Published On: Fri, Aug 5th, 2016

Tokyo Psychiatrist Doug Berger Offers Tips for Promoting Learning in Children with ADD/ADHD

Dr. Doug Berger, psychiatrist in Tokyo Japan, explains how best to educate children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

As the dog days of summer descend on the Northern hemisphere and a new school year looms around the corner, there is no better time to get kids back in the habit of a daily routine and learning schedule. This is especially true if your child or student suffers from any sort of learning disability or special need.

One of the most frequently diagnosed learning disability is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a condition that is often accompanied by Hyperactivity Disorder (HD), called ADD if inattention predominates, and ADHD if hyperactivity predominates. Indeed, it is estimated that the prevalence of ADHD has increased tenfold around the globe in the last five years, with the reported number of cases in the United States far outpacing other countries. This increased prevalence is probably due to increased awareness coupled with increased marketing by pharmaceutical companies.

photo Masae via wikimedia commons

photo Masae via wikimedia commons

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 11 percent of American children and 4 percent of American adults suffer from ADD/ADHD, which is characterized by limited attention spans, outbursts of energy and disruption.

In a report published last December in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, childhood ADD/ADHD diagnoses spiked by as much as 52 percent from 2003 to 2013. “We found rising rates of ADHD overall and very sharp jumps in certain subgroups,” Dr. Sean Cleary, lead researcher, wrote.  “Parents should be made aware of the findings in case they have a child or teenager that should be evaluated for the disorder, which can persist into adulthood.”

Even though instances of ADD and ADHD are on the rise, experts believe this heightened attention of the issue is leading to earlier diagnoses and better treatment protocols.

“The CDC data suggest that we are getting to a point when children with ADHD in the United States may actually be getting an opportunity for a diagnostic assessment and appropriate evidence-based,” says Dr. Walkup says Dr. John Walkup who has also written on the issue of ADD/ADHD in American children.

While some say ADD is an ‘American condition’, a rise in global diagnoses argues against that myth. Tokyo psychiatrist Doug Berger, an American board certified psychiatrist currently practicing in Japan can attest to this, “I’ve seen many children, both Japanese and foreign, presenting with many years of trouble focusing and organization. They don’t have depression or other problems, and it seems common for the parents of these children to request help when the child gets into middle or senior high school when the increased study load becomes too much for children with ADD/ADHD to handle compared to elementary school where they could still get by well because their intelligence level is normal. It is then clear that there is a problem as they fall behind their peers.”

As a bilingual psychiatrist in Tokyo, Dr. Doug Berger treats children with ADD/ADHD at the Meguro Counseling Center in central Tokyo.  Doug Berger points out that an ADDADHD diagnoses in a child often affects the way the whole family functions.

“Because children with ADD and ADHD have trouble paying attention in class or at home, this can often lead to tension between the teacher and child and parent and child,” says Dr. Doug Berger.

Berger also highlights that inattention can often make a child appear lazy, careless or forgetful, which can further exacerbate the existing tension, especially if the parents have high expectations for the child’s success.

“I recommend parents and educators work together to facilitate a learning routine and structure that promotes learning in a way that the child doesn’t feel penalized,” Tokyo psychiatrist Doug Berger adds. “Inattentive children usually need longer time to study and take tests, while hyperactive children probably do better in short bursts of study so that they do not start to fidget or get bored during the study time.

In addition, a distraction-free study space, away from windows, TV screens, and if possible other students or people, is one way to get a child with ADD/ADHD to focus on the task at hand. Experts also advise reinforcing positive behaviors with affirming, positive words.

A majority of children with ADD and ADHD benefit from pharmaceuticals; however, Dr. Berger warns that these drugs need to be used with extreme caution and close follow-up care to prevent side-effects such as lower appetite or insomnia from impairing the child in other ways. Dr. Berger chimes in that, “While many children can do well with some study habit changes, many of these children and their families need a mix of coaching and a carefully adjusted medication regimen with doses targeted to the days and hours they need to study, and days off the medication when they do not”.

Author: Rachel Young

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