The latest findings on children’s ADHD

A variety of factors might contribute to ADHD. / John Burcham/Getty Images/National Geographic Crea

A variety of factors might contribute to ADHD. / John Burcham/Getty Images/National Geographic Crea

Every kid has a hard time sitting still, and it’s not out of the ordinary for a child to drop a crayon midcolor when the opening music of her favorite cartoon beckons. But if your child has a really hard time staying focused, is more hyper than most of his friends and acts impulsively, he may have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Government reports indicate the number of kids diagnosed with ADHD is up 33 percent over the past 12 years — partly because parents and doctors are getting better at detecting cases, experts say. You can’t prevent ADHD, and no one knows exactly what causes it. Experts believe it’s probably a combination of several factors, including genes, nutrition and environmental toxins. Latest findings:


A team of Canadian and American researchers found a connection between exposure to organophosphate pesticides — the kind often used on commercially grown produce — and the presence of ADHD symptoms. That does not mean kids should stop eating fruits and vegetables, and experts agree more research is needed. But it can’t hurt to buy organic when possible, or from local farmers markets, and be sure to scrub and rinse your produce.

Secondhand smoke

Studies have shown pregnant women who light up may be at an increased risk of having children with ADHD. Now new research finds children exposed to secondhand smoke at home had a 50% increased risk of developing two or more childhood behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD. The study doesn’t prove tobacco smoke can harm kids’ brains, but it adds to a body of evidence that youngsters may be vulnerable to the effects of cigarettes.

Brain anatomy

Scientists in Baltimore scanned the brains of 13 preschoolers with ADHD symptoms and 13 without. The MRIs showed the region of the brain important for cognitive and motor control was smaller in the kids with symptoms. Experts hope the findings may help develop ways to identify and treat ADHD earlier.

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