Other Treatments for ADHD

In addition to stimulant and non-stimulant medications, behavior management therapy can help your child with ADHD.

So most people know that stimulant and non-stimulant medications are available as treatment for ADHD.

But what else is available?

Other Treatments for ADHD

Wait, why would you need to consider other treatments?

Well, believe it or not, some kids can’t tolerate stimulants.

And others either can’t tolerate non-stimulants either, or neither work for them.

So what’s left?

There’s behavior management therapy.

In fact, although it is often overlooked, it is important to remember that behavior management therapy should be the first treatment for younger, preschool children with ADHD.

“There are many forms of behavior therapy, but all have a common goal—to change the child’s physical and social environments to help the child improve his behavior.”

Behavior Therapy for Children with ADHD

And even though older kids are often treated with medication, they too might benefit from behavior management therapy.

“Under this approach, parents, teachers, and other caregivers learn better ways to work with and relate to the child with ADHD. You will learn how to set and enforce rules, help your child understand what he needs to do, use discipline effectively, and encourage good behavior. Your child will learn better ways to control his behavior as a result. You will learn how to be more consistent.”

Behavior Therapy for Children with ADHD

Typical behavior management therapy techniques might include positive reinforcement and allowing your child to earn rewards for desired behaviors and withdrawing privileges to try and decrease other behaviors.

You also want to help your child:

Some children with ADHD may also need social skills training and behavioral therapy for help controlling impulsive behavior.

Once you find a therapist, you can expect it to take time for your child to master the behavioral therapy techniques and better control his ADHD symptoms.
Once you find a therapist, you can expect it to take time for your child to master the behavioral therapy techniques and better control his ADHD symptoms.

And of course, accommodations at school (504 Plan vs IEP) can also be helpful so that your child has extra time to take tests if needed, modified instructions and assignments, and extra break time, etc.

What About Alternative ADHD Treatments?

What about all of those “other” treatments for ADHD that you might have heard about?

At those homeopathic dilutions, it is unlikely that there is any real active ingredient left in the Brillia pills. Remember, homeopathy works by the law of the minimum dose and  although it doesn't say it on the label, homeopathic medications only contain a "memory" of an active ingredient.
At those homeopathic dilutions, it is unlikely that there is any real active ingredient left in the Brillia pills. Remember, homeopathy works by the law of the minimum dose and although it doesn’t say it on the label, homeopathic medications only contain a “memory” of an active ingredient.

Restrictive diets, vitamins, minerals, brain training, and homeopathic remedies that are basically diluted to nothing…

Nutritional lithium, probiotics, and digestive enzymes…

You are actually trying to help your child with ADHD, right?

If all you have tried are alternative therapies to try and help your child with ADHD, then it's time to talk to your pediatrician about some real treatments.
If all you have tried are alternative therapies to try and help your child with ADHD, then it’s time to talk to your pediatrician about some real treatments.

Then try something that at least has a chance of working…

And if nothing works, keep in mind that your child might not actually have ADHD. Maybe something else is causing their symptoms or problems, like obstructive sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, or a learning disability, etc.

More on ADHD Treatments

A Parent’s Guide to Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Interested in complementary or integrative medicine for your child? Going to see a holistic pediatrician? Learn about some of the most common treatments they might offer, from acupuncture and homeopathy to craniosacary therapy and using essential oils.

What does your alternative medicine provider think?

How does he or she heal what ails you?

In other words, what’s really behind the idea or philosophy behind what makes their techniques ‘work?’

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t.”

Paul Offit on Do You Believe in Magic?

Does it matter to you that the concept of innate intelligence of chiropractic “is derived directly from the occult practices of another era?”

Does it matter to you that following their bad advice might have deadly consequences?

A Parent’s Guide to Complementary and Integrative Medicine

You may think that it doesn’t matter how something works, as long as it works, right?

Unfortunately, these treatments have not been proven to work and sometimes do real harm to folks, especially when they have serious illnesses and skip using traditional treatments that could have really helped them.

Acupuncture – a practitioner of acupuncture “heals” by inserting needles along specific meridians to unblock your child’s qi (chi) or life force. Can also be done without needles (acupressure), with practitioners applying physical pressure to acupuncture points to clear blockages in specific meridians

A patient being
A patient being “treated” with acupuncture. Photo by Jaap Buijs (CC by 2.0)
Aromatherapy – invented in 1937 by Rene- Maurice Gattefosse, aromatherapy uses essential oils or “naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit.” How do essential oils work? They help to “unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.” Is that what you are doing when you use essential oils?

See the diffuser? Know that many folks who use essential oils also sell them...
See the diffuser? Know that many folks who recommend essential oils also sell them…
Ayurveda – with origins in ancient India, practitioners believe that imbalances in three elemental substances (which are made up of five classical elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether) can cause disease, as they lead to excess or deficiency in one of three forces – vata, kapha, and pitta.

Not only is will they likely not work, your Ayurvedic medicine may also contain lead, mercury, or arsenic...
Not only will they likely not work, your Ayurvedic medicine may also contain lead, mercury, or arsenic…
Traditional Chinese medicine – includes the use of herbal medicines, tai chi, and acupuncture, etc., and is rooted in Taoism and based on keeping yin and yang in harmony, the five elements (water, wood, fire, earth, and metal), and qi – a vital energy that flows through your body.

Like Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the five elements, which create disease when they unbalance your yin and yang.
Like Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on five elements (interestingly, they are a different set of five elements), which create disease when they unbalance your yin and yang (vs the three forces of Ayurveda).
Chiropractic – chiropractic subluxations interfere with our innate intelligence that works to keep us healthy and our ability to heal ourselves. Daniel David Palmer, a magnetic healer, discovered this when he adjusted and “healed” a partially deaf janitor in Iowa in 1895. It is important to note that these chiropractic subluxations are usually not visible on xray, unlike true spinal subluxations. Like other alternative providers, chiropractors have  vertebral subluxation and nerve charts that they think map to specific areas and parts of our bodies.

I doubled checked my copy of Gray's Anatomy, and our nervous system and the things it supplies don't look like this. The gall bladder, for example, is supplied by the vagus nerve (Cranial Nerve X) and the phrenic nerve (cervical nerves 3 to 5) and is not associated with the T4 vertebrae.
I doubled checked my copy of Gray’s Anatomy, and our nervous system and the things it supplies don’t look like this. The gall bladder, for example, is supplied by the vagus nerve (Cranial Nerve X) and the phrenic nerve (cervical nerves 3 to 5) and is not associated with the T4 vertebrae.
Craniosacral therapy – has to do with tides, rhythms, and flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which these practitioners think they can feel and manipulate by massaging your head. It was was developed by John Upledger, D.O. in the 1970s.

Craniosacral therapy can 'fix' autism?
Craniosacral therapy can ‘fix’ autism?
Cryotherapy – no, we aren’t talking about freezing warts, but rather whole body cryotherapy, the new trend that has hit your local strip-mall and many chiropractic offices.

A routine cryotherapy session might not be deadly, but there still isn't any evidence that it is going to help you.
A routine cryotherapy session might not be deadly, but there still isn’t any evidence that it is going to help you.
Cupping – truly an ancient practice, cupping is supposed to draw toxins out of your body. It was once combined with bloodletting.

Cupping for kids?
Cupping for kids?
Dry needling – involves sticking needles into “myofascial trigger points” in your skin to create a local twitch reflex, which is supposed to stop pain. Another ancient practice? Nope. It was invented in the 1940s. Physical therapists often learn how to do dry needling at weekend seminars.

Just because the local news pushes the latest fad, that doesn't mean that there is any evidence that it works.
Just because the local news pushes the latest fad, that doesn’t mean that there is any evidence that it works.
Electromagnetic therapy – do you believe that an imbalance of electromagnetic frequencies or fields of energy in your body is making you sick? Have you ever used a TENS unit for pain?

Same technology used by chiropractors, which is strange, since if chiropractic works, why do they need TENS?
Same technology used by chiropractors, which is strange, since if chiropractic works, why do they need TENS and stem cell therapy?
Faith healing – while there is certainly nothing wrong with praying when your child is sick, there are way too many stories of tragedies when parents rely on prayer alone.

There continue to be reports of children dying because there parents didn't get them any medical treatment for easily treated diseases.
There continue to be reports of children dying because there parents didn’t get them any medical treatment for easily treated diseases. It’s not just in Oregon and Idaho.
Herbalism – herbalism is a part of many traditional medical traditions, but many practitioners make exaggerated claims about what these herbs can do.

Gonna get your child's medicine in a herbalist shop?
Gonna get your child’s medicine in a herbalist shop? Photo by Mike Shaver (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Holistic Dentistry – use homeopathy, ozone therapy, essential oils, and other alternative therapies to take care of your whole body, not just your teeth. Many even have their own meridian tooth charts, thinking that you can map each tooth an organ in the body or a disease. And of course, they are often anti-fluoride and will want to replace any mercury fillings that you have.

Meridian tooth charts are really a thing?
Meridian tooth charts are really a thing?
Homeopathy – homeopathic medicine was created in Germany by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. It is based on the concepts that “like cures like” and the “law of the minimum dose.” Homeopathic medicines are diluted so much, in fact, that they are said to only contain a memory of the original substance.

homeopathy
When you buy a homeopathic medicine for colic or teething or for the flu, do you understand that they only contain the memory of an active ingredient?
Holistic Pediatricians – likely panders to your fears about vaccines and incorporates many of the alternative therapies on this list, especially acupuncture, the use of essential oils, and homeopathy. Probably doesn’t take insurance, but has found a way to integrate a lot of expensive, non-evidence based testing and treatments into their practice, like meridian testing, Zyto scans, detox testing, and chelation therapy, etc.

How will your child be treated by a holistic pediatrician? Essential oils and wet socks...
How will your child be treated by a holistic pediatrician? Essential oils and wet socks…
Hypnotherapy – while maybe hypnotherapy can distract you during a painful procedure, there is less evidence that it helps treat medical and psychological problems

Show me the evidence!
Show me the evidence!
Iridology – the “science” of the iris of the eyes, a certified iridologist, by consulting an iridology chart, can diagnose your problems “based on the markings, fibers, structures, pigments and color variations in the iris which are located in specific areas”

Although it become popularized in the 1980s by an American chiropractor, iridology was actually discovered in the 19th century.
Although it become popularized in the 1980s by an American chiropractor, iridology was actually discovered in the 19th century.
Naturopathy – in addition to licensed naturopathic physicians that have to complete four years of schooling, there are also unlicensed, traditional naturopaths with much less formal education, which is why you see many using a lot of non-evidence based treatments. Naturopaths combine herbalism, homeopathy, acupuncture, IV therapy, and other alternative therapies.

It is the Nature that heals, but you pay your naturopath.
It is the Nature that heals, but you pay your naturopath.
Phrenology – developed at about the same time as homeopathy, phrenologists thought that they could tell things about a person’s personality by feeling their skull.

Is there any reason phrenology couldn't come back if practitioners could charge for treatments with an electric phrenology helmet?
Is there any reason phrenology couldn’t come back if practitioners could charge for treatments with an electric phrenology helmet?
Reflexology – although it may have its origins in ancient Egypt, modern reflexology traces itself to Dr. William H. Fitzgerald and Eunice D. Ingham in the early 20th century. Reflexologists believe that they can diagnose and cure diseases by feeling a persons feet or hands, as, the International Institute of Reflexology claims, “there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which correspond to all of the glands, organs and parts of the body.”

A foot reflexology chart to map sole zones and organs.
A foot reflexology chart to map sole zones and organs. (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Reiki – rei (universal) and ki (life energy) was introduced to Western Cultures from Japan by Hawayo Takata in the 1930s. Reiki practitioners, trained by a Reiki Master, can, according to the The International Center for Reiki Training, get “miraculous results” and Reiki is reportedly “effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect.” How? Reiki is “a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy. This is a functional definition as it closely parallels the experience of those who practice Reiki in that Reiki energy seems to have an intelligence of its own flowing where it is needed in the client and creating the healing conditions necessary for the individuals needs.”

As other alternative therapies, Reiki is based on your body’s innate or natural healing abilities.
As other alternative therapies, Reiki is based on your body’s innate or natural healing abilities. It has been shown that Reiki Masters can’t actually feel anyone energy field though…
Rolfing – invented in the 1920s by Dr. Ida P. Rolf, rolfing is like deep tissue massage, except that it also “aimed at improving body alignment and functioning,” to keep your body’s energy field in alignment with the gravitational field of the Earth.

Maybe it's not just your spine. Maybe your whole body is out of alignment...
Maybe it’s not just your spine. Maybe your whole body is out of alignment…
Sclerology – the belief that a practitioner can diagnose your medical problems by looking at the veins (the red lines) on the sclera (the white part of your eyes), as a sclerology chart shows you that each part of our body is represented in a different part of the sclera.

Are our bodies mapped to the iris or the sclera?
Are our bodies mapped to the iris or the sclera?
Shamanism – ancient practices, typically of indigenous people, who invoke spirits and travel to the spirit world to heal people and the community.

The Ancient Tibetans believed in Shamanism, and yet the Dalia Lama believes in modern medicine and helps vaccinate kids.
The Ancient Tibetans believed in Shamanism, and yet the Dalia Lama believes in modern medicine and helps vaccinate kids.
Shiatsu – accupressure from Japan

There is no evidence that Shiatsu has any extra benefits than a basic massage.
There is no evidence that Shiatsu has any extra benefits than a basic massage.
Shonishin – this is pediatric acupuncture, so acupuncture for little kids, but don’t worry, they don’t actually use needles…

Shonishin is needle-less acupuncture for children. So what are they actually doing?
Shonishin is needle-less acupuncture for children. So what are they actually doing?

When you go to one of these practitioners, do you really think you need help unblocking your qi, an adjustment to help your “Innate Intelligence” get unblocked, or to have your life force energy moved around?

Do their charts and maps really make any sense to you?

But these are ancient treatments, so doesn’t that mean that they must work? Many of these treatments aren’t so ancient, but were invented fairly recently.  Even those that are ancient, they have often been replaced by modern medicine in the places where they were discovered.

But many modern medicines are derived from natural substances, so doesn’t that mean herbal therapies and natural treatments can work? Sure and when they do, they become conventional medicines. It doesn’t mean that everything that is natural is a good medicine.

And it certainly does’t mean that you should try the latest fad holistic therapy on your child.

More on Complementary and Integrative Medicine for Kids