What is an alternative treatment for ADHD

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From Karin Aeschlimann

A child who suffers from ADD attention disorder does not necessarily (only) need to be treated with Ritalin.

They used to be called either “Fidgety Philippines”, “Eternal Dreamer” or “Badly Bred Suction”. Today, boys and girls who are “difficult”, cannot concentrate and seem aimlessly over-the-top, quickly have another label at hand: “ADD child”.

Explanation of terms

  • ADD means attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity (most important symptoms: inattentiveness, difficulty concentrating). The term "ADS minus H" or ADS-H is also used.
  • ADHD means attention disorder with hyperactivity, which means that inattention is accompanied by restlessness and impulsiveness.
  • In Switzerland, ADHD is sometimes called POS (psycho-organic syndrome) if it is a so-called birth defect. In such a case, there is a right to contributions from the disability insurance.

To date, there is no test that can clearly determine AD (H) D. Instead, individual pieces of the puzzle have to be put together, interpreted and all possible diseases ruled out. Once the diagnosis of AD (H) D has been established, the therapy should include several components. Around two thirds of the children affected have other comorbidities that also need treatment: Dyslexia, aggressive behavior disorders or coordination problems are typical. No child is like the other; that is why there is no single therapeutic recipe.

Help options for AD (H) S:

Praise, care and consistency

A change in upbringing often helps: create a calm environment, set clear rules, avoid distractions, praise positive behavior, be consistent. The family environment is not the cause of the disorder; but it influences the course of the disease. It is very likely that AD (H) D is a mostly hereditary, neurobiological disorder: A change in the metabolism of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain is responsible for the typical AD (H) D symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral training

One of the generally recognized therapies for AD (H) D is cognitive behavioral training. The child should learn to think about his behavior and to control it. Unwanted behaviors are gradually replaced by newly learned ones, the child can perceive and control himself better. Therapies by medical specialists are usually covered by the health insurance company, with psychological therapists only in certain cases.

homeopathy

In a more recent Bern study, the success of the homeopathic treatment of AD (H) D children was scientifically proven for the first time. However, homeopathy is not suitable for emergency interventions, as it sometimes takes several weeks to find the right homeopathic remedy for the individual.

Occupational therapy

In the case of perception disorders, occupational therapy can be an important part of the treatment. Sense of balance, feeling and hearing are specifically promoted. The costs are covered by the basic insurance of the health insurance company, provided that occupational therapy takes place with a licensed therapist on a doctor's order.

Tomatis Therapy

This therapy is intended to promote perception and is based on treatments with specially prepared music and voice. However, it is only partially paid for by health insurance companies with additional insurance and - unlike occupational therapy - is not generally recognized. The fact that (making) music is important and also beneficial for many AD (H) D children is not disputed.

Dietary changes

Special diets are no longer part of the standard AD (H) S therapies, but are discussed again and again. A recent English study showed that artificial colors and preservatives (especially sodium benzoate) can increase hyperactive behaviors. However, some children reacted immediately to the additives, others not at all, like an espresso that makes an adult sleepless and calms others.

L-carnitine and Strath

An attempt at the Biel Z.E.N. that L-Caritin, an important substance for the energy metabolism, can improve fidgety and lack of concentration. The herbal yeast preparation Strath also proved to be very effective in a Swiss study with some children. However, these therapies are usually not paid for by health insurance companies.

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a variant of biofeedback. Children from school age learn to consciously influence their brain activity. One works with a computer; the derived brain waves move cartoon characters on the screen. A study at the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Zurich (KJPD) recently showed promising results: children with AD (H) D were able to concentrate better after several weeks of neurofeedback training. The demand for neurofeedback is increasing, although the health insurances do not pay for the treatment.

PC training

There are various computer training courses for at home that are designed to promote concentration and are sometimes specifically recommended for AD (H) D children. "Without accompanying strategies such as behavioral training with the involvement of the parents, this often only brings short-term improvements," says Bern-based psychologist Regula Bischof, who regularly conducts assessments and behavioral therapy for children with attention disorders.

Other complementary medical therapies

Traditional Chinese medicine, (laser) acupuncture, kinesiology or phytotherapy (therapy with herbal remedies such as gingko): the list of therapy options is getting longer and longer. They focus on the child and their situation. "If parents and child are motivated and implement something together, then a lot can help, even if it is not recognized by conventional medicine," says Regula Bischof.

Ritalin

The drug Ritalin contains the active ingredient methylphenidate and improves concentration and endurance. Normally it is only used in the event of excessive suffering and time pressure, and as a last resort. It is important for the affected children that they can develop their strengths despite AD (H) D and receive individually tailored therapies that are optimal for them.


Additional information

www.adhs.ch

The website of the psychologist Piero Rossi and the doctor Martin Winkler provides scientifically based information on therapy for AD (H) D.

www.elpos.ch

Parents of affected children run this site with a lot of information, references and event tips.