What is ADHD?

As a parent in the current age, it’s impossible to navigate your child’s development without wondering about ADHD. Diagnoses are increasing significantly, and it’s difficult to tell some symptoms from childhood energy. 

As the mothers of special needs children ourselves, we know that sometimes you need a roadmap — so here is a helpful guide for understanding ADHD. 

My son has ADHD, so I have personal experience with how this disorder can impact not only your child’s life, but the entire family! 

Unfortunately, this term can get thrown around casually or even in a derogatory manner, but attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (originally known as attention deficit disorder) is a condition that affects many people around the world. 

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is hallmarked by difficulty surrounding attention and impulse control. It can be accompanied by learning disabilities, conduct disorder, or other special needs. 

ADHD diagnosis typically occurs during childhood, though the disorder can carry through to adult life. At The M Center for Integrative Wellness, we focus on holistic healing for all children. If you need a functional medicine approach to ADHD, don’t hesitate to reach out.

So, how can you spot the signs and symptoms common to ADHD?

Common ADHD Signs/Symptoms

Fidgeting isn’t the only way to tell a child may be struggling with ADHD. The signs of ADHD are varied, but there are three basic traits that help experts identify the disorder. The three major ADHD symptoms to look for are:


An inattentive child may have trouble with:

  • Focusing to follow set instructions or complete tasks
  • Completing long stretches of reading, conversation, or schoolwork
  • Listening to and paying close attention to details
  • Time management, especially with large projects
  • Keeping materials and possessions ordered and neat
  • Following a sequence of instructions
  • Staying on task, as they are often easily distracted
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities like homework, chores, and organization


A hyperactive/impulsive child often:

  • Fidgets and squirms
  • Blurts out thoughts or answers, interrupts, or talks more than others
  • Has trouble staying seated 
  • Is prone to impulsive behavior without thinking of the consequences
  • Feels restless 
  • Is loud and vocal in their play, even if it’s alone or during “quiet time”
  • Finds it difficult to wait for their own turn
  • Intrudes on conversations and games between other children
  • Can be found constantly running, jumping, and climbing
  • May grab things from other children without asking
  • Is accident-prone due to impulsive behaviors without assessing risks
  • Presents social skills less mature than their peers

Knowing these signs and how they may affect your child’s behavior, you may be wondering what increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with ADHD. As you’ll see in the section below, there are a myriad of potential causes and comorbid conditions.

Causes & Risk Factors for ADHD

Much speculation has been made over the past fifty years about the true causes and risk factors for ADHD, and truthfully, we’re still learning the myriad of factors that can contribute toward a diagnosis of ADHD. 

Here are a few scientifically viable components and causes of ADHD:

  • Genetics can play a major part in the likelihood of developing ADHD. Several genes have been linked to increased odds of the disorder.
  • Inflammatory responses in the brain may increase the likelihood of developing ADHD.
  • Stress and smoking during a pregnancy increase the odds of a child having ADHD, especially in boys.
  • Low birth weight is a good predictor of ADHD.
  • A brain injury may contribute to later development of ADHD.
  • Bacterial meningitis is a “significant risk factor” for the disorder, as is enterovirus encephalitis.
  • Oxidative stress, or the body not being able to fully detoxify, can play a role in ADHD.
  • PTSD may be related to ADHD, though findings are preliminary.
  • Early exposure to pesticides increases the chances of a later ADHD diagnosis.

Not only do certain elements influence the development of ADHD, but attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder can also play a part in other conditions. 

One possible side effect of ADHD is the heightened need for medical care. Children with ADHD are significantly more likely to have other comorbid (existing alongside) medical conditions than their peers.

It is also more common for individuals with ADHD to deal with immune dysfunction, obesity, sleep disorders, and low self-esteem issues. A large number of issues may come along with an ADHD diagnosis, and it is important to know not only the root causes, but also to be aware of potential comorbid conditions.

How ADHD Is Diagnosed

After reading the list of ADHD symptoms, you may be thinking that your child displays many of them on a particularly restless day. Maybe your child is going through an interrupting phase, or is running around much more than they used to. 

Before you panic, take a breath.

Let’s be clear: in order to be diagnosed, the symptoms of ADHD will need to present consistently. This isn’t just an off day or a particularly energetic week, but a pattern of behavior over time. 

Unike Taylor Swift suggested, it’s not easy for them to “shake it off.” 

To properly diagnose the disorder, at least six of these signs must be present for at least six months.

In addition, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that the concerning symptoms must be seen in more than one setting (such as both school and home), and that they must significantly interfere with quality of life in school, home, or social settings.

Please remember that only a mental health professional or your child’s primary care provider can accurately diagnose ADHD. They can also weigh in on whether your child’s ADHD is predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, or a mix of both. 

It is wise to also have your child’s teacher, another caretaker, or those who see them in other settings to weigh in on your child’s symptoms. Remember, these must present across at least two separate settings to qualify for a diagnosis.

Also, here at The M Center, we strongly discourage diagnosing very young children with ADHD. The signs of ADHD and neurotypical development in toddlers are just too similar to take the chance of getting it wrong. Wait for a clearer picture before potentially placing your child in the wrong education track or on incorrect medication.

3 Integrative Treatments for ADHD

Many doctors rush to prescribe ADHD medications to solve the behaviors listed above. The treatment plan could include stimulant medications or non-stimulant medications, both of which can have some serious side effects. 

Here are alternatives to treat the issue in a more functional way:

Dietary Adjustments

What goes into your child’s diet can be visible in their behavior. 

One study found that artificial food colorings can strongly affect a child’s hyperactivity levels. Diet can also affect the brain inflammation mentioned above that can serve as a precursor for ADHD symptoms. 

Adopting a diet free of casein and gluten can be the best thing that happened to your kid since Christmas, and may even reduce overall inflammation in the body.

In fact, gluten may cause ADHD-like symptoms in children, and eliminating it from the diet can result in massive behavioral improvements. Additionally, eating organically can shield your child from ingesting more of the pesticides that may have contributed to the disorder.

Making changes to your child’s diet is not the easiest adjustment, but it can have long-term effects on their health as you aid them in reducing inflammation, eliminating allergies, and removing pesticides and chemicals so their bodies can heal.

Behavioral Planning

As soon as an ADHD diagnosis is made, it’s wise to begin behavioral therapy before throwing heavy-duty medications at the problem. 

Treating the behavioral aspect of your child’s ADHD may improve their social life, aid them in getting through the school day, and can even teach you and your family members how to support a child with their particular needs.

Your child’s school counselor or teacher, along with you and their behavioral therapist, can all work in unison to create a holistic plan that empowers your child to be their very best self at home, school, and in the world at large. Together, you can provide your child with the kind of leadership and support Chris Harrison offers on The Bachelor.

Emotional Treatments

ADHD treatment is not just about managing behavior or diet, but also about preventing the common low self-esteem seen in untreated ADHD patients. 

As mothers of children with special needs, we understand that the whole family is affected by this sort of diagnosis. While you’re championing your child, find support groups for yourself as well.

Your child may also want to speak with someone as part of their healing process. This is normal! At The M Center, we believe that one of the functional steps toward healing is relieving emotions and stress, not just physical symptoms.

Education for Kids with ADHD

While there is often no intellectual impairment involved with ADHD, there are still unique needs and special considerations to best aid a child with this disorder. 

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your child may be able to sit in a classroom and work alongside their peers as they undergo behavioral therapy and functional medicine treatment.

However, if your little one needs more specialized learning, there are many options for you! A chat with your child’s teacher, a school counselor, or a special education professional at their school can start the conversation around helping your child achieve their potential. For more information and resources about special needs, check out our article.

ADHD By the Numbers

If you’re parenting a child with ADHD, you are certainly not alone. 

The CDC presents us with some startling statistics: over 6 million children had an ADHD diagnosis even back in 2016. That was 9.4% of the population, and the total number simply continues to grow. 

Here are more of the numbers on ADHD:

  • Heredity: if a parent has ADHD, the child has a 57% chance of developing it as well.
  • Mental disorders: the numbers on mental disorders are also compelling: 52% of patients with ADHD have a psychiatric disorder accompanying the condition. The most common mental disorders to see with ADHD are disorders of conduct (16.5%), specific developmental disorders of language, learning and motor development (15.4%), autism spectrum disorders (12.4%), and intellectual disability (7.9%).
  • Mood disorders: as many as 17% of adult ADHD patients also experience bipolar disorder, and up to 25% may experience anxiety. (As we’ve learned, brain injuries and inflammation can play a contributing role in the development of ADHD, as well as these other conditions).

It’s not all downhill, though. As we learn more about ADHD each year, there are many promising educational and emerging models of how we can help children with ADHD lead a rich, fulfilling life in the home, classroom, and eventually even in the workforce. 

Many Labels, One Approach

As the incidences of ADHD, autism, PANS/PANDAS, and other conditions skyrocket, we believe that we’re seeing different manifestations of the same root issue. 

So many of these problems come back to the same core difficulties: inflammation, detoxification problems, nutritional deficiencies, and immune weakness.

While the labels may vary, the treatment plan is similar in nature:

  • Address nutritional deficiencies through improved diet and proper supplementation
  • Reduce inflammation by cutting sugar, casein, and gluten
  • Boost immune function by helping the body detox from pathogens, pesticides, and heavy metals
  • Find and remove any environmental toxins adding strain to the body, and 
  • Discover the best option for the patient to feel less stressed and more emotionally supported on their family’s journey back to health

Any of the aforementioned conditions will respond to this type of treatment, which is why we so often look at childhood mental and developmental disorders as, “many labels, one approach.” 

ADHD in Adults

The symptoms of ADHD in adults, while similar in nature, can take on different forms. They involve:

  • Focus issues. Adults with ADHD may struggle to focus on work tasks, personal projects, in-depth conversations, and small details in their professional or home life. On the other hand, they may also engage in hyperfocus, zeroing in on a task and losing track of other priorities.
  • Managing time and items. Forgetfulness and inattention can cause issues with scheduling, remembering personal belongings, and organization.
  • Restlessness and loss of interest. It may be hard for adults with ADHD to wait in line, sit still through long meetings, or plan too far ahead.

Looking to the Future

While an ADHD diagnosis is certainly significant, it’s not the end of the world, especially when caught early on in life. 

Through behavioral intervention, addressing functional concerns, and pushing for holistic health instead of immediately medicating the issue, there is great hope for children with ADHD to improve their restlessness and inattentiveness.

The symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder don’t have to rule your family or your child’s life. Not only are there support systems available medically, educationally, and relationally, but we also learn more about the condition with each passing day.

Located in Roswell, Georgia, The M Center for Integrative Wellness focuses on holistic healing for all children. If you need a functional medicine approach to ADHD, contact us and we’ll get back to you shortly!

With proper care and tools, the future looks bright for children with ADHD.


  1. Moffitt, T. E. (1993). The neuropsychology of conduct disorder. Development and psychopathology, 5(1-2), 135-151. Abstract: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/development-and-psychopathology/article/neuropsychology-of-conduct-disorder/6ED1EBC246A0270A87C8078317690C48
  2. Elia, J., & Devoto, M. (2007). ADHD genetics: 2007 update. Current psychiatry reports, 9(5), 434-439. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17915085
  3. Donev, R., & Thome, J. (2010). Inflammation: good or bad for ADHD?. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 2(4), 257-266. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21432611
  4. Rodriguez, A., & Bohlin, G. (2005). Are maternal smoking and stress during pregnancy related to ADHD symptoms in children?. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(3), 246-254. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15755301
  5. Nigg, J. T., & Breslau, N. (2007). Prenatal smoking exposure, low birth weight, and disruptive behavior disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(3), 362-369. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17314722
  6. Adeyemo, B. O., Biederman, J., Zafonte, R., Kagan, E., Spencer, T. J., Uchida, M., … & Faraone, S. V. (2014). Mild traumatic brain injury and ADHD: a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis. Journal of Attention Disorders, 18(7), 576-584. 
  7. Hadzic, E., Sinanovic, O., & Memisevic, H. (2017). Is Bacterial Meningitis a Risk Factor for Developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The Israel journal of psychiatry and related sciences, 54(2), 54-57. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29248907
  8. Chou, I. C., Lin, C. C., & Kao, C. H. (2015). Enterovirus Encephalitis Increases the Risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Taiwanese Population-based Case–control Study. Medicine, 94(16). Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25906098 
  9. Joseph, N., Zhang-James, Y., Perl, A., & Faraone, S. V. (2015). Oxidative stress and ADHD: a meta-analysis. Journal of attention disorders, 19(11), 915-924. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5293138/
  10. Spencer, A. E., Faraone, S. V., Bogucki, O. E., Pope, A. L., Uchida, M., Milad, M. R., … & Biederman, J. (2016). Examining the association between posttraumatic stress disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26114394 
  11. Kuehn, B. M. (2010). Increased risk of ADHD associated with early exposure to pesticides, PCBs. Jama, 304(1), 27-28. Abstract: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/186163
  12. Schieve, L. A., Gonzalez, V., Boulet, S. L., Visser, S. N., Rice, C. E., Braun, K. V. N., & Boyle, C. A. (2012). Concurrent medical conditions and health care use and needs among children with learning and behavioral developmental disabilities, National Health Interview Survey, 2006–2010. Research in developmental disabilities, 33(2), 467-476. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22119694
  13. Hegvik, T. A., Instanes, J. T., Haavik, J., Klungsøyr, K., & Engeland, A. (2018). Associations between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autoimmune diseases are modified by sex: a population-based cross-sectional study. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 27(5), 663-675. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28983730
  14. Cortese, S., & Peñalver, C. M. (2010). Comorbidity between ADHD and obesity: exploring shared mechanisms and clinical implications. Postgraduate medicine, 122(5), 88-96. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861592
  15. Hvolby, A. (2015). Associations of sleep disturbance with ADHD: implications for treatment. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 7(1), 1-18. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4340974/
  16. Harpin, V., Mazzone, L., Raynaud, J. P., Kahle, J., & Hodgkins, P. (2016). Long-term outcomes of ADHD: a systematic review of self-esteem and social function. Journal of attention disorders, 20(4), 295-305. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23698916
  17. Harpin, V., Mazzone, L., Raynaud, J. P., Kahle, J., & Hodgkins, P. (2016). Long-term outcomes of ADHD: a systematic review of self-esteem and social function. Journal of attention disorders, 20(4), 295-305. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1719942/
  18. Niederhofer, H., & Pittschieler, K. (2006). A preliminary investigation of ADHD symptoms in persons with celiac disease. Journal of Attention Disorders, 10(2), 200-204. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17085630
  19. Wagner-Schuman, M., Richardson, J. R., Auinger, P., Braun, J. M., Lanphear, B. P., Epstein, J. N., … & Froehlich, T. E. (2015). Association of pyrethroid pesticide exposure with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a nationally representative sample of US children. Environmental Health, 14(1), 44. Full text: https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-015-0030-y
  20. Sciences, S., Breiner, H., Ford, M., Gadsden, V. L., & National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Targeted Interventions Supporting Parents of Children with Special Needs, Parents Facing Special Adversities, and Parents Involved with Child Welfare Services. In Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8. National Academies Press (US). Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK402018/
  21. Danielson, M. L., Bitsko, R. H., Ghandour, R. M., Holbrook, J. R., Kogan, M. D., & Blumberg, S. J. (2018). Prevalence of parent-reported ADHD diagnosis and associated treatment among US children and adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(2), 199-212. Full text: https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/52167
  22. Biederman, J., Faraone, S. V., Mick, E., Spencer, T., Wilens, T., Kiely, K., … & Warburton, R. (1995). High risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among children of parents with childhood onset of the disorder: a pilot study. The American journal of psychiatry. Abstract: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1995-33622-001
  23. Jensen, C. M., & Steinhausen, H. C. (2015). Comorbid mental disorders in children and adolescents with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a large nationwide study. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 7(1), 27-38. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24942707
  24. Berkol, T. D., Yargic, I., Özyildirim, I., & Yazici, O. (2014). Comorbidity of adult attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder in bipolar patients: prevalence, sociodemographic and clinical correlates. Nöro Psikiyatri Arşivi, 51(2), 97. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353100/
  25. Schatz, D. B., & Rostain, A. L. (2006). ADHD with comorbid anxiety: a review of the current literature. Journal of Attention disorders, 10(2), 141-149. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17085624
  26. Loe, I. M., & Feldman, H. M. (2007). Academic and educational outcomes of children with ADHD. Journal of pediatric psychology, 32(6), 643-654. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569716
  27. Baijot, S., Slama, H., Söderlund, G., Dan, B., Deltenre, P., Colin, C., & Deconinck, N. (2016). Neuropsychological and neurophysiological benefits from white noise in children with and without ADHD. Behavioral and brain functions, 12(1), 11. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791764/