By Jennifer McGregor.
Dyslexia and ADHD often go together. It is one of the most common comorbidities. [Dynaread adds: Anxieties caused by the fear and stress of Reading, in a child with Dyslexia who has not yet been properly helped, are potentially able to induce behavioral changes resembling ADHD. ADHD is not diagnosed through an objective test (e.g measure blood pressure, or takinga mouth swap). ADHD Diagnosis is based on behavioral symptoms.] The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates that 3 out of 4 children diagnosed with ADHD are put on medication. It is not our role to argue about this, but we have chosen to dedicate an article on steps you can explore to manage ADHD without any medication. Remember: Every medication comes with both benefits, as well as certain risks and side-effects. We hope that this article may provide you with further input to make an educated decision on the best care for your child.
Choosing whether or not to medicate your child with ADHD is a decision only a parent can make. Health Care Professionals provide you with their diagnosis and recommendations. However, the decision to medicate or not ultimately lies in the hands of parents. There are several pros and cons of ADHD medication, and parents would be wise to weigh them carefully before making a decision. ADHD is not a life-threatening condition: Parents have the option to first explore a medication-free approach, and only to escalate to medication with the medication-free strategy proves insufficient.
For parents who choose for a medication-free ADHD treatment for their child, it is important to remember that they are not alone. There are alternative treatments to help manage your child's symptoms. This article provides you with some options and ideas on the medication-free approach.
Parents who choose not to use medication to treat their child's ADHD often find success with behavior therapy. Let's take the example of a mother, Mrs. Tiffany, in the USA: She chose not to treat her son's ADHD with medication and tried various occupational therapists, ocular therapists, physical therapists, and neurologists before finding a sustainable strategy for managing his behavior in a multi-modal approach offered at the Brain Balance Achievement Centers. The learning program meshes academic skills, behavior management, diet, and exercise to help children with ADHD function more successfully at home and at school.
She also has found success in managing her son's ADHD through a combination of behavior system cards, a three-strike rule for self-control, and a system to help her son consider the consequences of his actions. She found that consistency is key, and that she had to resist trying new strategies as soon as her son had a difficult day. Most behavior therapy strategies involve parents learning how to give instructions that boost their child's self-esteem and self-control rather than reacting negatively. Parents establish realistic goals for their children and introduce reward systems, structure, and time outs.
Exercise is a great way to help your child burn off his excess energy in a healthy, productive way. It's also been linked to improved brain function and cognitive function, helping children with ADHD activate their attention systems and aiding with processes like sequencing, prioritizing, and sustaining attention. Exercise can even stimulate the same production of neurochemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin as certain ADHD medications; that means you can go a more natural route and get the same benefits!
It may also be beneficial to enroll your child in a team sport like swimming or track. Kids with ADHD do better given clear parameters, so having a clear lane to focus on will help his performance. Being a part of a team will help him grow closer to his peers while teaching him focus and discipline. Here's a link to an article on Swimming as an exercise for people with ADHD.
There has been much discussion in recent years about the relationship between food additives and ADHD. See e.g. this short article by Dr. John E. Huxsahl of the Mayo Clinic. He addresses the issue of diet and ADHD and outlines the information to date. According to Dr. Huxsahl, "there is no solid evidence that food additives cause attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder." He does argue though that "Better research is needed."
The topic of food additives and their possible effects is controversial. Some studies indicate that certain food colorings and preservatives may increase hyperactive behavior in some children. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Advisory Committee determined that students to date have not proved there's a link between food colorings and hyperactivity."
He also points out that more research needs to be completed to determine whether limiting certain foods or additives help reduce hyperactivity and ADHD symptoms. He also suggests parents discuss the pros and cons of trying diets that eliminate food additives to determine the effects on your child's behavior. Keep in mind that it is best to have a doctor or dietitian supervise the diet plan because diets eliminating too many foods can be unhealthy. Of course, balanced diets that eliminate sugary and processed foods and include lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, and healthy fats are the best for overall health and nutrition.
Dr. Anthony Rostain, professor of psychiatry at the Hosptial of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, reports that there is promise in newer ADHD treatments for kids who are not on medication, such as biofeedback. EEG biofeedback is a neurological exercise designed to help strengthen patients' cognitive skills. During EEG biofeedback treatments, children with ADHD are connected to a device called an electroencephalograph that measures the types of electrical activity, or brain waves, produced in various parts of the brain. The therapy is intended to reduce the amount of low-frequency brain waves and increase the number of high-frequency brain waves. Children are rewarded for working to change their slower brain waves to faster ones after seeing how their behaviors affected their brain waves.
For starters, dogs provide a constant, nonjudgmental companion for your child to lean on during those particularly rough days. They can be a great way to boost your child's self-esteem and confidence. They also give your child the perfect outlet to be silly, which might be just the thing he needs to burn off the stress ADHD can cause.
Dogs are especially helpful to children with ADHD because they help create consistency. They must be walked, fed, and played with on a regular basis. Your child could even shape his own schedule around his dog's: he gets home from school, walks the dog, then does his homework, for example.
Under professional guidance, parents work with their children to manage their behavior without using medication. That's why the best advice for parents who opt out of ADHD medication for their children is to be patient and keep trying until they find the right combination of treatments for their child.
Keep in mind that every child with ADHD will have varying needs and react to medication differently. It's important to get all the facts before making a decision on how to treat your child's ADHD and to consider the options carefully. Consult your pediatrician, and never feel pressured into a course of treatment you're not comfortable with. For more information on treating ADHD with or without medication you may want to check out the following resources:
What We Know About the Long-Term Effects of ADHD Medications - The Child Mind Institute.
Easing ADHD Without Meds - American Psychology Association.
The article has been written for Dynaread by Jennifer McGregor: A pre-med student, who loves providing reliable health and medical resources for PublicHealthLibrary.org users. She knows how difficult it can be to sift through the mountains of health-related information on the web. She co-created the site with a friend as a way to push reputable information on health topics to the forefront, making them easier and quicker to find.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute formal advice.
Our Dynaread team members are required to hold themselves accountable for serving our clients in adherence with our core values...
Dynaread has been developed in the trenches of actual remediation, with our feet firmly planted on the ground. Scientific research is essential (and we consistently use it), but we also understand the realities at home and in school. Not all homes have two parents, not all Dad's or Mom's are always home, there is oftentimes no money, schools lack staff or funding. We listen, we observe, we discuss, and we build the best solutions we can for older (ages 7+) struggling readers.