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ADHD: Going Beyond Drug Therapy

​By Dr. Robert Wingfield

Although it has been studied for decades, we still don’t really know the causes behind attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. What we do know is that it typically manifests in younger children with symptoms such as the following:

  • Prone to distraction
  • Difficulty staying on task
  • Difficulty organizing
  • Fidgeting/squirming
  • Talkativeness
  • Extreme impatience
  • A constant need to be in motion

If you suspect your child might be suffering from ADHD, then you should consult a psychologist who specializes in behavioral disorders in children to receive a diagnosis. In some cases, psychologists recommend that an additional consultation occur with a psychiatrist to determine whether medication should be considered. However, there are many behavior modification techniques and lifestyle changes that can be implemented before pursuing medication. Behavior modification techniques are taught while participating in behavioral therapy with a psychologist. General lifestyle changes may include changes in sleep and diet, but it is important to remember that these lifestyle changes alone will likely be insufficient, so behavioral therapy is still a vital component of treatment.

  • Proper Sleep: Sleep is incredibly important, especially for a growing, learning child. Try to ensure that your child gets an appropriate amount of sleep for his/her age by developing and following bedtime routines every night.
  • Proper Diet: Ensuring that your child eats a balanced diet that contains appropriate amounts of fruits and vegetables can help improve his/her overall health and may mitigate certain ADHD symptoms. Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce ADHD symptoms in certain studies. Remember, though, that dietary changes alone may not be enough for many children with ADHD. Making modifications to the school and home environment, as well as skill-building, which are taught in behavioral therapy, can contribute to an even more significant improvement.

Proper sleep hygiene and diet are, of course, two things that every child needs, regardless of whether he/she suffers from ADHD. For those who have been diagnosed, however, these lifestyle changes may reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.