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Lifestyle

June 23, 2013

Alternative treatments for ADHD have mixed results

There are some non-medical treatments for ADHD that may work. Some do not.

As promised in last week’s column, here are some possibilities — pro and con.

Attention and working memory training such as “cog-med” and “cog fun” do appear to have some benefit. Effects are fair to good. Long-term benefit is unclear.

Use of interactive metronome game as a video does seem to produce positive results. Study groups are relatively small. Long-term sustainable effects are uncertain.

Sensory integration therapy is popular, but the formal results have been disappointing. There has been no clear improvement proven.

Neurofeedback also has been popular. This method tries to train a youngster or adult to increase theta waves. This is a computerized method. It is time-consuming and requires about 80 sessions. As you might imagine, insurance companies will not pay for it. Unfortunately the research I have seen does not support its success, certainly not any long term benefit.

Some experiences actually have been shown to increase symptoms of ADHD. For example, higher time and frequency of video games and television have been shown to increase symptoms of ADHD. Similarly sleep deprivation has a remarkable effect on increasing symptoms.

Training in Yoga, Tai Chi, or even Karate may motivate and help a bit, but the results for sustainable improvement of symptoms is not great. However, sports and activities allow a youngster to reduce stored restlessness. In my opinion they are great and should never be taken away as punishment, unless you want to punish yourself.

Mindfulness training and meditation do appear to be very beneficial. Adults are obviously more capable of using these methods, but kids can try them, too. In my opinion our classrooms and curricula increase stimulation. One wonders what would happen if there were two “quiet times” of 10 minutes each twice a day. During that time the lights would be softened and quiet music played. The results might be surprising.

Again, parents have to become their own expert. Patterns, order, and regularity in schedules (bed time, meals etc.) do help.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. Email him questions or comments at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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