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ADD Children & Bullying Behavior

Bullying in school is a serious problem affecting one out of every five students, and its effects can be devastating. Indeed, bullying can contribute to life-long battles with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and in severe cases, PTSD. [i]

And while most parents understand how detrimental bullying can be to their child’s well-being, many parents don’t realize that children with ADHD are often more vulnerable than other kids to bullying behavior.

In fact, children with ADHD may become easier targets for bullies due to certain behaviors they tend to exhibit, such as making impulsive behaviors or comments, being clumsy, not understanding personal space, violating others’ boundaries, or struggling academically.

Due to the impulsive and restless nature of many children with ADHD, they will often have additional difficulties effectively reading social cues, which can make kids with ADHD easy targets for bullies. They may have greater difficulties navigating difficult conversations, reading body language, or may have greater difficulties identifying when they are in danger of being targeted or attacked.

Furthermore, the very same impulsivity and social difficulties that make kids with ADD more likely to be targets of bullying may also lead them to take out their frustrations on others and become more aggressive. As a result, they can become bullies themselves!

If your child is suffering from bullying due to ADD, either as a victim or an aggressor, then the Drake Institute’s non-drug treatment for ADHD may be an effective solution for preventing further trauma, as our treatments can help reduce or even eliminate ADD’s negative symptoms.

With that said, there are some strategies that families can adopt to deal with bullies at school, and this Blog Post will cover strategies for stomping out bullying behavior quickly. After all, no child deserves to be bullied, as the last thing we want is to see more children become bullying statistics.

Identifying the Signs of Bullying

Learning how to stop bullying can be difficult, but with hard work and dedication, progress can be made. One of the first steps to dealing with bullies at school is identifying issues before they cause long-lasting harm and discomfort.

Whether ADD is present or not, bullying can take many forms: from verbal teasing to physical confrontations.

What’s important to note, however, is that not all teasing is necessarily bullying. When teasing is mutual, done playfully, and in a friendly manner, it can actually have a positive impact. In fact, mutually-understood teasing, where everyone is in on the joke, can contribute to children forming stronger social bonds and better rapport with one another. And this sort of playful, friendly teasing can be especially helpful to ADD kids, who may have more difficulty forming strong social ties to other children.

However, when teasing becomes one-sided, condemning and hurtful, in either a physiological or psychological manner, it becomes bullying behavior, and action should be taken to prevent it.

In some cases, children who have fallen victim to bullying behavior will appear anxious, or they may even exhibit new negative behavioral traits, like not eating, acting anti-social, or avoiding activities they normally enjoyed, such as playing outside or participating in sports.

Other signs of bullying (with or without the presence of ADD) include:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed personal items (e.g., clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry)
  • Stress-related symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Decline in performance at school
  • Self-destructive behaviors like running away from home
  • Symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Over-eating or loss of appetite

As you can see above, many of these issues overlap with traditional symptoms of ADD, and in some cases, it can be hard to tell which problem (ADD itself, or bullying behavior) is truly responsible for the emergence of these issues.

However, one thing that’s clear is that once the symptoms manifest, it’s important for parents to take immediate action. And while it may be difficult to get a child who is struggling with a bully (or behaving as a bully!) to open up about their experiences, it’s vital for parents to persist and find out exactly what’s going on.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, make a concerted effort to get involved in their life and start conversations with them about how things are going. Maybe you could start by taking them to the movies or shopping at the mall? Whatever you choose to do, during these activities, look for opportunities to ask how they’re doing at school, and to find out if anything is bothering them.

If your child resists and doesn’t want to talk about it, be patient—sometimes the most important thing a parent can do is simply wait, and be there for their child when they do become ready to talk. When your child does begin to open up, ask them how they’ve been getting along with other children at school.

Make sure to remain non-judgmental and positive to encourage your child to open up and share as much as they can, as these conversations may be uncomfortable for them, but they’ll also be invaluable to uncovering the extent of the bullying that they’re experiencing.

How to Help Your Child with Bullying

Whether or not ADD is playing a role in the process, there are many ways to help your child cope with and combat the negative effects of bullying. First, explain to your child that they are not to blame and that the bully is in the wrong.

Then, help your child understand why bullies go after other children and talk about how your child can avoid being targeted. Share tactics they can use, like using humor to disarm the bully, or taking another route home that avoids the bully altogether. And while many parents may be tempted to instruct their child to fight back, we strongly advise against this strategy, as it can result in additional, long-term harm to your child’s well-being, especially if ADD or ADHD is present.

Once these strategies are discussed, parents should speak directly with the school faculty to see what can be done about the bullying situation. While speaking to members of the school’s leadership team, make sure these conversations take place away from any accused bullies, as a joint meeting can cause additional intimidation and draw even more negative attention to your child.

While the information can be broached gently, we also recommend avoiding a direct confrontation with the parents of the bully, as this may only cause more stress for everyone involved.

What if my Child is the Bully?

Perhaps the only thing worse than finding out your child is being bullied is that they are, in fact, the one doing the bullying. And this becomes especially traumatic if you’re already dealing with the implications of raising an ADD child.

But it’s important to point out that this should be taken seriously, because according to some research, children afflicted with ADHD or ODD (oppositional-defiant disorder) may be as much as 4 times more likely to become bullies compared to their non-ADHD/ODD peers. [ii][iii]

Why does that happen? As it turns out, the same impulsive behaviors that make ADHD children easier targets for bullies can also make ADHD children act out aggressively against their peers, turning into bullies themselves!

If your child is displaying violent, ADD bullying behaviors, you must address the situation immediately and determine the root cause of your child’s bullying behavior. As discussed earlier, the consequences of bullying can be devastating and cause long-term harm.

To help your child who has become a bully, consider discussing the long-term implications of his or her actions with them in detail. Explain how hurtful their behavior can be to others, and try to help them understand the real consequences of their actions, and that they would not want to be treated that way themselves.

Additionally, it may be a good idea to consider attempting family therapy, as bullying may hint that there are other, underlying issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, these behaviors will likely be very difficult for a child to control as long as their underlying impulsivity remains. As a result, pursuing treatment options to address the underlying dysfunction may be necessary to assist these children in controlling their impulses before they make these mistakes.

ADD Treatment Options

ADHD and bullying is a two-part problem requiring a two-part solution. So far, we’ve discussed how to deal with bullies, but what about dealing with ADD/ADHD?

For many children, the best way to protect them from becoming victims of bullies (or becoming bullies themselves!) is to address the underlying cause of their ADHD symptoms.

By correctly identifying the underlying cause of their ADHD problems, the brain-dysregulation, you’ll be able to increase the odds of protecting your child from bullying attacks. After all, typical ADD symptoms such as impulsiveness, awkwardness, and an inability to read social cues, certainly makes them more vulnerable to becoming a target for bullies, so addressing these issues should help insulate them.

But when it comes to treating ADD, there are many options, some of which are much more effective than others. While there is the choice of utilizing stimulant ADD medications, these interventions typically only produce temporary symptom reduction and come with the risk of unwanted side effects, so we recommend utilizing non-drug ADD treatment options like the ones we prefer at the Drake Institute that are not only safe but can result in long-term improvement.

Medication

Treating ADD or ADHD with medication is a common practice; however, just because something is common doesn’t mean it yields the best results.

In some cases, stimulant ADD medications can have negative side-effects, including: 

  • Nervousness
  • Change in personality
  • Loss of appetite
  • Suppressing growth rate
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Rare psychotic reactions
  • Insomnia
  • Increase in blood pressure and palpitations

Making matters worse is the fact that some individuals develop a tolerance for these medications over time, which may result in needing higher dosages to achieve the same level of symptom reduction. When the dosage of these medications increases, so does the likelihood that your child will experience negative, unwanted side-effects.

It should also be noted that treating attentional deficits with medications does not address the underlying cause of the ADD-related problems, meaning that if the patient were to discontinue their medications, symptoms are likely to return.

A better way to address ADD, and especially ADD-driven bullying behaviors, is by treating the brain’s underlying dysregulation without the use of medication.

Non-Drug ADD Treatment at the Drake Institute

At the Drake Institute, we fully believe that children can experience symptom reduction without the use of ADHD medications.

Through the use of advanced treatment technologies such as qEEG Brain Mapping, Neurofeedback, and Neuromodulation, the Drake Institute assists children in improving their brain functioning, developing more sustained focusing skills, reducing impulsivity, and increasing social performance, both at school and at home.

Brain Mapping

Brain Mapping sits at the core of everything we do at the Drake Institute, as it provides a window into the patient’s brain, allowing us to pinpoint where the dysregulation is occurring that is contributing to their difficulties.

In the case of ADD, brain mapping can identify which parts of the brain are under or over-activated, and thus contributing to the child’s ADHD symptoms. During treatment, we’ll target these specific regions which can help minimize the effects of the child’s attention disorder.

Once brain mapping is complete, the findings are compared to the FDA-registered normative database to identify which regions are deviating from “normal” activity patterns. Custom-tailored patient protocols are then developed that utilize Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation therapies in order to assist the patient in improving.

By customizing each protocol to the patient’s specific needs, the Drake Institute can provide better symptom reduction compared to protocols using a “one size fits all” approach.

In contrast to medications that simply mask symptoms, by addressing the underlying cause of the child’s difficulties, subsequent improvements are typically long-lasting and are likely to endure long after treatment has concluded.

Biofeedback & Neurofeedback

Biofeedback and Neurofeedback treatment is a non-invasive, non-drug treatment protocol designed to retrain the patient’s brain for more optimal functioning. This process helps the patient improve or overcome their ADD issues by improving brain functioning itself.

During Neurofeedback treatment, drugs are not administered; in fact, nothing invasive is performed at all!

Instead, our Neurofeedback protocol involves placing sensors on the patient’s head to record the patient’s current brain functioning patterns. This advanced ADD treatment protocol provides us with real-time feedback into how the patient’s brain is operating, but more importantly, it helps patients to witness firsthand how their brain is working, which allows them to better self-regulate their brain function and strengthen concentration.  

One example of a highly effective Neurofeedback treatment is a process that converts the patient’s brainwave patterns into a video game where they watch a car driving down the highway.

When the patient’s brain shifts into a healthier functioning frequency, the car moves and stays in the proper lane and an auditory tone is sounded. This tone is then repeated every half second that the patient manages to sustain the healthier pattern, training them to hold and stabilize the new brain wave pattern, leading to long-term symptom relief.

Neurofeedback treatments like the one described above can help patients learn how to improve their focus on non-preferred tasks, reducing their unwanted ADD symptoms, and making them much better students, or more successful in their adult lives.

Neuromodulation

Finally, the Drake Institute also utilizes Neuromodulation therapy to support, enhance, and accelerate therapeutic improvements gained through Neurofeedback. This approach has been so successful that we fully integrated the process into our existing treatment protocols in 2020.

Neuromodulation is one of the latest ADD treatment processes, designed to provide therapeutic neurostimulation of dysregulated brain functioning by stimulating brainwave patterns that the patient is deficient in.

Basically, neuromodulation facilitates the patient’s brain to form healthier brain wave activity faster, analogous to training wheels on a bicycle.

Once the healthier brain wave activity is firmly established, the patient’s brain learns to emulate this pattern so that they’re able to replicate the healthier pattern in real-time and can lead to significant symptom reductions.

Neuromodulation also helps increase blood flow in the brain which can not only help facilitate proper regulation of neural activity, but it can also improve other causes of cognitive difficulties by reducing inflammation and assisting in the repair of damage from possible trauma.

This treatment technology is so safe and effective that it is now used worldwide in renowned medical centers such as Harvard University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, UCLA School of Medicine, and many others.

Contact the Drake Institute

If your child is struggling with ADHD, the impact of being bullied, or if they’ve become a bully themselves, then please don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation.

Drake’s non-drug treatment protocols have benefited many patients by optimizing brain functioning, resulting in a reduction or even resolution of unwanted ADD symptoms.

And remember, it’s never too late to help stop child bullying!

 

[i] https://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/stats.asp

[ii] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/22813400/ns/health-childrens_health/t/kids-adhd-may-be-more-likely-bully/#.Xi-NjchKiiM

[iii] https://www.mdedge.com/psychiatry/article/101185/mental-health/early-adhd-and-odd-symptoms-linked-later-bullying

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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Behavioral Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Behavioral Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Behavioral Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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