The Three Best Alternative Treatments for ADHD
There are a LOT of alternative treatments for sale out there for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who would rather not have to use a strong medication such as Ritalin. Some of these are good, some are fair, and some are bad.
Anything that is on the market will help somebody out there. There are upwards of 10,000,000 people with ADHD in the US, including children, teens, and adults. So a treatment that worked for as few as 01% of those who tried it could still line up thousands of people for Donohue to say what a remarkable treatment it was.
Just as a way of reference, consider that studies show that a placebo is effective, when measured by parent rating scales, with about 15% of children with ADD/ADHD. As measured by way of computerized tests such as the TOVA, placebos are 0% effective at bringing about statistically significant improvements. So, when we rate the effectiveness of any treatment, alternative or medical model, we need to consider the effectiveness (measured by parents subjective ratings or objective computer ratings?) and the possible side effects. Choose wisely.
These are the three alternative interventions that I think are the best. These decisions are based on personal experience in my practice, and from both published and unpublished research data. I'll only list them briefly, as this could turn into a book if I write too much detail.
1. EEG Biofeedback Training. About 70-75% effective as measured by both computer assessment tools and parent ratings. Important issues in treatment are: Age of child, IQ of child, expertise of therapist, quality of equipment, and financial resources of family. This technology involves the acquiring of the EEG brainwave activity from the subject, and through the use of either animation, or sound, or tactile feedback, the subject learns to change and control his/her brainwave activity. Simply, the subject is trained to produce less of the slow brainwave activity that is related to "disregulation" or being a "space cadet" and learns to make more of the mid-range activity related to focused concentration and self-control.
Yes, it works. No, it is not just placebo.
This is a 25 year old technology that is recently gained a lot of respect from clinicians and is used at about 1,000 sites now nationwide. It is best for children over 6 years old, with average or above IQ's. The therapist must know what he's doing, so look for experience and training. The equipment must be good. Two computer monitors are best, one for therapist and one for subject. The number of sessions can range from 20 to 40. Cost ranges from $50/session to $150/session. Shop around. Some insurances cover these services, most do not.
Resources: EEG Spectrum has an association of therapists around the nation and world. They now have 300 Associate Offices in 25 countries. I'm not associated with them, but I do consider Sigfried and Susan Othmer as old friends.
2. VAXA International's newly revised "Attend" product. It is effective for 70% of ADD ADHD individuals, as measured by computer testing and parent scales.
Important issue: Can the child swallow capsules (they are pretty large capsules). This is a nutraceutical medicine that combines 75 ingredients, including amino acids, homeopathic medicines, phospholipids, essential fatty acids, Pycnogenol, grape seed extract OPC's, DHEA, DMAE, and more. I did the clinical research for the manufacturer, so I have seen this work with my own eyes with dozens of subjects. I am convinced that it is very helpful for the majority of kids/teens/adults. It can be used with medications, and as it begins to be effective the medication levels can often be lowered. With temper problems or hyperactivity/hyper-startle problems, it is best combined with other VAXA products in targeted treatment strategies for your specific type of ADHD.
"Attend" takes about 30-60 days to become effective. Improvement continues for at least 120 days. We even measured improvements with college athletes who were not ADD ADHD in reaction time over a 90 day period! We have the data from our clinical studies, and a comparison between the effective of Ritalin, EEG Biofeedback, and "Attend" in the "Attend" section of the ADHD Information Library. Be sure to check that out and see for yourself!
3. Elimination Diet. This is the 3rd best alternative treatment that I know of. It only seems to work with about 20-25% of the kids who try it, but when it does work, it is great. Why does it work? I don't know. Some kids seems very sensitive to food additives or food colorings, or to sodas, or to cow's milk, or to sugars paired with carbohydrates. Some kids seem to have real ups and downs with their blood sugar levels.
Why does it work for some, and not for others? I have no idea, and I've had hundreds of kids on this diet over the past five years or so. Here's a letter I received last week via email...
Dear Doctor, I requested the info for the ADD diet for a friend at church. It's working wonders for her 3 yr. old son (after just a week!), but she's unable to find the Rice milk, Almond milk or Better than Milk. Can she substitute a lactose-free product or is there something else besides lactose in the dairy to avoid? If she can't, where can she get the other products you recommend? (We live in Oklahoma City)
We'd both like to express our thanks for the information. It's going to help a lot of other people we know, too. We've had many requests for copies of the info.
Love & Peace in Christ, Karen F
These are wonderful responses! But, don't get your hopes up too high. If it works, great! If it doesn't work, try something else. To get a copy of the diet visit the ADHD Information Library at http://www.newideas.net/adddiet.htm.
Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.
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