I Run 4 Hope Review - Raising Awareness for ADHD

The terrain is unforgiving; the climate unpredictable. Scorching, blindsiding sandstorms can appear from out of the seemingly tranquil sky. In temperatures nearing 125 degrees, professional runners with the California-based Hope So Bright persevere through this nonnegotiable land, trudging through unpacked sand while carrying all their own supplies. In doing so, they hope to bring awareness to the global ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) pandemic.  

 

The I Run 4 Hope team came in second place at the grueling 2016 Marathon des Sables in Morocco

“I Run 4 Hope” elite athletes do not disappoint by coming in second place in the Marathon des Sables, a grueling, 156-mile trek across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. 

Linda Sanders, founder and CEO of Hope So Bright, is working with filmmaker Alessandro Beltrame to produce a documentary, “Desert Around Me”, to address a broad audience associated with the over-diagnosis of ADHD among children and teens. 

 

“An ultra marathon, in particular, is a fantastic analogy for the day-to-day, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour struggle endured by kids living with ADHD,” said Sanders. “In many ways, a runners’experience mirrors the lifestyle that those diagnosed with ADHD face. We had tremendous sandstorms. Every day, the weather changes incredibly. It is cooler at night, maybe around 60 degrees, but by eight in the morning you are already reaching 80 degrees and running in 102 weather throughout the day. At the end of the day, the athletes go into their tents while the sandstorms are raging and they’re getting sandblasted left and right. They lie on the ground only covered by the shadow of the tent they have.” 

 

Ricardo Mejía Hernández at the 2016 Marathon des Sables in Morocco

 

Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD often face similarly unpredictable and unforgiving conditions.  

Sanders said that she believes ADHD is profoundly misunderstood and that drugs like Ritalin and Adderall are not appropriate for treating this disorder, particularly in young children. 

“A lot of these are amphetamines, which are highly addictive,” said Sanders. 

Marilyn Eisenberg, communication and outreach coordinator for Hope So Bright, said we advocate for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) rather than the use of prescription drugs when treating ADHD.

“Applied Behavioral Analysis is rarely offered to parents, caregivers and school districts,” she said. 

“A lack of special education teachers in pre-Kindergarten through high schools contributes to this problem,” Eisenberg said. 

 

 

Marco Olmo at the 2016 Marathon des Sables

Eisenberg also said that taking children to specialists who could further evaluate them is often not even considered, leaving primary care doctors to write prescriptions. “Unfortunately, many pediatricians are prescribing drugs without sending young children to a specialist to get a thorough diagnosis.”

 With the documentary film “Desert Around Me” and other upcoming ultra marathons, 5K run/walk races and educational events, Sanders said she supports Applied Behavioral Analysis as the preferred treatment, which eliminates the symptoms of ADHD without the potentially dangerous side effects of irritability, insomnia, and even suicidal ideation that often result from medication. 

Sanders cites the Marathon des Sables, in which runners must carry all their gear and are given rations of water, as a metaphor of what life can be like for misdiagnosed and misunderstood children who daily have to brave the harsh elements of a world that is far too confusing. Sanders said day-to-day life can be particularly rough on low-income, at-risk, and foster children. 

“Kids coming into foster care, enter into a house after they’ve been taken away from their parents,” Sanders said. “Who knows what happened to the kids when they were with their parents? Anxiety and erratic behaviors are only natural given the child’s situation. Unfortunately, the first thing that happens in foster care is that children who misbehave are given antipsychotics,” she said. “By the time they’ve been in the system a year, they’re on five or six different pills. It’s terrible.” 

 

  

Linda Sanders and Alessandro Beltrame filming the 2016 Marathon des Sables

Sanders said she believes more funding and research are crucial in developing appropriate ways of treating ADHD. “Improper treatment, she said, could result in problems that stay with the child into adulthood including difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, low self-esteem and poor relationship skills.” 

“The other thing that’s fascinating is that medical professionals are not even sure what the causes of ADHD are,” Sanders said. “Some people think it’s genetic and that it runs in families. Others think it’s environmental, suggesting that the child may have been exposed to lead or chemicals or that something went haywire in their upbringing. Still others think ADHD is developmental, and that there may be something wrong with the child’s central nervous system. The fact that we’re not sure speaks volumes about the need for alternative treatments.” 

Sanders said that even sugar and gluten can cause hyperactivity. 

The side effects of improper treatment can be particularly devastating to very young children, many of whom Sanders said are probably diagnosed after displaying nothing more than age-appropriate behaviors like inattentiveness and restlessness. 

“A three-year old child’s brain is not fully developed, so any medication can actually shrink and entirely change its structure. It’s getting easier to diagnose kids with ADHD,” she said. “In order to diagnose a child with ADHD, they must undergo a comprehensive examination. ABA must be considered as a treatment option as it has been proven over and over again to work miracles with children.” 

With the documentary film “Desert Around Me” and other upcoming ultra marathons, 5K run/walk races and educational events, Sanders said she supports Applied Behavioral Analysis as the preferred treatment, which eliminates the symptoms of ADHD without the potentially dangerous side effects of irritability, insomnia, and even suicidal ideation that often result from medication. 

Sanders cites the Marathon des Sables, in which runners must carry all their gear and are given rations of water, as a metaphor of what life can be like for misdiagnosed and misunderstood children who daily have to brave the harsh elements of a world that is far too confusing. Sanders said day-to-day life can be particularly rough on low-income, at-risk, and foster children. 

“Kids coming into foster care, enter into a house after they’ve been taken away from their parents,” Sanders said. “Who knows what happened to the kids when they were with their parents? Anxiety and erratic behaviors are only natural given the child’s situation. Unfortunately, the first thing that happens in foster care is that children who misbehave are given antipsychotics,” she said. “By the time they’ve been in the system a year, they’re on five or six different pills. It’s terrible.” 

Linda Sanders, founder and CEO of Hope So Bright

With Hope So Bright’s next event, the 5K ADHD Hero Run/Walk October 30, 2016 in San Diego, Sanders said she hopes to further raise awareness among families and school districts about safe and healthy alternatives for ADHD treatment, such as ABA.

 

Photos courtesy of Hope So Bright

 

 

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