Every child (and adult) with ADHD or ADD is unique. If for most ADHD sufferers it is true that DHA (omega-3) levels are too low, that doesn’t mean it is automatically true for your own kid. So test before and after you start taking or administering omega-3 supplements. Here are some options:
ADHD Test 1: The Parent Test.
As a parent you will see any behavior changes more than anyone else.
• Check for physical symptoms: is Johnny able to sit still longer? How is his hygiene? Is he aware of his personal space? Thin nails that tear easily, and dry hair, are classic symptoms of omega-3 deficiency.
• Check for emotional changes. Temper tantrums? Ability to handle stressful situation? Does your child appear happy in life? Do other kids connect with him/her? Does he/she connect easily with others?
• Check out your child’s mental and cognitive abilities. Most ADHD children have great focus on what they like, such as video games, but not on the daily activities they need to do such as homework. Is your child able to learn with ease? How much coaching does your child need to get his homework done? How is his maturation process? Check in with teachers and caregivers for extra feedback. Make a behavioral chart or excel spread sheet to track behavioral changes.
ADHD Test 2: Omega-3 blood levels.
These are not commonly done, but are recommended on the Dr. Oz Show. You do need a doctor to prescribe the test. It is a simple finger prick, after which you smear the resulting blood on omega-3 test paper, and then send it to a lab. The test shows you if there is a deficiency in omega-3s, and the ratios between omega-3 and omega-6. Even though the knowledge that omega-3 deficiency is at the core of many (inflammatory) diseases is becoming more widespread, unfortunately the medical profession is typically slow to adopt new ideas. So be prepared to be insistent in your desire for the test.
Test 3: ADHD tests and questionnaires.
• The TOVA Test (Test of Variable Attention). This is a 20-minute video game in which one has to hit the buzzer when certain computer-generated pattern comes on. The test tells how many times you correctly or incorrectly pressed the buzzer, or missed pressing it altogether. It also has an ADHD discriminant in the results. It also measures how long one took to respond.
• Conners Rating Scales for ADHD. This consists of questionnaires for parents and teachers.
• My favorite among the many online ADHD tests was created by Dr. Daniel Amen. He has a questionnaire that identifies his definition of the 5 subtypes of ADD.
• Professionals often diagnose ADHD with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).1 This is considered to be the bible for clinical and counseling professionals in psychology and related fields. This identifies certain symptoms of inattention, and diagnoses ADD if a certain number of symptoms have been present for at least six months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental functioning. These are grouped under the main headings of “inattention,” “hyperactivity,” and “impulsivity.”
ADHD Test 4: QEEG Brain map.
For ADHD, I usually start with my version of a mini QEEG (quantitative electroencephalography) with only three active channels of brain waves during and eyes-open and eyes-closed state. Cost for this is $100-$300. During the mini Q, I can usually see ADD patterns.
• Inattentive ADD has elevated theta in the frontal area and elevated theta beta ratios in the center of the head
• Hyperactivity can show up as having too much beta-wave activity. If there is expected comorbidity (presence of one or more disorders in addition to a primary one), or a possible head injury, I highly recommend doing a full QEEG brain map. This costs $500-$1200, depending on the analysis. We begin by putting on a hat-like device with 19 active EEG channels recording brain waves. The data is run though a database with searching for known indicators of head injury, ADD, learning disability, depression (both unipolar and bipolar), schizophrenia, addictions and dementia (both structural and vascular).
The full brain map lets us see how the whole brain communicates between its various parts, and the speed of transaction. The more information a clinician gets, the more detailed a program we can set up for individual training, and look at medication responsively, as well as multiple diagnoses. Clinical research from Aker BioMarine shows that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) who took krill oil for 13 weeks normalized their electrical brain-activity patterns through QEEG brain mapping.
Bottom line: don’t be smart about your brain and stupid about your wallet. Don’t waste hard-earned dollars on expensive supplements when they don’t make a difference, and don’t do expensive analyses when you get more or less the same information from simple tests. Don’t forget to look at research already done.