues, parents have many options for treatment. These include anything from diet control, medication and vitamin therapy to individual and family counseling. Even massage therapy and herbal remedies have been used to treat the condition.

Dr. Ralph Mesenbrink, a clinical psychologist in Carol Stream, has seen better research and more sophisticated medication as the condition has received more attention over the years.

He specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of attention-deficit disorders and learning disabilities. One of the tools he uses is the computerized Vigilence test. The test results help Mesenbrink assess the effectiveness of different medications and identify specific areas that need re-evaluation. …