Although the causes of ADHD are unknown there are several characteristics that have shown to play a role in the development of the disorder. For instance, if a parent has ADHD, their child has more than a 50% chance of also having the disorder. ADHD is also linked to children with a low birth weight, children who experience head injuries at an early age, and children of women who smoke or drank during pregnancy. Although these risk factors have played a part in the development of ADHD, the causes are still unknown.
With the improvements of modern medicine, doctors have found ways to use prescription drugs as an ADHD treatment. There are both stimulant and non-stimulant medications to treat ADHD symptoms. Stimulants increase dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain to improve concentration, while non-stimulants affect neurotransmitters.
Although these medications have shown improvement in many situations, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of giving young children these medications. Luckily, there are other treatment options to try for children with ADHD to improve their focus before resorting to medications.
Behavioral therapy is often another commonly used way to cope with the symptoms if ADHD. Behavioral therapy helps children and their parents structure the child’s time more efficiently by increasing positive attention, establishing predictability, and creating routines. In most cases, rewarding kids for staying focused will yield better results than punishing them for being off task. It has also been beneficial for parents and teachers to periodically let the child know how they have been doing; for instance, if the child tends to interrupt others by announcing their thoughts frequently let them know every so often how they are doing, as opposed to ridiculing them every time they interject.
David Giwerc, president of the ADD Coach Academy, defines ADHD coaching as an “ongoing collaborative partnership created to facilitate personal growth and awareness that leads to conscious choice, focused action, and a meaningful, rewarding life.” In this relationship the coach and client work together to achieve the client’s goals. ADHD coaching is used to correct certain behaviors and improve lives by deepening learning and improving focus. It focuses on improving inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity to help those with ADHD reach their goals. Creating new experiences and applying those new ways of doing things consistently in your life will eventually create new neurotransmitter patterns in the brain.
Exercise should be a crucial part in everyone’s life, but it is especially beneficial to children with ADHD. As most of us know, when we exercise it releases endorphins into our system; endorphins help regulate mood, elevate dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels. Since people who have ADHD have lowered levels of those brain chemicals, the boost in chemicals helps focus and lengthens attention span. Team sports or activities where children have to pay close attention to their movements are some of the best ways to improve social skills and work on channeling their energy. Some of these sports include ballet, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, and tae kwon do.
Recent studies have shown that meditation can also help reduce the symptoms of ADHD. It can help improve attention, anxiety, organizational skills, emotional control, memory and behavior regulation. Meditation teaches children and adults how to pay attention and not act on their impulses. Eventually the child learns how to think through their impulsive actions with meditation before executing them. There are many meditation classes offered at yoga studios, but it can also be practiced just as easily at home. There are also many guided meditations on YouTube to follow if you are uncomfortable leading your own or your child’s practice.
The amount of sleep a child usually gets can also affect their ADHD symptoms. Studies have shown that children who get an extra 30 minutes of sleep are less restless and impulsive. One of the issues with sleep is that children with ADHD can sometimes have issues calming down and actually falling asleep. Some ways to help children fall asleep are, establishing a consistent bedtime routine, having the child sleep in a cool, dark room, and using melatonin or essential oils. Also make sure to eliminate any screen time an hour or more before it is time for bed. The blue light that is radiated from most electronic devices can delay the release of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
By implementing some of these activities into a routine schedule, your child with ADHD can start focusing better; not to mention the bonus of your child not having to use medications. But keep in mind everyone is different, so if one method works for one child, it may not work for another, and some children may still need medication to help their ADHD symptoms.
Contributor: Bobbi Phelps produces content on behalf of the ADHD specialists at Cerebrum Health Center. An avid writer and learner, she loves to use her skills for engaging others in important topics in creative and effective ways. When she is not working, she loves exploring, hanging out with her dogs, and binge watching shows on Netflix. Tweet her @Bobbi_Phelps or connect with her on LinkedIn.