Boulder Creek Academy has served as a therapeutic boarding school for adolescents with behavioral challenges for over 20 years. One of many challenges that Boulder Creek Academy is prepared to help students overcome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the fastest-growing developmental disorder among children in the United States.
Believed to be affecting approximately 11 percent of children in the U.S. between the ages of 4 and 17, ADHD’s increased rate of diagnosis is sometimes blamed on modern life in general. However, similar rates among developing countries suggest that the increase is more likely due to expanding awareness and recognition. Causes of ADHD are often erroneously attributed to such factors as head injuries, food additives, and video games. However, current studies strongly suggest that the only causes of ADHD are differences in brain chemistry and structure that are determined entirely by genetics, particularly several genes responsible for dopamine transmission and reception. Dopamine is a neurochemical responsible for a sense of satisfaction that comes with succeeding at a particular task or challenge, and some scientists believe that those with ADHD are, quite literally, feeling unrewarded by many of life’s challenges.
Medication can help manage important brain functions, helping dopamine receptors behave in a more typical manner, but therapy may provide solutions that are equally effective and more permanent. The prevalence of adults in the U.S. with ADHD is only 3 to 5 percent, indicating that it can be overcome with time. Therapeutic solutions include behavior therapy that teaches a child to replace harmful behaviors with more beneficial ones, or redirecting a child’s focus onto a constructive task or activity that does result in a sense of reward. With such treatment, children with ADHD can become highly capable in their adult lives.