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3 min read

How to Help a Child with ADHD Without Medication

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It’s not uncommon to hear the term “ADHD” thrown around in jokes and everyday conversation to casually describe someone that lacks focus, struggles to pay attention, or can’t seem to complete a task. But in all reality, ADHD is a medical condition that is no laughing matter for many. 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, often referred to as ADHD, is one of the most common disorders diagnosed among children today. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 6.1 million children aged 2-17 years old living within the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. Of those children, 62% take medication to treat their ADHD, which equals “1 out of 20 of all U.S. children.”

While medication proves to be a popular way to manage ADHD, it is not the only method. Did you know there are various alternatives to ADHD medication for children? If you are wondering how to help a child with ADHD without medication, you are not the only one. 

What is ADHD?

Since there are different types of ADHD, children can experience varying symptoms, from inattention and distractibility to hyperactivity and impulsivity. The exact cause of ADHD remains unknown, but Johns Hopkins Medicine explains: “[ADHD] is a brain-based biological disorder. Low levels of dopamine (a brain chemical), which is a neurotransmitter (a type of brain chemical), are found in children with ADHD. Brain imaging studies using PET scanners (positron emission tomography; a form of brain imaging that makes it possible to observe the human brain at work) show that brain metabolism in children with ADHD is lower in the areas of the brain that control attention, social judgment, and movement.”

ADHD is far-reaching and typically affects a child socially, emotionally, mentally, behaviorally, and academically. For example, interacting with others and forming friendships can be difficult. Following rules at school, finishing schoolwork, and listening to teachers can be a challenge. Paying attention to details and remaining on task can be hard. Although ADHD plays out differently for every child, most children feel the impact across all areas of their life.

Can You Treat a Child's ADHD Without Drugs?

Just like ADHD is a unique journey for every child, treating ADHD is an individual process as well. Many parents feel medication is an excellent treatment option for their child with ADHD, and that’s 100% okay. Others do not feel prescribed medication is the right fit for their child, and that is also perfectly fine. Medication is one route, and treating ADHD without medication in children is another. 

How to Help a Child With ADHD Without Medication

There are numerous ways to approach child ADHD treatment without drugs. Discovering how to help a child with ADHD without medication can take a bit of trial-and-error. It’s not a clear-cut process, and unfortunately, what works for one child may not be the best match for your child. Knowing this can help you set realistic expectations for the process. As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Incorporate New Lifestyle Choices 

Sleep: Studies have shown that poor sleep habits can exacerbate a child’s ADHD symptoms. Consider how you can (1) increase the amount of sleep and (2) improve the quality of sleep your child gets each night by sticking to a consistent bedtime, creating a wind-down routine that is task-oriented, and eliminating electronics from the bedroom. 

Diet: What your child eats can most definitely affect their emotions, moods, and behaviors. Encourage your child to eat a well-balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. On the other hand, help your child avoid preservatives, food coloring, sugar-filled drinks, and pre-prepared meals.

Exercise: Giving your child plenty of opportunities to move, run, play, and get outside is a necessary component of managing ADHD symptoms. A sedentary lifestyle is impractical for a child with ADHD. Rather, movement is essential to their mental and physical wellbeing. 

Seek Behavioral Help

Social Skills Training: Children with ADHD might need help learning how to interact with their peers and adults. Social skills training can teach a child how to respond to others, while also communicating their own thoughts, feelings, needs, and emotions. 

Brain Training/Cognitive Training: This type of non-pharmaceutical intervention is designed to promote focus and concentration. Brain training, or cognitive training, uses electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to help children improve their executive functioning.

Play Therapy: Just as the title suggests, play therapy is all about making the most out of moments in everyday playtime to teach life skills. With guided play, the goal is for children to gain new insights and abilities that they can then transfer into their daily lives. 

Add ADHD-Friendly Extracurriculars

Music: Research suggests that learning to play a musical instrument can be extremely beneficial to a child with ADHD. Playing an instrument actively engages particular parts of the brain that can improve cognitive development. 

Mindfulness: While there is a time and place for movement, practicing mindfulness can keep a child with ADHD grounded when using breathing and meditation techniques.

Can a Child Overcome ADHD Without Drugs?

ADHD is a lifelong disorder, and figuring out how to manage it can be a lifelong undertaking. Learning how to help a child with ADHD without medication is a wonderful starting point, though. 

Our team at Williamsburg Therapy Group wants to walk that journey with you. We understand the challenges that come with an ADHD diagnosis. Many children with ADHD also face mental health difficulties as they battle the effects of depression and anxiety alongside their ADHD symptoms. 

This troubling combination can be overwhelming to handle alone. Instead, let our doctoral-level mental health doctors support you and your child. We know that treating ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. As part of our child-centered program, we create personalized treatment plans designed to meet the specific needs of each child. 

Give us a call or send us a message to learn how our team at Williamsburg Therapy Group can contribute to your child’s ADHD treatment.  

Book a Therapy Session in NYC or Austin Today

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