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Adhd Alternative Treatments for Children

In: Science

Submitted By bbaker9
Words 1102
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Abby Baker
Instructor: Donna Ewing
BIOL 1408-87
17 July 2015
ADHD – Alternative Treatments for Children
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a syndrome that involves behavior that is impulsive and inattentive with motor restlessness and abnormal energy levels. Children diagnosed with ADHD have differences in the frontal lobes of their brain compared to those who do not have the disorder (Austin, Staats, and Burgdorf). Experts consider ADHD a condition that has no cure and it is generally treated with stimulant medications. These medications act quickly to reduce the impulsive and inattentive behaviors associated with ADHD. However, these medications can have side effects, while improvements in academic achievement and interpersonal relationships are small (Conners). There are options for parents who want to explore alternative therapies for ADHD that are long lasting but with fewer side effects. Therapies such as neurofeedback, “green-time,” Cogmed Working Memory Training, and fish-oil supplements for ADHD offer parents a choice to move away from or use in combination with medications.
Neurofeedback, sometimes called EEG biofeedback, is based on the concept that the brain produces different brain waves according to the type of brain activity associated with current mental states. A focused and attentive state will produce different brain waves than an excited or drowsy state. Research indicates that the frontal lobe areas in an ADHD brain have low levels of arousal. So, neurofeedback makes the ADHD person aware of these low level brainwaves. Once the individual can identify his/her own brainwave activity, they are taught how to change them. New software systems have been created that allow the user to learn and practice attention and concentration skills. One company, SmartBrainGames, uses EEG equipment that was developed for NASA astronauts. The system was modified to help children with ADHD monitor their own concentration levels in the form of two game consoles using neurofeedback techniques. There is a version to be used at home that connects to most home gaming systems, and one used in the clinic so psychologists and other professionals can target the needs of children with ADHD (Austin, Staats, and Burgdorf).
University of Illinois researchers Frances Kuo and Andrea Taylor have led recent studies that link time spent in nature to an increase in the ability to concentrate with ADHD. They state, “The theory is that, when you have to struggle to maintain attention — what happens when you concentrate on a task like writing or doing computations — neurotransmitters in the brain’s prefrontal cortex get depleted. If you struggle too long without a break, you experience a condition that might be called “attention fatigue. You need to let the system replenish itself, and being in a natural environment seems to let it do that.” This “attention fatigue” in its chronic form, is similar to ADHD. In one study, parents said that their ADHD kids could focus better after they had participated in outdoor activities compared to indoor activities. In fact, activities that were done in specifically “green” environments produced the most improvement in attention out of all the outdoor activities. So, it makes sense to encourage parents to provide more “green time” for their ADHD kids. If possible, parents can walk their children to and from school on greener routes, or let their kids play outside before doing homework. And why not park the homework table in front of a window with a green view, or let the child help with the gardening (Kuo and Taylor)?
Another alternative treatment for ADHD is called “working memory training.” Working memory is the ability to retain information in order to achieve a specific goal. CogMed training is a five-week training program aimed to improve the working memory of ADHD patients. Parents check in with a CogMed trainer once a week to monitor progress, receive encouragement, and troubleshoot if needed. The CogMed program is downloaded onto a home computer. Exercises are in a video game format that is colorful and engaging. “In one exercise, he shoots down floating asteroids; in another, he recalls numbers in the reverse order in which they are given; in another, he remembers the sequence in which rows of lights turn on. The patient uses his computer mouse to punch in the answers — and earns points along the way” (“What You Need”). Karolinska Institute researchers did MRIs on children after finishing CogMed training. These MRIs showed changes in the brain’s pre-frontal and parietal regions. Follow-up tests at six-months and one-year showed that 80 percent of the patients who completed the CogMed training “maintained their working-memory gains or improved on them” (“What You Need”).
Another interesting treatment for ADHD is fish-oil supplements. One study at the University of Oxford in England concluded that, “A lack of certain polyunsaturated fatty acids may contribute to dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” School children that were given fish oil supplements for three months were found to show “significant improvements in behavior, reading, and spelling” (Richardson and Montgomery). The researchers recommend parents give their ADHD children a supplement that has a high ratio (4:1) of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids to improve their ADHD symptoms (Richardson and Montgomery).
None of the above mentioned alternative therapies claim to replace medication for ADHD. Medications can give good results but may have negative side effects and do not usually manage all the symptoms all of the time. Finding effective treatments that are creative and drug-free is important to most parents. Neurofeedback, “green-time,” working memory training, and fish-oil supplements can offer parents a treatment strategy that is customized and can complement medications. One or more of these alternative options might provide improvement in specific areas of struggle for the ADHD child.

Works Cited
Austin, Margaret, Natalie Staats, and Laura Burgdorf. “Neurofeedback and ADHD Coaching.” MentalHelp.net. Centersite, LLC, 7 Nov 2007. Web. 16 July 2015.
Conners CK. “Forty Years of Methylphenidate Treatment in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Journal of Attention Disorders 6 (2002): Suppl 1: S17–S30. Web. 15 July 2015.
Kuo, Frances E., and Andrea Faber Taylor. "A Potential Natural Treatment For Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From A National Study." American Journal Of Public Health 94.9 (2004): 1580-1586. Academic Search Complete. Web. 15 July 2015.
Richardson, Alexandra J., and Paul Montgomery. "The Oxford-Durham Study: A Randomized, Controlled Trial Of Dietary Supplementation With Fatty Acids In Children With Developmental Coordination Disorder." Pediatrics 115.5 (2005): 1360-1366. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 July 2015.
“What You Need to Know About CogMed Working-Memory Training.” ADDitude. New Hope Media, LLC, Dec/Jan 2008. Web. 15 July 2015.

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