The Number One Natural (Non-Drug) Treatment for ADHD

by | Feb 8, 2015 | Focus & Motivation, Life Skills | 35 comments

ADD and ADHD affect many areas of life including social situations, down time at home, ability to complete daily chores, and even sports and music practice. Here are some natural treatments for ADHD and ADD that may help your child.

ADD and ADHD affect many areas of life including social situations, down time at home, ability to complete daily chores, and even sports and music practice. Here are some natural treatments for ADHD and ADD that may help your child.

 

Why a post on ADHD on a dyslexia education site, you may ask?

There is a high correlation between dyslexia and attention issues such as ADD and ADHD.  If you are beginning your search for information on ADD or ADHD, please read this post that includes many of the signs of ADD and ADHD.

As homeschoolers, we have tremendous freedom to adjust our learning environment for the different learning styles of our kids.  We can choose curriculum, schedules, even foods and lighting that complement rather than frustrate our kids preferred way of learning.

However, any parent of a child that struggles with attention, whether it be inattentiveness or hyperactivity, knows that these struggles are not limited to the classroom.  ADD and ADHD affect many areas of life including social situations, down time at home, ability to complete daily chores, and even sports and music practice.

How can we help our kids to have more control of themselves in the day-to-day without using prescription drugs?

Note:  I am not discouraging the use of medication for ADD and ADHD.  Many people use and are greatly helped by these medications.  These ‘natural treatments’ are provided as another way to help your child be as successful as possible in their home, school and lives.  What works for one child may not work for another child – each child is unique!  

Studies have shown that using medication alone to treat ADD and ADHD is not sufficient and must be combined with one or more non-drug ADD treatments.

Natural Treatment for ADHD and ADD

Today we’re going to talk about the number one, most effective, natural treatment for ADD and ADHD.

Behavior Therapy

All kids need firm boundaries and none so much as the child with ADD or ADHD.  Learning to implement a  consistent set of rewards and consequences into your daily routine is one of the most highly effective natural treatments for kids with attention issues.

Interestingly, a lot of behavior modification is simply common sense parenting.

How to Set up a Succesful System of Rewards and Consequences

Choose a specific goal.  Trying to focus on too many goals at once can be difficult to monitor.  Start with one goal and as progress is made, add another.

Create a visual reminder.  This should outline what is expected of your child.  What you use here will depend on the age of your child.  For my older kids, this comes in the form of a checklist.  For younger kids is can be something as simple as a 3×5 card with an image of the desired behavior posted in a prominent place in your work or school area.

Choose the specific reward and consequence.  Effective behavior modification finds a good balance between rewards and consequences.  Parents are terrific at knowing when their kids are becoming overwhelmed or discouraged and when the scale needs to tip back towards rewards rather than consequences.

Here are a few examples of rewards and consequences that we use in our home with our ADD and ADHD kids:

Example of consequences:

For our 7-year old.  I have mentioned before how we draw 3 lines on our homeschool room (dining room) dry erase board every day for our young son with ADHD.  Because he tends to complain and have a low tolerance for things that are difficult, we have chosen this area to focus on of late.

If he begins to complain, I give him a gentle reminder, “It sounds like you are complaining.”  If he does not self-correct (stop complaining) I remind him that he will lose a line if he continues.

If he loses all 3 lines by 2:00 when he normally is allowed an hour on the iPad, he loses his turn for the day.

Having this clear plan in place helps my son monitor his own behavior and it helps me not to feel overwhelmed and out of control.

For our 11-year old daughter.  My older daughter strongly dislikes the tediousness of chores, especially room cleaning.  At 11-years old, she has a well-established morning routine that she is expected to complete, without reminders, each day.  (This is easily accomplished at this age with a simple chore check list.)

Our daughter also enjoys time on the Amazon Kindle that she received for her birthday last year.   She looks up recipes, crafts, information on animals, listens to music and audio books or plays on Minecraft with her brother and sister.

One of our goals for her is to teach her self-control with her Kindle and she is allowed to keep it in her room.  However, she is not allowed to go on it without permission yet as we work to establish good boundaries and healthy habits.

At first, if she was found on it without permission, for any seemingly good reason, she would lose it for the day.  Now that that boundary has been established for some time, if she is on it without permission, she loses the Kindle for the week.

Examples of rewards:

For our 7-year old.  I wrote recently about teaching the distracted child and how this little guy can easily get overstimulated at our weekly co-op day.  I implement the above-mentioned consequence but if he has exhibited good behavior and self control at co-op on any particular day, I am quick to observe that, praise his efforts and offer some reward or treat such as renting a new release from the RedBox DVD rental or buying a box of popsicles or other treat.

For our 11-year old.  They key to the successful use of rewards is to find something that is motivating to your child.  Set up a challenge such as completing morning routines without reminders for a week and earn some reward.  For this child it may be a trip to the craft store for supplies or some other activity for which she has been asking.

Having this clear, simple strategy set up alleviates many struggles for both the child and the parent.

Other Natural Treatments for ADD and ADHD

There are a variety of natural treatments that alleviate the symptoms of distractibility, and for some kids hyperactivity.  These include (posts coming soon!):

Omega-3 or Fish Oil & Nutritional Changes

Exercise

Working Memory Training

“Green Time” or time spent outdoors

Neurofeedback

What non-medical treatments for ADD or ADHD have you tried with success or not so much success?

35 Comments

  1. wendy

    I have had luck with essential oils on my ADHD child., although on my ADD child not any kind of essential oil works. Worth a try though.

    Reply
  2. Lisa

    Rhodiola Rosea is a natural product that is awesome.

    Reply
  3. Shanna Saleh

    My 7 year old has profound dyslexia and ADHD. We’ve tried several meds (no help, made matters worse), essential oils (a little helpful) and behavior therapy. But, by far, the biggest success we’ve seen is through diet modification with the Feingold Diet. After 4 weeks on the diet, the difference is night and day. Almost no one I know has heard of this. Could you possibly write about this as well? I thank God every day that we found this option for treatment!

    Reply
    • marianne

      Hi Shanna. I have heard of the Feingold Diet. I will look into it. Thanks for sharing!!

      Reply
    • Erika

      Shanna:

      How difficult was it to switch up your diet? Did the entire family go on the Feingold Diet? I have been looking at it for months now, but my husband is not on board at this point. Just curious how your experience has been.

      Reply
    • Valerie B.

      It is so nice to see other families that recognized a food connection. We are a Feingold family as well! It has been life changing. I’ve seen a big improvement in overall processing too, so that means that my dd’s dyslexia challenges are far less. 🙂

      Reply
    • Tracy

      I’ve also had great success with Feingold for my three ADHD kiddos. More than anything, it taught me how to look for the connections between food and behavior.

      I also did DNA testing for my daughter through my naturopath, which revealed a number of physical issues. My naturopath was then able to recommend some supplements that have made a world of difference for her dyslexia, anxiety, and mood.

      Reply
  4. Kelly Haner

    We started with diet changes: no gluten/casein, cutting out as much processed food as possible. Then we moved on to adding essential oils. We’ve gone from major attention issues at 3 1/2, to none documented at all on my son’s last IEP at 7 years old.

    Reply
  5. LaToya

    This is great! I’ve been working on a behavior therapy with my oldest who has ADHD. I have had great success with all the things you’ve mentioned plus essential oils and magnesium supplements 😀

    Reply
    • marianne

      Which essential oils are you using LaToya? I use some for ADD but haven’t used anything for the ‘H’ factor!

      Reply
      • LaToya

        Vetiver, Cedarwood, Lavendar (all together). Citrus to help focus on school work and Frankincense and Myrrh to help with temper

        Reply
        • Stephanie

          Do You diffuse them? At bedtime, or in the homeschool room?
          Thanks,
          Steph

          Reply
  6. Chris

    What helps us the most is when my daughter knows the expectations clearly. It may seem simple but makes a big impact. Rewards or losing privileges does nothing. Likewise I can offer special treats for well behavior and she gets excited but then totally forgets and goes about whatever she was doing. I can take away a privilege after a few warning of doing so and when it comes that time she melts down like she didn’t know. It’s to much to focus on. Keeping things mentally engaging while allowing afternoon expression time to go out side and create something (with sticks, mud, ect, paint, markers, sting.)

    Reply
  7. Lisa

    Our soon to be 15yr old son was diagnosed by age 3 with ADHD, SPD, and possible Aspergers. I fought to keep him off meds until he was 9 and wanted to try public school. He was there 4wks and they were telling me that he needed to be on meds or his life was going to be very difficult so I caved because he desperately wanted to stay in school but he was getting in trouble daily. Long story but I pulled him out the first day after Christmas break and we were back to homeschooling but still on meds only the meds weren’t doing much good because he was so zoned out, losing too much weight or not able to sleep.

    We tried meds again 2yrs ago but within less than a year our pediatrician told me that he just couldn’t be on any of them because they were causing him so much trouble. I then researched and prayed and started to try different things here at home to help him because no one wanted to be friends with him and it just made me heartbroken. I had him on Omega 3 fish oil gummies you can buy at Trader Joe’s, he started running 5 days a week and I monitored his diet closely. I first took out all food dyes, no more processed foods, we keep his foods in their most natural state, limit refined sugars and replaced them with natural sugars, he has dairy but we switched to almond milk and he eats yogurt a lot, we haven’t cut out white flour totally because it didn’t seem to be a trigger food. Today, he’s a different kids with friends and straight A’s. I’m still constantly reevaluating his food intake because what once wasn’t a trigger food could be now or in the future.

    He will be in highschool next year and he would like to go to a public highschool but I’m still praying about this. I learned that what works for one child doesn’t always work for another. What also works for him now may not in 2yrs so I keep an open mind and I’m continually watching him for signs that it’s time to change things up because as these kids mature and get older things change and sometimes they will show no more signs of ADHD or they will start to get worse. I also teach him along the way what is going on with him and why we are doing these things; one day he is going to move out and will need to know how to monitor for these things himself. Also, a note of advice that asking what your child wants to do/try is important. My son hated the meds but never said a word because he wanted me to be happy. Involve your child no matter how young in the process, it is their body but you do make the final decision.

    Reply
    • Lydia

      Thank you so much for all the info.

      Reply
  8. Kathy

    I’ve been hearing great things about Spark Naturals’ Jeddy’s Blend essential oils. It’s specifically for adhd.

    Reply
    • Heather

      I bought it. But, my son couldn’t handle the strong smell.

      Reply
  9. Cindy

    You are such a treasure Marianne!! This is a WONDERFUL post!! Thank you!!

    Reply
  10. Mariangel

    I’ve heard about essential oils but I was wondering how do you apply/use them ?

    Reply
    • Camilla Simon

      Hi Mariangel. There are many different ways to use essential oils. Many parents diffuse in the classroom at home. Some can be applied with a carrier oil such as fractioned coconut oil. Feel free to message me.

      Reply
  11. Holly R

    I use In Tune essential oil from doTERRA and it works well.

    Reply
  12. Lori

    I would love an article on working memory so many conflicting reports and this tends to be the biggest issue for us and others in homeschooling. We’ve used oils and they have helped. The biggest effect has been a multi vitamin for zinc and magnesium! I haven’t tried omega yet. My son is certainly wired for rewards which is now exhausting and expensive! How do I get out of this cycle? At age 13 he seems to want a reward for everything all the time ugh!!

    Reply
  13. Debbie

    I’ve heard for lots of kids, ‘simply’ removing artificial food dyes, i.e. Red 40, yellow 5&6, makes a huge difference. I put it in quotes, because it’s everywhere, but slowly companies are removing it do to pressure from so many parents. We have to avoid it because it causes eczema and asthma for our kids.

    Reply
  14. Merry

    My son is dyslexic and ADHD.
    He was kicked out of 6th grade public school because he told his teacher he couldn’t read. Reality was he couldn’t memorize anymore. Short story fast forward. I had him tested and placed him in a private school who found the problem with testing.
    Later on I found the feingold diet and put him on it. He went from a 10min attention span to 30 min in a month. Then to an hour. He,was able to sit with a class of ten students as well.
    He began learning German and Russian and made As and Bs.
    It was difficult to watch his food but it was worth the outcome. Dr.pepper would turn my son into a monster for the day.
    This was done in 1989.
    My son never regrets what I did for him. It was the best time of his life. He could be who he really was. Hope to all who are struggling.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      That’s amazing Merry. I need to learn more about the Feingold Diet.

      Reply
  15. jolie

    my son has been struggling with adhd for some years now, or maybe i’m the one struggling, he doesn’t seem to mind. We recently decided to move away from pills and have taken up essential oils which have worked WONDERS.

    Reply
  16. Becky

    My almost 15-year-old has multiple challenges including dyslexia & ADHD. We’ve chosen to never go the medication route. This past year I’ve seen good progress – he’s been going to the gym in the morning (which I believe is key) 3-4 times a week, using a good quality Omega-3 and receiving educational therapy, which includes working memory training along with other techniques to facilitate cognitive growth.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      That’s wonderful Becky!

      Reply

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