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ADHD treatments


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by Melanie Hartgill

The various options that are available for helping children with ADHD.

Children are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without Hyperactivity (AD/HD), with startling frequency in recent years. Because of this, more and more information about this disorder is becoming readily available and parents, teachers and therapists are able to obtain a wealth of information about the topic with relative ease. However, this growth of information has lead to a couple of problems and the primary one is the inaccuracy of some of the information available. Parents in particular are often exposed to inaccurate information about this disorder. Another problem that has become apparent is that there has been such a large focus on Ritalin that other options for working with and treating children (and adults) with AD/HD have been largely ignored.

One thing that must be pointed out when working with AD/HD is that even though many children have the same diagnosis, as individuals, there are no two children the same. This means that techniques and treatments will vary between children and what is successful for one may not be for another.

It is generally accepted that the most effective treatment for AD/HD involves dietary changes, supplementation, medication, therapy, parental understanding, behaviour modification and academic accommodations. However, medication does not necessarily mean Ritalin or any other stimulant, as there are successful homoeopathic options on the market as well. A homoeopath will consult with you and your child and take into account, amongst other things, your child’s body and personality type and presenting problems before developing a supplement that is appropriate for your child’s specific difficulties.

There are three key steps for making dietary changes for your AD/HD child. Firstly, avoid foods that contain artificial ingredients (preservatives, colourants, flavourants and additives) as well as monosodium glutomate (MSG). Secondly, you need to limit the amount of refined food in the diet (particularly white bread, white rice and white sugar) and finally you need to introduce more protein and complex carbohydrates, such as, whole grains, vegetables and brown rice. The Elimination diet, most often recommended for AD/HD children contains the above suggestions as well as recommending the initial removal of fruit and vegetables that are high in salicylates. These include oranges, apples (but not golden delicious), berries, grapes, peaches, plums and raisins, as well as cucumbers, peppers, chillies and zucchini. Once improvement in the child’s behaviour has been noticed, these natural salicylates can be reintroduced one at a time over a period of five days to see if your child can tolerate them or not. Intolerance will result in deterioration in behaviour indicating that particular food should be avoided.

Research has shown that AD/HD children require higher levels of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) in their diet and this can be found in many supplementations. There are a number of brands on the market aimed specifically at providing AD/HD children with the necessary levels of Omega 3 and 6, such as Eye Q, ADD Vance, Smartfish and Melotone syrup to name but a few. It is equally important, however, to supply AD/HD children with vitamin supplements (such as Optimum Nutrition for Smart Kids) as they often have lower levels of zinc, magnesium, the B vitamins and vitamin C. A deficiency in some of these vitamins and minerals can lead to the body blocking the absorption of essential fatty acids.

Therapy, or counselling, is recommended for two reasons. The first is to ensure that the child and his parents have a complete understanding of what AD/HD is as well as the impact this diagnosis will have on each family member. The second reason is to help parents learn how to use various behaviour modification techniques that are so essential for children living with AD/HD.

Behaviour modification is the systematic altering of behaviour by applying the principles of conditioning. This theory proposes that behaviour is a product of learning so what is learned can be unlearned and vice versa. In order to use behaviour modification effectively in your home, you must first identify the behaviours that need to be changed and more appropriate behaviours must be specifically acknowledged. Once this is done, your child needs to be rewarded each time the desired behaviour is achieved, as this provides reinforcement and motivation to continue the new behaviour. Remember that all behaviour goals must be realistic, specific and achievable. Star charts work well for these children, where one behaviour is targeted at a time (never target more than two behaviours) and after a pre-determined number of stars are obtained (five is a good number to start with) then a pre-determined reward is given. You need to focus on your child’s positive behaviours and minimise the attention given to negative behaviours as much as possible.

A useful tip for helping AD/HD children at home is to make them responsible for their own behaviour. Help your child to understand that it is his choice of behaviour that leads to either discipline or reward. Remember to boost your child’s self-esteem often and focus on their strengths. Make sure you have a routine in place at home and help your child organise himself with simple, specific steps to follow. Consequences should follow on from the problematic behaviour and time out should be used as a discipline strategy. Above all, when working on behaviour modification, you need to be consistent with your child; their behaviour will not improve if the rules change from day to day.

Finally, there are a number of academic accommodations that can be made to help the AD/HD child but each child will have a different AD/HD profile and will thus require different modifications. However, applicable to all AD/HD children is the need for organisation. Routines (at home and school) are crucial, as is teaching the child how to break tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, teaching list making and self-monitoring as well as time allocation. Any instructions must be clear and concise and given when the child is paying attention. The AD/HD child needs a lot of encouragement so discipline must follow a kind-but-firm approach. Natural and logical consequences rather than punishment are most effective when disciplining AD/HD children.

The intention of this article is to promote the various options that are available for helping children with AD/HD. Whereas medication has it’s place in the treatment of AD/HD, the best approach is multi-modal that makes use of all the different techniques discussed here. The key to dealing successfully with AD/HD is finding the right combination of these treatment options for each individual child.

About the author:
Melanie Hartgill
Educational Psychologist
Pr. no. 0860000115134
Specialising in: Assessments (educational, psychological, school readiness, emotional and career), Learning Disabilities, Parenting Issues and Training and Child Development
Visit Melanie's Q&A page





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ADHD treatments

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ADHD treatments

by Melanie Hartgill

The various options that are available for helping children with ADHD.

Children are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without Hyperactivity (AD/HD), with startling frequency in recent years. Because of this, more and more information about this disorder is becoming readily available and parents, teachers and therapists are able to obtain a wealth of information about the topic with relative ease. However, this growth of information has lead to a couple of problems and the primary one is the inaccuracy of some of the information available. Parents in particular are often exposed to inaccurate information about this disorder. Another problem that has become apparent is that there has been such a large focus on Ritalin that other options for working with and treating children (and adults) with AD/HD have been largely ignored.

One thing that must be pointed out when working with AD/HD is that even though many children have the same diagnosis, as individuals, there are no two children the same. This means that techniques and treatments will vary between children and what is successful for one may not be for another.

It is generally accepted that the most effective treatment for AD/HD involves dietary changes, supplementation, medication, therapy, parental understanding, behaviour modification and academic accommodations. However, medication does not necessarily mean Ritalin or any other stimulant, as there are successful homoeopathic options on the market as well. A homoeopath will consult with you and your child and take into account, amongst other things, your child’s body and personality type and presenting problems before developing a supplement that is appropriate for your child’s specific difficulties.

There are three key steps for making dietary changes for your AD/HD child. Firstly, avoid foods that contain artificial ingredients (preservatives, colourants, flavourants and additives) as well as monosodium glutomate (MSG). Secondly, you need to limit the amount of refined food in the diet (particularly white bread, white rice and white sugar) and finally you need to introduce more protein and complex carbohydrates, such as, whole grains, vegetables and brown rice. The Elimination diet, most often recommended for AD/HD children contains the above suggestions as well as recommending the initial removal of fruit and vegetables that are high in salicylates. These include oranges, apples (but not golden delicious), berries, grapes, peaches, plums and raisins, as well as cucumbers, peppers, chillies and zucchini. Once improvement in the child’s behaviour has been noticed, these natural salicylates can be reintroduced one at a time over a period of five days to see if your child can tolerate them or not. Intolerance will result in deterioration in behaviour indicating that particular food should be avoided.

Research has shown that AD/HD children require higher levels of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) in their diet and this can be found in many supplementations. There are a number of brands on the market aimed specifically at providing AD/HD children with the necessary levels of Omega 3 and 6, such as Eye Q, ADD Vance, Smartfish and Melotone syrup to name but a few. It is equally important, however, to supply AD/HD children with vitamin supplements (such as Optimum Nutrition for Smart Kids) as they often have lower levels of zinc, magnesium, the B vitamins and vitamin C. A deficiency in some of these vitamins and minerals can lead to the body blocking the absorption of essential fatty acids.

Therapy, or counselling, is recommended for two reasons. The first is to ensure that the child and his parents have a complete understanding of what AD/HD is as well as the impact this diagnosis will have on each family member. The second reason is to help parents learn how to use various behaviour modification techniques that are so essential for children living with AD/HD.

Behaviour modification is the systematic altering of behaviour by applying the principles of conditioning. This theory proposes that behaviour is a product of learning so what is learned can be unlearned and vice versa. In order to use behaviour modification effectively in your home, you must first identify the behaviours that need to be changed and more appropriate behaviours must be specifically acknowledged. Once this is done, your child needs to be rewarded each time the desired behaviour is achieved, as this provides reinforcement and motivation to continue the new behaviour. Remember that all behaviour goals must be realistic, specific and achievable. Star charts work well for these children, where one behaviour is targeted at a time (never target more than two behaviours) and after a pre-determined number of stars are obtained (five is a good number to start with) then a pre-determined reward is given. You need to focus on your child’s positive behaviours and minimise the attention given to negative behaviours as much as possible.

A useful tip for helping AD/HD children at home is to make them responsible for their own behaviour. Help your child to understand that it is his choice of behaviour that leads to either discipline or reward. Remember to boost your child’s self-esteem often and focus on their strengths. Make sure you have a routine in place at home and help your child organise himself with simple, specific steps to follow. Consequences should follow on from the problematic behaviour and time out should be used as a discipline strategy. Above all, when working on behaviour modification, you need to be consistent with your child; their behaviour will not improve if the rules change from day to day.

Finally, there are a number of academic accommodations that can be made to help the AD/HD child but each child will have a different AD/HD profile and will thus require different modifications. However, applicable to all AD/HD children is the need for organisation. Routines (at home and school) are crucial, as is teaching the child how to break tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, teaching list making and self-monitoring as well as time allocation. Any instructions must be clear and concise and given when the child is paying attention. The AD/HD child needs a lot of encouragement so discipline must follow a kind-but-firm approach. Natural and logical consequences rather than punishment are most effective when disciplining AD/HD children.

The intention of this article is to promote the various options that are available for helping children with AD/HD. Whereas medication has it’s place in the treatment of AD/HD, the best approach is multi-modal that makes use of all the different techniques discussed here. The key to dealing successfully with AD/HD is finding the right combination of these treatment options for each individual child.

About the author:
Melanie Hartgill
Educational Psychologist
Pr. no. 0860000115134
Specialising in: Assessments (educational, psychological, school readiness, emotional and career), Learning Disabilities, Parenting Issues and Training and Child Development
Visit Melanie's Q&A page