When a child is first diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chances are good his or her physician will recommend some type of medication to help manage symptoms. Data certainly seems to back up this assumption; PBS notes that the production of Ritalin, a drug that is commonly used to treat ADHD, has soared since 1990. Specifically, the amount of Ritalin rose from around 1,700 kilograms in 1990 to almost 15,000 kilograms in 2000.
The dark side of Ritalin
While ADHD drugs work to improve the symptoms of ADHD by balancing the neurotransmitters in a child’s body, Healthline notes they do come with some side effects. These can include problems sleeping, mood swings, loss of appetite and thoughts of suicide.
Depending on what type of insurance a family has, these drugs can also be costly. Parents must constantly monitor their child to be sure the pills are taken on time, and schools must be involved if the medication must be taken during the day.
It’s no wonder that some parents are understandably concerned about putting their child on an on-going regimen of drugs, and instead hope to find safer, more natural and budget-friendly approaches to the condition. Fortunately, there are several drug-free approaches that may help kids with ADHD:
Eliminate food colorings and preservatives
As the Mayo Clinic notes, some studies have found that certain artificial colorings and preservatives can lead to an increase in hyperactivity in kids, and eliminating them from the diet may help. While this approach is not guaranteed to make kids with ADHD manage their symptoms better, it might be worth a shot.
The main drawback to this approach is that it requires a lot of label reading and vigilance on everyone’s part. An added bonus, however, is that you will be cutting back on the amount of chemicals everyone in the family is eating, which is definitely a good thing.
Try keeping a food diary and tracking how your son or daughter acts after eating, for example, a cherry popsicle that contains FD&C Red No. 40. If you notice an increase in symptoms, consider switching to an all-natural juice pop and see if makes a difference.
Create a calm space at home
Kids with ADHD can often become overstimulated by everyday noises and activities in the home. From beeping microwaves to television shows and even some toys, kids can become very fidgety, overactive and prone to acting out.
To help your child’s brain stay on as even a keel a possible, devote one small corner of your home to a “calm space.” This nook or small space should be quiet, far from TVs and other noisy things. Ideally, it should have a door to close out siblings and even beloved pets. Have your child help you decorate the space. Have books, pillows, stuffed animals and brain puzzles for quiet entertainment. Your child can use this space as a refuge to calm down and refocus.
Consider EEG Biofeedback
Some kids with ADHD have responded positively to EEG biofeedback. This type of neurotherapy measures brain waves and can help kids to essentially teach themselves to stay on track.
During a session, your kiddo might be asked to play a video game that requires her to perform an ongoing task; for example, she must keep a car on a road, but if she becomes distracted, the car will veer off course. By learning focusing techniques, your child can learn to recognize and correct symptoms, which can then carry over into school and other places where focus is necessary.