ADHD Treatment Without Medication

All children can be hyperactive and impulsive at times, but when it happens over a long period of time and across settings, they may be one in the 10% of school-age children that have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD continues throughout the life span. Healthcare providers more commonly diagnose ADHD in boys than girls (3:1). Knowing the options for ADHD treatment without medication is important for parents seeking support for their children.

In its 2010 Vital Signs report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that about 75% of children with ADHD were receiving medication alone and only about 50% of children were receiving psychological services. The CDC issued a call to action to clinicians to implement behavioral therapy for kids aged 2-5 years before trying medication. 

The medical community has long looked towards medicine as the answer for kids with ADHD. New studies show that behavior strategies, especially when they are implemented early on, have longer-lasting effects than medication.

Behavior interventions include teaching parent and teachers how to help kids modify their behavior at home and school. Below are strategies to help kids withADHD treatment without medication:

  • Parent programs teach parents new strategies for how to help kids get and stay focused. Parents who monitor their children’s exercise and sleep will also have better success.
  • Teacher interventions include classroom strategies like giving immediate feedback and single-step instructions. Another strategy is to use daily behavior journal. This helps keep kids focused on managing their behavior throughout the school day.
  • Enrolling your child into a therapeutic recreational program or camps during the summer. These camps combine crafts, sports, and activities with ADHD behavioral strategies.

The Center for Disease Control site lists the following for ADHD treatment without medication:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthcare providers first refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy before trying medicine.
  • With the support of healthcare providers and therapists, parents can become trained in behavior therapy. Behavior therapy can work as well as medicine. Both behavior therapy and medicine work for about 70-80% of young children with ADHD.
  • ADHD medicine can cause side effects, such as poor appetite, stomach aches, irritability, sleep problems, and slowed growth. Healthcare providers so not know the long-term effects of ADHD medicine on young children.
  • Behavior therapy can take more time, effort, and resources than medicine and can be longer lasting.

When parents and teachers instill behavior strategies early on, the effects last a lifetime. Furthermore, therapy does not interfere with any other medications or health concerns. The effectiveness of ADHD treatment without medication is real and highly beneficial for children and teens once they mature and enter into high school and college.

About Susan Gehrig, PhD

Susan Gehrig, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of Paradox Psychological Services located in Carlsbad. She has a passion for supporting the wellbeing of children and teens. Her expertise is in child mindfulness and self-compassion, cognitive behavioral therapy, and child development. Dr. Gehrig provides psychoeducational testing and therapy services to help build a plan for success. Paradox provides services for families of San Diego North County and greater areas.

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