Yes, there are effective alternatives to medication for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, according to Laurel Brady, Learning Disabilities Specialist at Savannah Educational Consultants. “Choosing whether or not to medicate children for ADHD is a decision that parents often find difficult to make. While the most effective treatment outcomes result from a combination of medical and behavioral interventions, looking to non-medical treatment options makes sense, especially for younger children.”
Behavioral interventions, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) can help children with ADHD manage their symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattention. While behavioral strategies don’t affect the core symptoms, they teach children skills they can use to control them. Some children, especially those with severe ADHD symptoms, benefit from behavioral therapy along with medication; for others, the training may make enough difference to enable them to succeed in school and function well at home without medication. One important reason for children to participate in behavioral therapy (whether or not they also take medication) is that ADHD medications stop working when you stop taking them, while behavioral therapy can teach children skills that will continue to benefit them as they grow up.
Another growing approach to ADHD for children is mindfulness. Mindfulness is often associated with meditation; however, mindfulness is not necessarily religious or spiritual. It involves paying close attention to thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations; in other words, developing a greater awareness of what’s going on from moment to moment. For children and adults with ADHD, mindfulness improves the ability to control attention. In other words, it teaches how to pay attention to paying attention. Mindful awareness can improve awareness to emotions, reducing impulsivity, which is often a real problem for children with ADHD. Mindfulness can help children feel calmer, improve executive functioning abilities such as working memory, and get better grades.
While the notion that physical activity has a positive impact on ADHD isn’t new, recent studies are showing that regular physical activity decreased the severity of ADHD symptoms and improved cognitive functioning in children. Learning and participating in sports or exercise, such as martial arts, swimming, ballet, golf, wrestling or yoga, helps children develop attention and focus skills. Children can improve their concentration by learning skills from their sport, and it can give them the physical outlet for excess energy. They can learn self-discipline, self-restraint, and respect for themselves and others as part of the game or activity. Rewards for hard work through competition can give children a sense of accomplishment and improve self-esteem and resiliency. And learning to play sports– following steps, knowing what to expect and developing skills through practice—can transfer to other areas of children’s lives, at home and at school.
For more information about any of the services offered at Savannah Educational Consultants, please visit our website at www.savannaheducationalconsultants.com or call 912-238-9552.
Laurel Brady is the former Executive Director of Royce Learning Center. She is a Nationally Certified Educational Diagnostician with more than 35 years of experience in working with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.