AUGUSTA, GA. Michelle Harrell has been immersed in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder since childhood. Her brother as well as both her children were all diagnosed with ADHD.
In addition to medication, cognitive-behavioral therapies, and physical therapy, Harrell was able to help her children with a newer alternative treatment called nutritional therapy.
So as Dr. Meredith Rausch asked Ed.S. students in her advanced multicultural course to write a research-based advocacy paper on a new idea for an underserved group, Harrell already knew her topic.
Harrell’s paper advocates that when the ecosystem in the human digestive system is unbalanced, it will manifest itself not just in intestinal upset, but also in cognitive and behavioral dysfunction. Her belief is that negative symptomology can be reduced and reversed by managing diet, nutrition, and gut bacteria.
When she submitted her work to journals and magazines for publication, the American Counseling Association accepted it.
“This is big for any student. I’ve graduated Ph.D. students who didn’t have any publications,” Rausch said. “And as we move towards Research I designation, more and more professors will be asking students to step up to that challenge. Our students are already meeting it.”
Harrell said that ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and mood and anxiety disorders can slow down instruction in the classroom, and impact the progress of not just the diagnosed student, but the entire class. And their impact is only expected to increase.
“When the Centers for Disease Control reports that ADHD is rising five percent a year, we need to become more aware of therapies like this,” she said. “As I begin my journey as a counselor in the schools and private practice, I can’t imagine not grasping the opportunity to add nutritional therapy for my clients.”
Harrell said that she has seen firsthand the benefits of nutritional therapy, particularly as she credits it for reducing the symptoms of ADHD in both of her children.
As a teacher, I have also witnessed the increase in children with ADHD, ASD, and other mood and anxiety disorders that could be greatly combatted with supportive counseling and nutritional therapy protocols.
Rausch said it took bravery for Harrell to write on this topic, as it is a newer therapy without the decades of acceptance behind it. But to advance both the study of counseling and Augusta University’s stature, it is important for students to have confidence while balancing on the cutting edge.
“If you’re trying to become a leader in the field of education, it’s important to know how to advocate for things based on research, and to serve underserved groups,” Rausch said.
You can read Harrell’s paper on the ACA website here: http://ct.counseling.org/2016/02/gut-health-and-healthy-brain-function-in-children-with-adhd-and-asd/
And you can read the paper in its entirety here: http://ocmsites.org/coe/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2016/03/2016mharrellnutritionarticlesub.pdf