And does it matter?
The new numbers are in. The CDC's latest report tells us that the rate of kids with a diagnosed developmental disability has increased over the years and now sits at one in 36 (or 6.99%). That includes kids on the autism spectrum along with kids with other intellectual disability and developmental delay. Data for this report was collected by survey in the United States.
It's not clear from the study report whether these numbers include ADHD. ADHD is often considered part of the autism spectrum but parents don't necessarily consider it as such.
In this study, parents were asked the following questions:
Based on that line of questioning, I suspect many of the kids with ADHD were missed (along with those who have sensory processing disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, anxiety disorders, OCD, but none of the listed diagnoses). And let's not forget depression, which is also on the rise.
Also, this data would exclude kids who have not been diagnosed, yet are still struggling.
The addition of these kids who were missed in this data collection would make the true numbers of kids who are struggling look a heck of a lot more disturbing (looks from this like it would jump up to at lease 13% with the addition of ADHD alone and from this that it might be as high as 50% if you include things like conduct disorders and anxiety along with chronic illnesses that are not behaviour related like obesity).
So what's up? Is something really happening?
The debate rages on...
Here's what I think...
I think we should look past the numbers and the statistics. They're troubling, to be sure, but I see them doing one of two things - they throw people into a panic or they make people defensive. Either way they stir up anger and if we're going to help our kids we all need to remain level headed, focused on action, and we all need to be on the same team.
Don't get me wrong... they make me angry. They make me want to gather my kids up and cry. They propel me into action. They make me want to 'rage against the machine'!!
But then I have to catch myself. Take a breath.
Really, I'd rather we ditch the fear, the anger and the debate over whether these numbers are accurate, rising or true and instead focus on the ground; on our kids, on practical strategies.
If you ask any teacher or doctor - or anyone who works on the front lines with kids - they will tell you that more and more kids are struggling and that they are desperate for tools to help them.
That's the simple reality. Whatever the statistics, kids are struggling. Something needs to shift and we have to make that happen.
Sometimes they're helped when teachers get creative with teaching techniques, getting kids outside or using their hands more, or moving more.
Sometimes they're helped when schools build sensory rooms or try various changes to the classroom that better promote self regulation.
Sometimes they're helped by medication.
...these are all tools to help kids who are, right before our eyes, struggling to cope.
And that, to me, is the key. What we're actually seeing is an increase in kids who are struggling to cope.
What we need to do (in my opinion) is twofold:
Let me explain....
With my clients I use the analogy of a glass. Your child's body is the glass. The glass is filling, all the time, with stress (or sometimes I call it irritation). That stress could be rooted in something environmental, social or biological (that last type of stress is too-often missed and is what I write about in my book).
Our remarkable bodies are well equipped to keep that glass slowly emptying to make room for the inevitable stressors of life. But for some kids, the ones who are struggling to cope, either the drain is clogged or the stressors are mounting too quickly (often a combination of both).
Levels in the glass are rising quickly and when it fills, symptoms spill over the side.
How To Help Kids Cope Better
In the Raising Resilience system I help parents empty the glass and clear the drain. I also help them refill that glass with everything that we know promotes health and wellness for our kids. When we do that, we see a shift in behaviour - regardless of diagnosis.
Raising Resilience is a process of simplification. It's a process of cleaning up and building.
It's about more than food. Food's our entry point because it has the power to both remove stress and improve our ability to cope. But at its heart, Raising Resilience is a re-set process that parents can implement when their kids' glasses are full.
It's support to help you shift your family in a new direction.
There is likely nothing worse in life than seeing your kid struggle and not being able to help them. Whether it's because you don't know what to do, you are getting conflicting information, or your don't feel supported - not knowing how to help your kids is a terrible, stressful place to be.
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Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com
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