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ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD Alternative Treatments Continued

Margaret Austin, Ph.D., Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Laura Burgdorf, Ph.D.

Brain "Exercises"

Audio-Visual Entrainment

brain highlightedThe use of light and sound stimulation (alpha/theta wave) to guide and change brainwave patterns has also been touted as helpful for reducing ADHD symptoms, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. Advocates suggest that increasing the stimulation frequency of the alpha/theta wave improves cognitive functioning and reduces symptoms caused by slow brainwaves. While safe for most, this treatment cannot be used by people suffering from photosensitive epilepsy (seizures that are triggered by light or other visual patterns) due to the risk of triggering a seizure. In addition, the scientific research documenting its effectiveness is lacking. Although it is most likely reasonably low risk, it is expensive.

Cerebellar Stimulation

Another alternative treatment for ADHD involves stimulating the cerebellum. Several programs combining balance, coordination, eye and sensory exercises that specifically involve the functions of the cerebellum are used to treat ADHD, Asperger's syndrome (a disorder with severe impairment in social interaction skills, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior), and many learning difficulties such as dyslexia (a reading disorder with distortions, slowness, and low comprehension) and dyspraxia (excessive difficulty coordinating and performing purposeful movemements). The most prominent programs are the DORE program, the Learning Breakthrough Program, and the Brain Gym. Each program provides an individualized series of exercises designed to develop the brain and facilitate communications between both sides of the brain through exercise. No substantial body of research exists to support these treatment approaches. At this time, these treatment options cannot be recommended until more supporting scientific research is conducted.

Other alternative methods that have been recommended to treat ADHD include:

 

  • Massage
  • Routine physical activity, preferably unstructured and in a natural environment
  • Martial Arts with an emphasis on self-management and control
  • Meditation and/or yoga with a focus on learning body awareness

Although these methods have been advocated by many parents and are likely positive experiences for the lucky children who experience them, none have been rigorously studied for their effects on ADHD symptoms. Therefore, they cannot be recommended as specific treatments for ADHD.

Parents of children with ADHD must develop a strategic plan designed to address the specific issues present for their child. Treating ADHD requires a good deal of effort and money. Treatment options must be carefully chosen, balanced against the cost/benefit analysis, and combined with a systematic approach designed to target the most significant issues. One or more of these alternative treatments might reasonably be part of an overall ADHD treatment strategy.

 

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