Team GR: Most children with autism struggle with focus and concentration. We asked Dr. Jerry Kartzinel to help identify common symptoms, causes and solutions.
Focus and Concentration
Written by Dr. Jerry Kartzinel
When trying to improve a child’s focus and concentration, we have to try and find the source or sources of the “disconnect” and the easy distractibility. This can be quite complicated, but if we are going to have success here, we have to look at every potential cause of problems of focus and concentration.
- Short attention span: finding regular, routine everyday tasks really boring
- Distractibility: heightened awareness of everything around them
- Disorganization: especially in rooms, book bags, filing, drawers, closets
- Procrastination: last moment, deadlines, “mad”
- Poor internal supervision: impulsive
- Requiring many prompts to stay on task
- Very little toy play, moves from object to object
- Constant fidgeting
- Easily frustrated
- Poor recall
- Slow processing speed
- Poor social function
LOTS of Possible Causes!
There can be a genetic component. Sometimes, we see in the family history of individuals who have (had) bipolar disease, schizophrenia, alcoholism, suicide and autism. This usually is a clue that this family may have a problem with what is called the methylation pathway. There are genetic tests available to see if this is a problem, but two of the more commonly ordered tests are C677T and A1298C.
- History of head injury
- Decreased oxygen at birth (or later event)
- Abnormal hormones
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Poor diet
- Early neglect/abuse
- Negative self-talk
- Learned helplessness
Commonly Found Additional Problems
- Tics and Tourette’s syndrome
- Physical/emotional/sexual abuse
- Learning disabilities
So what do we do?
As you can imagine, not one treatment is going to work for everyone! Each patient comes with their own special set of circumstances and underlying sources of attention deficit. But, with that said, here is how we should start:
Step 1: Doctor!
A biomedical physician will have to assist you with looking for underlying medical problems that can be a source of poor focus and concentration. This usually requires blood work and possibly even looking at stool and urine studies.
Step 2: Diet
Many parents want to skip over the dietary changes required to help restore focus and concentration. They just want to get to the pill or two that will fix it. If the diet is poisoning the brain, it will not function at its optimal best no matter what we do. Following a GFCF or Keto diet are most common for those with autism.
- High protein, low carbohydrates, low sugar
- Avoid processed foods, food colorings, and anything on the label you don’t understand
- Remove all sources of dairy – cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milk
- Consider removing all gluten containing foods
Step 3: Exercise
They really need at least 30 minutes per day!
Step 4: Supplements
Here are the supplements that I commonly use in my clinic that have been very effective, but dosage will vary based on the child’s age and weight.
- Methyl B12
- Omega oils such as cod liver oil
- L theanine
- L carnitine
- Phosphatidyl serine
- Grape Seed Extract
These dietary changes and supplements can be an excellent way to optimize your child’s brain function.