Attention and Learning Clinic
        Attention and Learning                      Clinic





Protein: Your child should eat breakfast including whole foods and protein.  Protein is needed to produce the neurochemicals (mostly dopamine) needed for an alert and attentive brain.  These chemicals are mostly produced in the morning and early afternoon hours.  Eating protein for breakfast and lunch is necessary to produce these neurochemicals.  Eating a lot of protein for the evening meal does not help produce these chemicals and if anything might contribute to your child having more problems getting to sleep.  It is better to eat more carbohydrates for the evening meal.  Carbohydrates are involved in the production of serotonin, which helps us feel good and relaxed and contributes to a good night’s sleep.  


  • Aim for at least 10 grams of protein for breakfast for kids ten-years-old and under, about 15 grams for 11 to 14-years-olds (and older females), and about 20 grams for adolescent boys 15 and older.  Major sources of protein include dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese), eggs, nuts (including peanut butter), meats (chicken, beef, pork), seafood, and soy (soymilk, tofu). Although most kids will say “Yuck” to plain tofu, there are an increasing number of products that use soy to create all sorts of foods.  My vegetarian daughter is particularly fond of imitation barbeque ribs made from soy.   


To determine the amount of protein (and other nutrients) in foods, look at the labels.  Or go to to look up the nutrients of thousands of generic and name-brand foods.  To get you started, here is the protein count of a typical serving of some common breakfast-type foods. 




Serving Size

Protein in Grams


1 cup


Cottage Cheese -2% Milk fat

½ cup



1 oz


Egg, large



Oscar Mayer Smokie Links

1.5 oz


Instant Oatmeal – cooked with water

¾ cup


Cream of Wheat

¾ cup



¾ cup


Honey Bunches of Oats

¾ cup


Kellogg’s Corn Flakes

¾ cup


Kellogg’s Froot Loops

¾ cup


Cocoa Puffs

¾ cup


White Bread Toast

1 slice


Whole-Wheat Bread Toast

1 slice


Peanut Butter

2 tbsp



  • As you can see, the popular kid’s cereals provide very little protein.  They do provide lots of sugar.  Although sugars provide for an immediate surge of energy (and sometimes concentration), they cause the body to release insulin, which breaks down the sugars so they don’t harm the body.  Releasing insulin causes the brain to manufacture more of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which at high levels leads to drowsiness and loss of attention.   


Other Nutrients:  Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc are also needed for good attention and control of behavior.  One recent, well designed study (a double blind and randomized trial) found that adding a supplement with 15-mg of Zinc significantly increased attention in ADHD kids that were taking Ritalin (as judged by both parents and teachers), compared to a group that just took Ritalin.   


  • Keep a food dairy for your child for several days and determine the amount of nutrients, especially protein, iron, magnesium, and zinc she gets. Read labels and visit  to do this.  Or it might be easier to find a book or pamphlet with the nutrients listed for various foods.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron is 10 mg for kids four to eight –years-old between 8 to 11 for older male kids and teens, and 15 mg for girls 14 to 18-years-old.  The RDA for zinc is 5 mg for four to eight-year-olds, 8 for 9 to 13 year-olds, and depending on gender, 9 to 11 mg for 14 to 18 year-old teens.     The RDA for magnesium is 130 mg for children four to six-years-old, 240 mg for kids 9 to 13, 410 mg for 14 to 18 year-old males, and 360 mg for 14 to 18 year-old females.  Click on and go to page 2, for the most recent recommended dietary allowances.  It might also be helpful to check out the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) on page 4.  The ULs are the levels of nutrients likely to pose no risk or cause adverse side effects.   


  • If after computing the nutrient levels from the food diary, your child isn’t close to the RDA levels for iron, magnesium, and zinc; consider daily vitamins.   


  • If you are considering adding a 15 mg Zinc supplement, check the UL for your child’s age (see above).  Since the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for kids four to eight-years-old is 12 mg, check with your medical doctor before giving her the supplement. The UL for kids and teens 9-years-old and older is 23 mg or greater, so the 15 mg supplement shouldn’t be a problem. However, you may still want to check with your medical doctor, especially if the supplement and results from the food diary add up to more than 23 mg per day.   


  • It is helpful to track attention and behavioral changes before and after dietary, supplement, and other changes are made.  The School Success Computer CD gives you several tools to track these changes.   


There is evidence that the Omega 3’s found in fish oil (and flax seeds) is important for concentration.  A recent study at the University of Adelaide in Australia found improvement in ADHD symptoms with fish oil.  Reportedly, 30 to 40 percent of the children showed significant improvement in about three months, and 40 to 50 percent showed improvement by about seven months.  If you decide to add fish oil, remember that it took up to seven months to see significant increases in concentration and fish oil apparently didn’t work at all for about half of the children using it. Go to: for a news article and comments about this research.  




  • Kids should get at least one-half hour of good exercise per day.  No TV until after school exercise.  Aerobic exercise helps balance brain neurochemicals.  We all know exercise helps stabilize weight and increase vitality.  When exercise involves others, it helps kids develop social skills and peer relationships.  Developing good social skills is as important developing academic skills for the long-term success of your child.  Encourage group sports.  Many children, including ADHD and LD kids benefit from gymnastic and martial arts classes.  Be sure to observe the martial arts class before enrolling your child.  Find a class that emphasizes self-control and discipline.  


TV and Video Games 

  • Limit TV and video games.  Most TV shows and video games are a waste of time and keep kids from doing more constructive things such as playing outside with friends.  On the other hand, TV and video games can be fun, relaxing, and serve as a reward for completing homework and doing chores.  Some video games may help kids learn and exercise their problem solving and visual-motor skills. 


The darker side of TV and video games comes in several categories.  Modern TV and video games tend be very fast paced.  Results are gained almost instantly.  Instant gratification is reinforced continuously.   When a child pushes a button or moves the control stick on the video game controller, the results immediately show up on the screen.  What if they had to wait a day or two for the feedback, like they do on homework assignments?  When kids (as well as we adults) don’t immediately like what they are watching on TV, they grab the remote to change channels. Doing well in school and life in general usually demands the ability to work long and hard before getting meaningful results or feedback – what we often call delayed gratification.  


The other major problem with many TV and video games is the saturation of violence and other displays of truly rotten social skills and absence of human caring.  We know that imitating behavior is one of the main ways we learn to do what we do.  Repeatedly watching violence can also desensitize kids to violence, making them more likely to act violently.  A number of kids exposed to violence overdose are able to abstain from blatant outrageous behavior, although I believe this exposure subtly effects their behavior more than most realize.  On the other hand, some kids are strongly affected by violent games, TV, and movies.  There is evidence that “first person shooter” games may be the most harmful for kids because in these games they are actually “doing” the violence.  The more these games move toward virtual reality, the more powerful they will likely become.   


  • Strictly limit video games or TV if your child seems addicted to them – he plays the games or watches TV for hours at a time, doesn’t get homework or chores done due to amount of time watching TV or playing video games, gets extremely upset when you tell him it’s time to quit and do something else, or he just doesn’t quit when you tell him.  


  • Although I believe that children in general should not play violent video games, if your child has aggressive behaviors, he definitely should not be playing violent video games.  


School Organization and Study Skills 


Most children and teens can benefit from increased organizational skills applied to school as well as other aspects of their life.  Help in learning and using these skills is critical for kids with ADHD.  Organizational skills cover several dimensions, including organizing time and organizing space and belongings.  Organizing time includes being able to prioritize what is the most urgent and important thing to be doing right now.  It includes the ability to break down longer-term assignments into shorter units and stay on track getting these smaller units completed.  The School Success Calendar can help with that.  Organizing space and stuff include being able to find the homework completed last night so your child can get it to school.  It might mean being able to find his shoes in the morning.  Both of these types of organizational skills come into play in completing the morning routine (getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, getting stuff needed for school that day, and so on) in a timely, efficient, and cooperative manner.  


Below are some tips to increase organizational skills.  Send for our School Success CD for more tools in this area or make an appointment to see us at The Attention and Learning Clinic. 




  • Help your child organize for school.  Go over assigned homework when they first get home from school.  Establish a specific place where all finished homework is placed until it is turned in.  Teach your child to “CAN” their homework – checking it for Completeness, Accuracy, and Neatness. 
  • Teach your child mnemonic strategies – tricks to remember things.  Examples are using words or phrases as in the word “CAN” above.  I still remember the notes in the treble cleft spaces by the word “FACE”, which was taught to me many years ago. Visualization can also tremendously increase the ability to memorize. 
  • Kids with ADHD need structure to do their best.  A consistent routine after school, with specific time for doing homework and studying for tests is needed for these kids. 
  • Help your child make a school success calendar to keep track of longer-term homework projects and tests.  A simple way to make this calendar is to cut up a regular monthly calendar and tape at least a semester’s worth of months on poster paper. Place the calendar on the wall, near where your child studies, so she can refer to it easily every day.  You may need to remind her to look at it every day after school at the beginning.  Your child should be accurately writing assignments down in a daily assignment or agenda book.  If the assignment is due more than a week from the time it was given, the assignment date and the due date should be written on the school success calendar. 




Coordination With The School 


Ideally teachers, other school staff, parents, and students are in a partnership to provide a quality education to all students.  This partnership may often be satisfied with a few parent-teacher visits/conferences throughout the school year, the child informing parents about important school activities, parents providing monitoring and encouragement to their children concerning school and homework, and parents reading information sent from the school.  However, sometimes this partnership takes a good deal more work and tolerance.   


  • Check in early in the school year with your child’s teacher.  Keep a good line of communication with the school.


Dr. Volweider's Coaching Services

New Address for Assessment and Counseling Services 


Attention and Learning Center @ Axiom Counseling and Therapy

7570 W. 21st St. N.

Building 1042, Suite B

Wichita, KS 67205


Phone:  316-558-8085  

Fax: 316-558-8085   





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