Have you ever had this experience with your child?
Parent: Go get your shoes on.
Parent walks away to gather purse, keys, and coat.
Child walks off toward shoes. Stops at the kitchen table to work on a puzzle that wasn’t put away. A dog barks in the distance. Child walks to the window to see who is walking by. Parent rushes into the kitchen, checks watch.
Parent: Why don’t you have your shoes on? It’s been 10 minutes, we’re going to be late!
This is a familiar scene for anyone living with a child who struggles with attention and focus. Approximately 30% of autistic kids also have ADHD which can add additional complications.
There are ways to help improve your child’s attention and focus and not all of them involve ADHD medications.
Neurotransmitters Affect Your Child’s Attention and Focus
Neurotransmitters are molecules that send chemical messages throughout our bodies. They communicate two main messages:
- Take action! (excitatory)
- Slow down! (inhibitory)
Over communication of excitatory neurotransmitters or under communication of inhibitory neurotransmitters can result in attention and focus issues.
There are four neurotransmitters associated with attention and autism.
- Impulse control
- Frustration tolerance
- Time management
It’s been shown that children with autism have errors in their dopamine transportation. One way to reverse this issue is with zinc.
These common issues can be caused by an imbalance in your child’s neurotransmitters. If you’re able to find the root cause of the problem – perhaps gut dysbiosis – you can treat that and see positive results in your child’s ability to focus.
- Gama-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
- Primary inhibitor
GABA, the primary inhibitor, is opposed by glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter. An imbalance between these two neurotransmitters can result in attention and focus issues.
It’s common for autistic children to have low GABA levels. This can be addressed by providing a GABA supplement or you may be more successful finding the root cause of their low GABA levels and treating those issues instead.
- Repetitive behaviors
- Altered face processing
Serotonin is frequently described as the “happy hormone.” Antidepressants increase the availability of serotonin in the brain. Additionally, serotonin helps us process facial expressions and interpret non-verbal communication – two common issues for autistic children.
I always try to find a natural remedy for my kid’s issues, but there’s no denying the fact that SSRI’s like Zoloft or Prozac can be very helpful for kids with a serotonin deficiency.
Food and Digestion Issues Affect Your Child’s Attention and Focus
Food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of bacteria in your gut), and nutrient deficiencies are interrelated and can affect our children’s attention.
A lot of our kids have restrictive eating which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. All of those nutrients your child should be getting in their diet affect their focus and attention. For this reason, it’s worth investigating if our kids are getting enough nutrients in their diet.
Autistic kids are predisposed to folate deficiencies. Folate, magnesium, and zinc are the foundations of proper methylation. Since methylation is responsible for production and processing of neurotransmitters if methylation is not performing optimally it will affect attention and focus.
Gut dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of bacteria in our GI tracts. Since the gut and brain are connected we know a gut imbalance can affect focus and attention. Additionally, the discomfort that often comes along with an imbalanced gut (bloating, cramping, diarrhea) can be distracting and interfere with your child’s attention.
Similarly if your child has unknown, or untreated food sensitivities this can lead to gut issues, inflammation, and discomfort. All of these things affect focus and attention.
When you find the root cause of your child’s attention issues you can develop a targeted plan to help them overcome these challenges.
Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing a great job.
I hope this information has been helpful to you as part of creating Your Autism Game Plan.
Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Email me at email@example.comTell Me More!
All my videos offer unbiased, actionable advice for your most common autism challenges.
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