That electric feeling  pg. 7

“A lot of these environmental chemicals like dioxins and PCBs impinge on the thyroid system,” McDonald explains. “These are ubiquitous toxins found in many of our foods. Children are very sensitive to that, much more than adults.”

Understanding ADHD will require “converging evidence” from a wide range of disciplines, including molecular genetics, behavioral neuroscience and clinical research, McDonald says.

What’s needed, adds Shelton, is a “molecular dissection” of ADHD – a way of matching an essential characteristic, such as hyperactivity, with a specific pathway, in this case, the dopamine system. This approach aims to rewrite the current classification system for ADHD, spur discovery of more specific and effective treatments, and resolve the debate over the over-diagnosis or under-diagnosis of the condition, he says.

J.T. King’s parents hope the answers come soon.

“I could pull my hair out sometimes with my son,’’ says J.T.’s mother, Jere King. “Then you have to stop and think, ‘OK. He didn’t mean it. It’s not intentional. Get a grip.’ ”

Constant reinforcement is essential. “You just have to always raise them up on the areas that they’re strong, praise them a lot to get their self confidence up, and in the areas that they’re not, you just have to be supportive and tell them they can do it,” she says.

Like most parents of children with a challenging condition, King often has wondered: “Why did this happen?” That question may not be answerable, although perhaps some day she’ll know how it happened. In the meantime, she’s determined to prevent ADHD from becoming for her son a disability – or an excuse.

“That’s not a crutch you can take through life with you,” she tells J.T. “That's something you have to recognize, accept and surmount.”

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