A problem with the use of medication is that it is too often given too quickly without exploring other important ways to help a child with ADHD. First, parents and teachers have to make sure whether it is the inattention or the hyperactivity or a combination of these characteristics that is getting in your child's way. Then teachers have to make reasonable accommodations in the classroom (setting up the room to allow for "productive" movement; creating materials that captivate attention, etc.) At home, parents need to work as partners in the appropriate management of a child with ADHD. This may involve family therapy.
There are other treatments for ADHD, but none of the so-called alternative therapies are based on research which is solid enough or convincing enough to allow most traditional practitioners (physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists) to endorse these approaches. These include megadoses of vitamins and minerals, diet manipulations (including food additive-free, sugar-free, and yeast-free diets), and amino acid therapy. Biofeedback has gotten a lot of press lately, although there is no specific pattern brain activity in those with ADHD. Other treatments that may have some merit are:
- Sensory integration (check with the occupational therapist at school);
- Exercise (talk with the adaptive physical education specialist);
- Self-monitoring (in which the child is taught how to "pay more attention to attention"); and
- Psychoeducationally oriented therapy (in which the child is helped to understand the impact of the ADHD on learning, behavior, and social relationships).
Two books that will give you a lot more information about this important topic are: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Clinical Guide to Diagnosis & Treatment by Larry Silver, M.D. and Do We Really Need Ritalin?: A Family Guide to Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by Josephine Wright, M.D.