There are many different ways to treat and manage ADHD in children, ranging from medication, behaviour therapy and consistent home routines.
However, there isn’t one single treatment or therapy option that will help every child with this disorder so.
Therefore, it is important to know what options are available, as well as what the potential benefits and risks are with the different medications.
ADHD Treatment for Children
Many teachers and parents turn to medication as the first and only treatment option for children with ADHD. Prescription medication for this disorder certainly helps children focus, control impulsive behaviour, and minimize hyperactivity.
These benefits are particularly useful for short-term results. However, because of the stimulant nature of this medication, it may not always be the best solution over the long term as there are some concerns about the effects these powerful stimulants have on the developing brains of growing children. Of course, this depends on every unique case and individual.
It’s important to note that people respond differently to medication, that includes children. Some children benefit hugely from ADHD medication, while others experience extreme side effects which far outweigh the benefits. For this reason, use of this medication should be closely monitored by parents, doctors, and other specialists.
Additionally, such medication is not a quick fix to a deeply complex issue. Instead, it is often more effective when used in combination with other therapies designed to teach children coping skills.
Lastly, although it’s not safe to erratically stop and start the use of ADHD medication, it’s completely possible to take your child off the medication if you or your child are not happy with the results. However, it’s important to discuss this with your doctor so that you can do it in a safe way.
Child Behavioural Therapy Techniques
Because ADHD is a multi-faceted disorder, there are various therapies available to assist with managing it and, often, using more than one therapy will offer the best possible results.
The following are all treatments and therapies available to manage ADHD in children, and what they might include:
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
- Accurately diagnose ADHD
- Prescribing of medication
- Child psychologists
- Accurately diagnose ADHD
- Provide talk therapy
- Help children with ADHD explore, understand, and process their feelings and emotions
- Cognitive-Behavioural Therapists
- Establish solid goals for behaviour improvement and achievement
- Set up behavioural modification programs for home and school environments
- Help teachers and families assist with programs while maintaining rewards and consequences
- Educational Specialists
- Teach children techniques for succeeding in school
- Advises family about assistive technology
- Collaborate with teachers and administrators to design and adjust course outline, evaluation, and testing
How to Help a Child with ADHD Without Medication
There are other ways to improve the quality of life in children with ADHD. Again, this is a complex disorder but a few small changes at home can make a significant difference in a household.
The following are things that can be done at home to improve the symptoms of ADHD:
Physical exercise is proven to boost dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which not only help for good moods but also improve focus.
In addition, physical activity helps children to channel and expend their energy in ways that are constructive and beneficial.
The types of exercise that are particularly beneficial for children with ADHS are activities that require a strong mind to body connection such as yoga, martial arts, gymnastics, skateboarding and dance.
A large percentage of children with ADHD have difficulty sleeping and often this can be a side effect from the stimulant medication we discussed earlier.
However, some children struggle to sleep even when they are not using this medication. In these cases, the following techniques may help:
- Set and stick to a regular bedtime every single night
- If household noise keeps your child awake, try putting some soft, soothing music on in their room to induce relaxation
- Enforce no screen time at least an hour or more before bedtime, use this time to start getting your child to unwind – find what works for your child and do that
- Limit as far as possible physical activity in the evening and replace it with things that require your child to be still
Good nutrition plays a fundamental role in a child’s ability to process and retain information. It also directly impacts energy levels.
A wholesome diet, full of protein and wholefoods, minimal sugar, and as little processed food as possible is the best option for a child with ADHD.
Foods that are high in sugar cause blood sugar levels to spike and then drop. Unsteady blood sugar levels cause irritability, spikes in hyperactivity, drastic changes and moods and other potentially destructive behaviour.
Children are not always equipped to understand or explain how they are feeling physically, so their natural response is often to behave in a way that is relative to how they feel on a physical level.
Kay-Dee – Educare Centre in Mowbray, Cape Town
Working with children everyday has given us immense perspective on the complexity of ADHD, how medication can affect children and most of all how a comprehensive approach to treating this disorder is always the most successful.
We make sure we understand this disorder to the best of our ability so that we can not only facilitate growth in the children we look after, but to support their parents or caregivers at the same time.
In our next article, we will talk about the importance of getting an accurate diagnosis from the correct medical professionals and specialists, before assuming that your child has ADHD.
Thorough examination and assessment are crucial when diagnosing this disorder as there are so many other conditions that display similar symptoms. Successful treatment depends entirely on an accurate diagnosis.
For more information about our educare programmes and how they accommodate children with ADHD, please do not hesitate to contact us.
If you suspect that your child might have ADD or ADHD, or any other suspected disorder please ask your doctor for a referral letter for Red Cross Children’s Hospital.