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Alternative Treatments for ADHD

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or you suspect he/she has it, then you have been into the Internet and know that there is an enormous amount of information about ADHD on the Web. Much of it contradictory and repetitive. I would like to help you make a little bit of sense out of the chaos.

The first thing to understand is that the name ADHD ( Attention Deficit Disorder with/without Hyperactivity) is really unfortunate. It is not a deficit or a disorder and certainly not a disease.

ADHD is a difference in the way of being. Some feel that it is a gift; a gift which is hard to unwrap. Learning how to unwrap it is a process which can be successful. As parents you have an important role in guiding that process to a fulfilling conclusion.


ADHD is the most studied of all brain conditions and the research is clear that medication is the single most effective treatment. Ritalin has been studied for 50 years and is safe and non addictive when taken as prescribed. Unfortuneately some people give up too soon because of side effects.It requires patience and a knowledgeable doctor to find the best medication, dosage and timing for your child.

But medication doesn't work for everybody, isn't 100% effective for others and some just don't want to take medication.

On the Internet you find information about many alternative treatments most of which are not supported by the medical establishment. They aren't supported because controlled clinical trials have not been carried out or have produced negative or ineffective results, and yet positive anecdotal evidence supports them. The CHADD website has a summary of alternative treatments and how to evaluate them.

I went to Tucson AZ in May to attend the ADDA conference (Attention Deficit Disorder Association, ) especially to hear Ned Hallowell, author of the "Distraction .." books, talk about alternative treatments.

Dr. Hallowell takes exception to the standard medical ADD approach focused on a disease model. Using the words "disorder" and "deficit", he says, creates a problem that leads to shame, low expectations and frustration. Many people who have ADD type problems just don't see themselves as sick or broken. Dr. Hallowell points out that we are not to blame for having ADD but we are responsible for dealing with the issues such as anger, lateness, failure to deliver that it causes. People who's eyes are faulty wear glasses; and there is little hesitation to fix other body parts which are not up to the desired standard. But the idea of ADD tends to invoke shame.

With his patients, he uses different mental images; he talks about a turbo-charged brain which just happens to have Chevrolet brakes. You win or you spin. And there are some things we need to work on.

Dr Hallowell sees ADD as a talent that needs to be nurished and fed, a gift that's hard to unwrap. He looks for the strengths and finds ways to reinforce them. Research has shown that when teachers have high expectations for students even average students can excel.

Treatment generally focuses on medication. Ritalin has helped many and is still appropriate, but Dr. Hallowell has other tools in his bag. Here are the points he mentionned. And one doesn't have to have ADD to gain a high quality life by following this list.

  1. Sleep. Sleep deprivation can mimic ADD symptoms, and many people simply do not get enough sleep. For people with ADD, adequate sleep is essential. Enough sleep means waking up without an alarm clock.

  2. Prayer or meditation. Regular practice helps focus better.

  3. Smiles, laughs, hugs. Regular doses of positive human contact, smiles, laughs, hugs- several times a day. He recommends appreciation not praise.

  4. Omega-3. There are statistically significant results showing that Omega-3 improves concentration, but it's not cheap. You need a good quality pharmaceutical grade. He recommends 3-5 grams of a liquid form (keep refrigerated) or the equivalent in capsules for children (5-10 gr for adults).

  5. Exercise. Absolutely best treatment, as much as possible within your physical limits. Exercise or sport which demands concentration and learning like Tae Kwan Do or dance help to develop focus and balance and enrich connections to other parts of the brain.

Dr Hallowell has ADD and so do two of his three children, but it is the "normal" child who feels deprived.

In conclusion as a parent with a child who has ADHD, you want the best for him/her. Medication helps the brain function better but your role as guide and teacher to learning life management skills is essential to promote a positive self image and healthy habits. (You can purchase a tape of Dr. Hallowell's presentation and other sessions of the Conference at )

More To Do For ADHD

Life Style for ADHD
Maintaining the Brain
Natural Remedies
Coaching for ADHD
Celebrating ADHD
6 Impossible Things To Do

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