Hidden Allergies: Cause for Disruptive Behavior, Sensory Issues and Poor Retention?
This article contains information regarding allergies and how they may affect learning and behavior. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
The number of children diagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders astounds me. According to Healthline 6.4 million American children have been diagnosed with ADHD. There’s been a 42 percent increase in cases in the last eight years. And it’s easy to see. If you look around, you’ll probably find one, if not more, parents struggling to manage a child that’s prone to outbursts or just cannot sit still to save their life.
Dr. Mary Ann Block, author of No More Ritalin, observed that allergies may be one of the biggest culprits of learning challenges in children today. Well, discontent can sometimes lead to positive outcomes. People unhappy with Ritalin being the only option started digging and they’ve found some pretty interesting things. One of those things is allergies. Yes, studies are finding that allergies can affect learning and behavior.
How Allergies Interfere With Learning and Behavior
One of the side effects of allergies is chronic congestion. When the ears, nose, and throat are plugged, ear infections are a common product. Chronic ear infections have a negative impact on hearing and as we all know, hearing is critical to both learning and behavior. It’s near impossible for a child to follow instructions for an assignment or a chore when they can’t hear you properly. Kids who don’t hear well also tend to get wrapped up in their own little world because it’s hard to pay attention when everything becomes background fuzz.
The body’s overreaction to nutrients puts stress on many of the body systems. It can cause digestive discomfort and malfunction. This can lead to long trips to the bathroom that pull kids out of class. It can disrupt the respiratory system and leads to difficulty breathing. As we all know, breathing is kind of important for all systems in the body. But one of the biggest problems is the inflammation response that is triggered in the brain.
Inflammation is a natural response to foreign bodies, but in an allergy or sensitivity, the response attacks something that is okay to be there otherwise and it is usually an over response so it causes extra damage. This overreaction disrupts information processing, interrupts reading and direction comprehension; disrupts attention span, which is why many kids with hidden allergies are misdiagnosed with ADHD or kids with ADHD symptoms are exacerbated; it also messes with neurotransmitters which are responsible for emotional and behavioral responses, and is what leads to the inability to sit still or creates emotional outbursts.
What To Look For
ADHD is a good place to start. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or you feel they fit the criteria, try looking into hidden allergies. In school, pay attention and see if they continuously struggle with reversals, appear to be lazy or unwilling to do class work or homework, have poor memory or retention skills, and even look to their untidy handwriting for cues. Some people with hidden allergies describe a mental fog that leaves them with a gaping mouth and a blank stare. They’re also easily startled because their attention is scattered.
Physically, look for chronic nasal congestion, chronic ear infections, dark circles under the eyes, fatigue, stomach discomfort, diarrhea, or constipation. Behaviorally, look for hyperactivity, irritability, outbursts or meltdowns, and sensory processing symptoms. Many times these children are looked at as intentionally disruptive or obnoxious, but they’re truthfully just struggling to connect and comprehend. They usually can’t understand why they’re in trouble even though you feel the answer is staring them in the face.
What To Do
Undiagnosed food allergies are the most likely culprits. Foods that contain dairy, gluten, eggs, sugar, food dyes, preservatives and nuts are many times responsible. Sometimes it can even be a combination. The best way to test for allergies to these items is to remove all of the likely options and wait for the symptoms to subside. Once the body has been allowed to detox for a few weeks, you can add the foods back in one by one and take note if you notice a return of the symptoms. This could also be a reason why your child seems to have sensitivities to food textures or is considered a “picky eater.” Many children struggling with Sensory Processing Disorders struggle to eat certain foods. A child with sensory issues may have a combination of sensitivities to textures along with food allergies that could cause disruptions and poor behavior in the classroom.
Always remember that when you’re dealing with diet and nutrition and a possible medical condition, it’s important to work closely with your child’s pediatrician. And try to remember that they’re probably as overwhelmed by all of this as you are.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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