Five Non-Prescription Ways to Treat the Symptoms of ADHD
Probably the most popular method to treat ADHD in children is through the various ADHD medications. For many children the medications can work successfully in diminishing the symptoms of ADHD. Yet there are instances where the medications don’t work as well as parents had hoped or they have so many side effects that the medication is stopped. It is also true that medications are but one tool in our arsenal to treat the symptoms of ADHD. What can be of great benefit is to use a multi-treatment approach combining non-prescription methods with medication if necessary.
As a former special educator and as a parent of a special needs child, it is my opinion that the treatment options with the least amount of potential risk should be utilized first. I believe in only providing as much intervention as is necessary. This means to use a multi-tiered approach. It has been my experience to try the non-medication methods first and then add medication only if it is deemed essential for the child’s well being and functioning.
Here are five non-prescription ways to treat ADHD symptoms in children:
1. Use sensory integration techniques to help your ADHD child diminish hyperactivity and improve their ability to pay attention.
I am a big advocate of using the sensory integration techniques described in such books as The Out-of Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz. It is believed by many special educators and developmental therapists that children who have disorders such as ADHD or autism may also have what is called Sensory Integration Dysfunction (sometimes also called Sensory Processing Disorder). What this means in a nutshell is that the child is unable to process input from their senses in the same way that most people do. The child may be under or over-sensitive to various environmental stimuli. For example, the child with a sensory processing disorder may be super-sensitive to clothing tags, tantrum when they hear loud noises, or literally be bouncing off the walls because the child is unable to regulate sensory input.
With the help of an occupational therapist or other specialist trained in sensory integration techniques, a child with these issues can learn to self-calm, become better engaged and more attentive attentive and decrease their hyperactive behaviors.
For more information and details about sensory integration please read my post, “A Sensory Integration Approach to Helping Hyperactive Kids”
2. Get your child out into “green play settings.”
There are several studies which show that children with ADHD have improved functioning and fewer ADHD symptoms when they are exposed to natural settings such as fields, woods, and parks. One study was conducted by Frances Kuo, Professor of natural resources and environmental sciences and Director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois. Kuo found that children who were exposed to a more natural green environment were able to concentrate better, were less hyperactive and less distractible. I can personally attest to this for my son who is always so much better behaved and calm when he is immersed in nature.
3. Use behavior management strategies to help your child control their behavior, get organized, and control impulsivity.
Aside from medication, behavior management strategies are often one of the first lines of defense used to help a child who has ADHD. Restructuring and modifying a child’s environment can greatly reduce a child’s stress and reduce many of the symptoms associated with ADHD. Behavior management strategies can help a child to make sense of their world so that they can better understand cause-and-effect and be able to predict consequences for behavior. An emphasis upon positive strategies can increase the child’s self esteem and feelings of mastery over his or her environment.
4. Make sure your child has a healthy diet and gets some exercise.
This is advice we hear for the general population, but it may be especially important for children who have ADHD. There are many diets out there touted as being helpful for diminishing the symptoms of ADHD including the Feingold Diet or the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet (GFCF diet).
Beyond the hype of miracle cures there may be good reason to take a look at such diets to see if they may be beneficial for your child. My son has been on the GFCF diet for years due to multiple food allergies and intolerances. It makes sense that if a child is not feeling physically or emotionally well because of food allergy issues that behavioral problems could result.
Then, too, there are studies which show that certain food nutrients or supplements can improve the symptoms of ADHD. One such supplement is Omega-3 fatty acids.
Exercise has been shown in numerous studies to be beneficial for our physical and mental health. It can decrease anxiety and depression which are often co-morbid conditions with ADHD. And exercise such as yoga has been scientifically demonstrated to ease the symptoms of ADHD.
To find out more about how diet and exercise plays a part in your ADHD child’s mental and physical well being please visit our Diet and Exercise informational page.
5. Make sure your child is getting good restful sleep.
According to a recent study, researchers reported that over 73% of a sample of children having ADHD also experienced some sort of sleep problem, whether it was difficulty falling asleep, restless leg syndrome, nightmares, feeling tired upon awakening, or breathing difficulties during sleep.
One of the symptoms of a sleep disorder in children can be hyperactivity, which is also a symptom of ADHD. In a Newsweek article entitled, “A Cure for ADHD?” it was reported that treatment of an ADHD child’s snoring could also treat the symptoms of ADHD. Researchers speculated that if the child’s sleep-disordered breathing could be improved through tonsillectomy or adenoid removal then the symptoms of ADHD would greatly diminish, especially the ADHD symptom of hyperactivity. And indeed they did find just that: “Of the 22 identified as having ADHD, 11 kids no longer qualified as having the disorder.”
It seems that if your child has a sleeping problem or poor sleep habits, this could greatly impact upon your child’s behavior during waking hours. It has been my personal experience that if my son does not sleep well, then his behavior problems and hyperactivity go through the roof the next day. We use the natural supplement of Melatonin to get him to sleep better through the night.
Now we want to hear from our readers. Have you used any of these strategies to help your child with his or her ADHD symptoms? Which of these methods has worked the best for your child? Do you have any other suggestions of non-prescription ways to treat the symptoms of ADHD? Please know that we value your input. We would love to hear from you as parents are the true experts.