Hyperactivity. Inattention. Trouble with impulse control. For a parent facing an ADHD diagnosis with their child for the first time, there can be a feeling of helplessness. It’s incredibly difficult to watch your child struggle, and we know that any parent wants to jump in and make the situation better for their kiddo as quickly as possible.
However, when it comes to treating ADHD, a very common route is to start with medication immediately. If you’re a parent and cringe at the thought, we get it. Medicating – especially a young child – is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, with medication comes mixed experiences, including the possibility of particularly nasty side-effects. Thus, it’s best to understand all of your child’s options before jumping to meds right off the bat.
Though each child requires different levels of care, medication doesn’t necessarily have to be an impulse treatment choice. There are other alternative care options that many parents have found to help their children in their journeys with ADHD…without medicating. Here, we’ll outline what ADHD is, and what treatments outside of medication are worth trying.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and its hallmark symptoms echo the name itself: trouble with sustaining focused attention, bouts of hyperactivity, and also issues with impulse control. Currently, the cause of ADHD isn’t clear, and the disorder is diagnosed by symptoms. Unfortunately, there is no test to confirm a diagnosis.
When you dive deeper into ADHD, there are actually 3 subtypes of the disorder:
- Mostly inattentive
- Mostly hyperactive and impulsive
- Combined: A combination of being inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive.
Symptoms of inattentiveness usually include a combination of trouble staying focused, failure to pay close attention to details in class, a struggle to follow-through with instructions, and distracted easily.
Alternately, symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are usually identified by constant fidgeting, the appearance of being in constant motion or on the go, running around at inappropriate times, being particularly talkative, interrupting in conversations or class, and struggling to wait their turn.
Of course, a child with a combined case may exhibit all the above symptoms. Oof! That’s a lot to digest as a parent. Keep in mind, with these diagnosis’ that most children fall on some sort of spectrum within the severity of ADHD, and while most don’t typically grow out of it, age and maturity can help improve coping mechanisms as your child moves into each new stage of their lives.
Alternative Treatment Options for ADHD
Medication is often the go-to treatment for ADHD, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. With children being diagnosed with ADHD as early as four years old, the hesitation to medicate is an easy one to understand! The good news is that there are some great alternative options out there to try. Below are some great places to start.
Behavioral therapy for children with ADHD can be invaluable – in fact, even for those families who do choose to use medication for treatment, behavioral therapy should still be a cornerstone of their approach. Seeking out behavioral therapy treatment for kids with ADHD is beneficial because it’s individualized around problem behaviors, working to establish a routine and provide positive affirmations around the new, improved behavior.
For example, perhaps your child has a tendency to interrupt others when they’re talking – try working with them on this specifically, giving them reminders throughout the day, and reinforcing times when they’ve shown restraint and patience in their interactions. A specialized behavioral therapist can help guide your family through approachable goals and offer advice on strategies to implement within your home.
Behavioral therapy can be extremely tedious work involving the entire family, but this customized approach is incredibly worthwhile. Just keep in mind that there will be better days and more challenging times— go with the ebb and flow, as it is completely natural.
Ok, who isn’t irritable when they don’t get enough sleep?! Yes, we understand that you know the merits of sleep even for kids living without an ADHD diagnosis, but sleep happens to hold an even greater significance for a child who is living with ADHD.
To help your child use sleep to his or her advantage, establish good sleep hygiene in your household. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting a set number of hours per night (though a minimum should be respected), but setting consistent times for bed as well as waking up. Many times, children with ADHD benefit from routine – fluctuating the time they go to bed and wake up constantly can be very difficult and disorienting for them. So, help them start each day off on the right foot by maintaining bedtimes and wake-up calls on a consistent basis.
This one may seem obvious for a kid who can’t sit still, but be sure to find a healthy outlet for some of that excess energy! Kids are supposed to be active anyhow, so use this as a reminder of just how beneficial consistent exercise is to their overall health, too. Some studies have found that after at least 30 minutes of exercise, children with ADHD were able to concentrate better.
An added bonus: let them play outside! Studies have also shown a link between a mere 20 minutes outside in green spaces and improved concentration.
Paying attention to the quality of food and making sure that your child is getting enough of the good stuff (and – perhaps more importantly – less of the bad stuff), can pay big dividends. In particular, cutting down on sugar content and processed food can help stabilize mood for children, especially those with ADHD.
There have also been some studies that have found that children with ADHD may be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting that incorporating more natural foods with omega-3s could help stabilize symptoms as well. If you’re going the natural food route, look to foods like salmon, dark leafy greens, and flaxseeds.
With all of this, keep in mind that there is no one treatment for ADHD – as much as you may wish there was! The best treatment plan is an individualized one and will include various pieces to put together a full, vibrant lifestyle in which your child will thrive.
How Chiropractic Can Help Treat ADHD
Another alternate treatment option for ADHD that takes many by surprise is chiropractic care. Though ADHD is a condition that lives in the brain, the spinal cord also receives and communicates information from the rest of the body to the brain. Thus, if your child’s spine is misaligned and causing nerve trouble, restoring function back to this area could go a long way in mitigating many common ADHD symptoms – including irritability and the inability to focus.
That’s where chiropractic comes in. The adjustments of the spine performed by a chiropractor can help realign their body to keep the nervous and immune systems functioning properly while addressing any spinal cord misalignment. When used as a consistent part of treatment for ADHD, many parents have found it beneficial for their children’s behavior. In fact, more studies are now finding a link between improvement in symptoms and chiropractic care.
If your child has (or you suspect they have) ADHD, medication doesn’t need to be your first answer to the diagnosis. If you’d like to explore an evaluation with our office for your child, we would be happy to get them on our patient calendar and answer any questions you may have.