Home remedy for adhd child

Natural Remedies for ADHD Without Medication: Nutrition, Supplements, Sleep

No treatment plan for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is complete if it doesn’t harness the power of nutrition, exercise, and sleep to improve wellbeing. What we eat, our physical activity levels, our sleep habits, and lifestyle factors ranging from stress management to screen time have a tremendous effect on health – a fact that’s amplified for ADHD brains and bodies.

Regardless of whether your child’s treatment includes medication, maximizing exercise, sleep, and nutrition can effectively transform them into natural remedies for ADHD, and arguably establish the foundation upon which to build other interventions.

Mounting research suggests that eating well contributes positively to the performance and abilities of any child with ADHD. 1

When working to improve your child’s wellbeing, begin by considering the glycemic index (GI), or how fast the body converts carbohydrates into sugar.

All carbohydrates turn into sugar, but some are converted faster (high glycemic index) and some slower (low GI). These rates of conversion affect a child’s energy levels over the day; anything that causes blood sugar levels to quickly spike (like sugary, processed foods) means that the body will work hard to quickly drop that sugar, actually bringing it below normal levels. The result is often an irritable, fidgety, or nervous child who can’t focus as well.

To maintain steady, normal blood sugar levels, ensure that your child’s meals, especially at the start of the day, are balanced:

A significant percentage of children with ADHD are sensitive (not allergic) to some kind of food. In one study that placed children with ADHD on a restricted elimination meal plan, more than half of subjects saw a 40% improvement on ADHD rating scale performance.4 The same results appeared in an older study, where hyperactive children saw improvement in behavior after being placed on a “few foods” plan. 5

In my practice, I estimate that about 30% to 50% of children I see do have some food sensitivity.

Not sure what food sensitives your child may have? Try this technique I use with my patients: eliminate a whole set of foods – dairy, wheat, corn, soy, eggs (common culprits) – for three weeks.

[Eggs, Dairy, Nuts, and Soy: Testing for Sensitivities with an ADHD Elimination Foods Plan]

Eliminating foods, in my experience, tend to work on children who primarily present symptoms of hyperactivity rather than inattentiveness. This method also works on children who already have a history of allergies, eczema, gastrointestinal issues, and other allergic-type manifestations.

Several studies show that artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives tend to increase hyperactivity in a sizable portion of children, ADHD or not.6 In addition, studies suggest that a subset of children with ADHD are sensitive to food dyes, and may see symptoms worsen. 7

Opt for whole foods to avoid synthetic dyes, and, as with food sensitivities, try to detect through a process of elimination if your child is sensitive to a particular dye.

This is the most common supplement used by patients with ADHD. Why? Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids (with high doses of EPA) are modestly effective in treating ADHD in children.8 Fish oil, which is associated with few/mild side effects, helps to increase levels of omega-3s that are often naturally lacking in children with ADHD, which in turn helps with brain functioning. Although dosing amounts are not established, I recommend 1000mg a day of combined EPA+DHA for children ages 5 to 8, 1500 mg a day for children ages 8 to 12, and 2000 mg a day for older children.

Can’t get your sensory-sensitive child to take fish oil supplements? Click here for tips.

Many children with ADHD are relatively iron (serum ferretin) deficient9, which may explain irregular dopamine regulation in the brain10. One small study showed that children with ADHD who took iron supplements saw an improvement in ADHD symptoms compared to children who took a placebo.11 Have your child’s doctor measure their serum ferritin levels to see if an iron supplement is necessary. For non-anemic patients, I recommend up to 40 mg of chelated iron a day. (The chelated form is associated with fewer gastrointestinal side effects.)

Multiple research studies shows that many children with ADHD clearly benefit from exercise.15 Even a single, 20-minute bout of aerobic exercise improves attention and academic performance in this group, according to one study.16 Another small study of children with ADHD found that acute exercise normalizes arousal and alertness levels, based on findings from EEG readings.17

Exercise can be so therapeutic for ADHD symptoms that I recommend against sacrificing exercise time for tutoring or because of poor grades. In fact, research seems to indicate that exercise improves academic scores perhaps better than spending the equivalent amount in class or study time. 18

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day for children and adolescents.19 I recommend five days a week of exercise for my patients. (Physical education in school can count, so long as it increases heart rate and works up a sweat.) Interestingly, how much exercise helps any particular person may depend on genetics, with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) playing a major role in the relationship.20

Some children with ADHD may prefer individual sports, like swimming, tennis, or cycling, as opposed to team sports. Some studies show that martial arts, especially taekwondo, benefit children with ADHD.21

If your child resists exercise, consider tying it to something virtually all children want: screen time. They can have an hour of tablet time, for example, only if they’re on a stationary bike or treadmill during that time. Some adolescents may benefit from working with a personal trainer to keep them accountable and motivated.

Don’t forget about time in nature. According to one study, green outdoor activities reduce ADHD symptoms in children more than activities conducted in other settings.22

Unstructured play is not the same as exercise, but it is just as important for all children. Unstructured, creative play is crucial for normal development, as it is where young children learn to work things out independently and forge social relationships23 — important skills for children with ADHD especially. So, let your child ride their bike, run around, or play outside with other children if it is safe to do so. Leave them be if they are on a play date. Find programs that emphasize and maximize independent play.

Adequate sleep is crucial for children with ADHD, who are already at a higher risk for a variety of sleep disturbances, like difficulty falling asleep, compared to children without ADHD.24 Inadequate sleep affects ADHD symptoms and overall functioning.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) establishes the following guidelines for daily sleep amounts in children, which are supported by the AAP:27

If sleep problems persist, consult with your child’s medical providers. They may be able to run a sleep study to test for disorders. Behavioral professional psychologists and counselors can also help with implementing healthy sleep routines. Ask the pediatrician to check your child’s serum ferritin levels, as low levels are associated with restless sleep.31

By far, screen time/digital media use is the most difficult and argument-producing problem among the many families I help. Many studies link excessive screen time to issues like poor sleep quality, poor mental health, emotional dysregulation, lower academic achievement, lower levels of physical activity, and even developmental delays in children and teens.3233

Studies correlate increased screen time with symptoms of ADHD. According to a study of preschool-age children, those who had more than two hours of screen time a day were more likely to exhibit clinically significant symptoms of inattention compared to children with less than 30 minutes of screen time per day. 34 Another study found that higher frequency of digital media use was associated with subsequent symptoms of ADHD in adolescents after a two-year follow-up.35 Note, however, that research does not establish a causal link between screen time and ADHD.

There also appears to be a subset of children with ADHD whose symptoms are worsened by even small amounts of screen time.36

For children 2 to 5 years of age, the AAP recommends one hour a day at most of co-viewed high-quality programming.37 For older children, it recommends a personalized media use plan that considers the individual child’s age, health, temperament, and developmental stage.38 Additional recommendations include the following:

In addition to the above guidance, I also encourage families to think of the following for managing screen time:

Stress is a natural part of life. But some children with ADHD, in my experience, are very sensitive to stress. Part of it is that these children – more than neurotypical children – can be exposed to a great deal of negative feedback on a regular basis which affects self-esteem and wellbeing. 40 Use the following strategies to mitigate your child’s stress:

The content for this article was derived from the ADDitude Expert Webinars “How Nutrition, Sleep, Exercise & Behavioral Interventions Can Reduce ADHD Symptoms” and “Lifestyle Changes with the Biggest Impact on Kids with ADHD,” with Sanford Newmark, M.D., which were broadcast live on April 24, 2018 and August 4, 2022, respectively.

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

1 Del-Ponte, B., Quinte, G. C., Cruz, S., Grellert, M., & Santos, I. S. (2019). Dietary patterns and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 252, 160–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.04.061

2 Cooper, S. , Bandelow, S., Nute, M., Morris, J., & Nevill, M. (2012). Breakfast glycaemic index and cognitive function in adolescent school children. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(12), 1823-1832. doi:10.1017/S0007114511005022

3 Roberts, J. R., Dawley, E. H., & Reigart, J. R. (2019). Children’s low-level pesticide exposure and associations with autism and ADHD: a review. Pediatric Research, 85(2), 234–241. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-018-0200-z

4 Pelsser, Lidy M et al. (2011). Effects of a restricted elimination food plan on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, Volume 377, Issue 9764, 494 – 503. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(10)62227-1

5 Carter CM, Urbanowicz M, Hemsley R, et al.(1993). Effects of a few food plan in attention deficit disorder. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 69:564-568.

6 Nigg, J. T., & Holton, K. (2014). Restriction and elimination food plans in ADHD treatment. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 23(4), 937–953. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2014.05.010

7 Nigg, J. T., Lewis, K., Edinger, T., & Falk, M. (2012). Meta-analysis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, restriction diet, and synthetic food color additives. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(1), 86–97.e8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2011.10.015

8 Bloch, M., Qawasmi, A. (2011). Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the Treatment of Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 50(10), 991-1000. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2011.06.008

9 Konofal, E., Lecendreux, M. , Arnulf, I., & Mouren, M. C. (2004). Iron deficiency in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 158(12), 1113–1115. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.158.12.1113

10 Wang, Y., Huang, L., Zhang, L., Qu, Y., & Mu, D. (2017). Iron Status in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PloS one, 12(1), e0169145. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0169145

11 Konofal, E., Lecendreux, M., et.al. (2008). Effects of iron supplementation on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Pediatric Neurology, 38(1), 20-26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2007.08.014

12Gan, J., Galer, P., Ma, D., Chen, C., & Xiong, T. (2019). The effect of vitamin d supplementation on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 29(9), 670–687. https://doi.org/10.1089/cap.2019.0059

13Li, H. H., Yue, X. J., Wang, C. X., Feng, J. Y., Wang, B., & Jia, F. Y. (2020). Serum levels of vitamin a and vitamin d and their association with symptoms in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11, 599958. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.599958

14Granero, R., Pardo-Garrido, A., Carpio-Toro, I. L., Ramírez-Coronel, A. A., Martínez-Suárez, P. C., & Reivan-Ortiz, G. G. (2021). The role of iron and zinc in the treatment of ADHD among children and adolescents: A systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Nutrients, 13(11), 4059. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13114059

15Christiansen, L., Beck, M. M., Bilenberg, N., Wienecke, J., Astrup, A., & Lundbye-Jensen, J. (2019). Effects of exercise on cognitive performance in children and adolescents with ADHD: potential mechanisms and evidence-based recommendations. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 8(6), 841. https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8060841

16Pontifex, M. B., Saliba, B. J., Raine, L. B., Picchietti, D. L., & Hillman, C. H. (2013). Exercise improves behavioral, neurocognitive, and scholastic performance in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The Journal of Pediatrics, 162(3), 543–551. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.08.036

17Huang, C. J., Huang, C. W., Hung, C. L., Tsai, Y. J., Chang, Y. K., Wu, C. T., & Hung, T. M. (2018). Effects of acute exercise on resting EEG in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 49(6), 993–1002. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-018-0813-9

18McPherson, A., Mackay, L., Kunkel, J., & Duncan, S. (2018). Physical activity, cognition and academic performance: An analysis of mediating and confounding relationships in primary school children. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 936. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5863-1

19Lobelo, F., Muth, N. D., Hanson, S., Nemeth, B. A., COUNCIL ON SPORTS MEDICINE AND FITNESS, & SECTION ON…(2020). Physical activity assessment and counseling in pediatric clinical settings. Pediatrics, 145(3), e20193992. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3992

20Hopkins, M. E., Davis, F. C., Vantieghem, M. R., Whalen, P. J., & Bucci, D. J. (2012). Differential effects of acute and regular physical exercise on cognition and affect. Neuroscience, 215, 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.04.056

21Kadri, A., Slimani, M., Bragazzi, N. L., Tod, D., & Azaiez, F. (2019). Effect of taekwondo practice on cognitive function in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(2), 204. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph26020204

22 Kuo, F. E., & Taylor, A. F. (2004). A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Evidence from a national study. American Journal of Public Health, 94(9), 1580–1586. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.94.9.1580

23 Lee, R., Lane, S., Brown, G., Leung, C., Kwok, S., & Chan, S. (2020). Systematic review of the impact of unstructured play interventions to improve young children’s physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. Nursing & Health Sciences, 22(2), 184–196. https://doi.org/10.1111/nhs.12732

24 Bondopadhyay, U., Diaz-Orueta, U., & Coogan, A. N. (2022). A systematic review of sleep and circadian rhythms in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Attention Disorders, 26(2), 149–224. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054720978556

25 Hvolby A. (2015). Associations of sleep disturbance with ADHD: Implications for treatment. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, 7(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12402-014-0151-0

26 Wolraich, M. L., Hagan, J. F., Jr, Allan, C., Chan, E., Davison, D., Earls, M., Evans, S. W., Flinn, S. K., Froehlich, T., Frost, J., Holbrook, J. R., Lehmann, C. U., Lessin, H. R., Okechukwu, K., Pierce, K. L., Winner, J. D., Zurhellen, W., & SUBCOMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS WITH ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVE DISORDER (2019). Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 144(4), e20192528. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-2528

27 Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D’Ambrosio, C., Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., Malow, B. A., Maski, K., Nichols, C., Quan, S. F., Rosen, C. L., Troester, M. M., & Wise, M. S. (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: A consensus statement of the american academy of sleep medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 12(6), 785–786. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.5866

28 Shechter, A., Kim, E. W., St-Onge, M. P., & Westwood, A. J. (2018). Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 96, 196–202. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.10.015

29 Guadagna, S., Barattini, D. F., Rosu, S., & Ferini-Strambi, L. (2020). Plant Extracts for Sleep Disturbances: A Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: eCAM, 2020, 3792390. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/3792390

30 Haghayegh, S., Khoshnevis, S., Smolensky, M. H., Diller, K. R., & Castriotta, R. J. (2019). Before-bedtime passive body heating by warm shower or bath to improve sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 46, 124–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2019.04.008

31 Cortese, S., Konofal, E., Bernardina, B. D., Mouren, M. C., & Lecendreux, M. (2009). Sleep disturbances and serum ferritin levels in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 18(7), 393–399. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-009-0746-8

32Madigan, S., Browne, D., Racine, N., Mori, C., & Tough, S. (2019). Association Between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test. JAMA Pediatrics, 173(3), 244–250. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.5056

33 Stiglic, N., & Viner, R. M. (2019). Effects of screentime on the health and well-being of children and adolescents: a systematic review of reviews. BMJ Open, 9(1), e023191. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023191

34 Tamana, S. K., Ezeugwu, V., Chikuma, J., Lefebvre, D. L., Azad, M. B., Moraes, T. J., Subbarao, P., Becker, A. B., Turvey, S. E., Sears, M. R., Dick, B. D., Carson, V., Rasmussen, C., CHILD study Investigators, Pei, J. , & Mandhane, P. J. (2019). Screen-time is associated with inattention problems in preschoolers: Results from the CHILD birth cohort study. PloS one, 14(4), e0213995. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213995

35 Ra, C. K., Cho, J., Stone, M. D., De La Cerda, J., Goldenson, N. I., Moroney, E., Tung, I., Lee, S. S., & Leventhal, A. M. (2018). Association of digital media use with subsequent symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among adolescents. JAMA, 320(3), 255–263. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2018.8931

36 Vaidyanathan, S., Manohar, H., Chandrasekaran, V., & Kandasamy, P. (2021). Screen Time Exposure in Preschool Children with ADHD: A Cross-Sectional Exploratory Study from South India. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 43(2), 125–129. https://doi.org/10.1177/0253717620939782

37 COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA (2016). Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics, 138(5), e20162591. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2591

38 COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA (2016). Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 138(5), e20162592. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2592

39 Antshel, K. M., Faraone, S. V., & Gordon, M. (2014). Cognitive behavioral treatment outcomes in adolescent ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, 18(6), 483–495. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054712443155

40 Harpin, V., Mazzone, L., Raynaud, J. P., Kahle, J., & Hodgkins, P. (2016). Long-Term Outcomes of ADHD: A systematic review of self-esteem and social function. Journal of Attention Disorders, 20(4), 295–305. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054713486516

41 Zendarski, N., Haebich, K., Bhide, S. (2020). Student-teacher relationship quality in children with and without ADHD: A cross-sectional community based study. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 51, 275-284. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2019.12.006

6 Natural Remedies for ADHD, Triggers to Avoid, and More

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Overprescribed? There are other options

Production of the medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has skyrocketed in recent decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that ADHD diagnoses in children increased by about 41 percent between 2003 and 2011. It was estimated that 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 years old had been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2011. That is 6.4 million children in total.

If you’re not comfortable with treating this disorder with drugs, there are other, more natural options.

ADHD drugs can help improve symptoms by enhancing and balancing neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry signals between neurons in your brain and body. There are several different types of medications used to treat ADHD, including:

  • stimulants, such as an amphetamine or Adderall (which help you to focus and ignore distractions)
  • nonstimulants, such as atomoxetine (Strattera) or bupropion (Wellbutrin), can be used if the side effects from stimulants are too much to handle or if other medical conditions prevent use of stimulants

While these drugs can improve concentration, they can also cause some serious potential side effects. Side effects include:

  • sleep problems
  • mood swings
  • loss of appetite
  • heart problems
  • suicidal thoughts or actions

Not many studies have looked at the long-term effects of these medications. But some research has been done, and it raises red flags. An Australian study published in 2010 found no significant improvement in behavior and attention problems in children between the ages of 5 and 14 years old who took medications for their ADHD. Their self-perception and social functioning didn’t improve either.

Instead, the medicated group tended to have higher levels of diastolic blood pressure. They also had slightly lower self-esteem than the nonmedicated group and performed below age level. The authors of the study emphasized that the sample size and statistical differences were too small to draw conclusions.

Alternative treatments may help manage some symptoms associated with ADHD, including:

  • difficulty paying attention
  • organizational problems
  • forgetfulness
  • frequently interrupting

The Mayo Clinic notes that certain food colorings and preservatives may increase hyperactive behavior in some children. Avoid foods with these colorings and preservatives:

  • sodium benzoate, which is commonly found in carbonated beverages, salad dressings, and fruit juice products
  • FD&C Yellow No. 6 (sunset yellow), which can be found in breadcrumbs, cereal, candy, icing, and soft drinks
  • D&C Yellow No. 10 (quinoline yellow), which can be found in juices, sorbets, and smoked haddock
  • FD&C Yellow No. 5 (tartrazine), which can be found in foods like pickles, cereal, granola bars, and yogurt
  • FD&C Red No. 40 (allura red), which can be found in soft drinks, children’s medications, gelatin desserts, and ice cream

Diets that restrict possible allergens may help improve behavior in some children with ADHD.

It’s best to check with an allergy doctor if you suspect that your child has allergies. But you can experiment by avoiding these foods:

  • chemical additives/preservatives such as BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), which are often used to keep the oil in a product from going bad and can be found in processed food items such as potato chips, chewing gum, dry cake mixes, cereal, butter, and instant mashed potatoes
  • milk and eggs
  • chocolate
  • foods containing salicylates, including berries, chili powder, apples and cider, grapes, oranges, peaches, plums, prunes, and tomatoes (salicylates are chemicals occurring naturally in plants and are the major ingredient in many pain medications)

Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback is a type of neurotherapy that measures brain waves. A 2011 study suggested that EEG training was a promising treatment for ADHD.

A child may play a special video game during a typical session. They’ll be given a task to concentrate on, such as “keep the plane flying.” The plane will start to dive or the screen will go dark if they’re distracted. The game teaches the child new focusing techniques over time. Eventually, the child will begin to identify and correct their symptoms.

Some small studies indicate that yoga may be helpful as a complementary therapy for people with ADHD. Research published in 2013 reported significant improvements in hyperactivity, anxiety, and social problems in boys with ADHD who practiced yoga regularly in addition to taking their daily medication.

Some early studies suggest that tai chi also may help improve ADHD symptoms. Researchers found that teenagers with ADHD who practiced tai chi weren’t as anxious or hyperactive. They also daydreamed less and displayed fewer inappropriate emotions when they participated in tai chi classes twice a week for five weeks.

Spending time outside may benefit children with ADHD. There is strong evidence that spending even 20 minutes outside can benefit them by improving their concentration. Greenery and nature settings are the most beneficial.

A 2011 study, and several studies before it, supports the claim that regular exposure to outdoors and green space is a safe and natural treatment that can be used to help people with ADHD.

For children with more severe cases of ADHD, behavioral therapy can prove beneficial. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that behavioral therapy should be the first step in treating ADHD in young children.

Sometimes called behavioral modification, this approach works on resolving specific problematic behaviors and offers solutions to help prevent them. This can also involve setting up goals and rules for the child. Because behavioral therapy and medication are most effective when used together, it can be a powerful aid in helping your child.

Parental therapy can help provide parents with the tools they need to help their child with ADHD succeed. Equipping parents with techniques and strategies for how to work around behavioral problems can help both the parent and the child in the long term.

Treatment with supplements may help improve symptoms of ADHD. These supplements include:

  • zinc
  • L-carnitine
  • vitamin B-6
  • magnesium

Shop for zinc supplements.

However, results have been mixed. Herbs like ginkgo, ginseng, and passionflower may also help calm hyperactivity.

Supplementing without a doctor’s oversight can be dangerous — particularly in children. Talk to your doctor if you’re interested in trying these alternative therapies. They can order a blood test to measure current levels of a nutrient in your child before they start taking supplements.

symptoms, treatment, prevention at home

What is ADHD in children

ADHD is a nervous system disorder, a neurological-behavioral disorder that begins in childhood. Child psychiatry deals with this problem.

- This phrase is often used by both teachers and parents, it has become popular. In this regard, I would like to recall that this is a medical term. This concerns the issues of child psychiatry, puts his child psychiatrist in a neuropsychological diagnostic examination. The child is diagnosed, and only when the disorder of the nervous system is confirmed, correction begins, - tells Elena Razumovskaya .

Causes of ADHD in children

“Unfortunately, it is necessary to state the fact that over the past 10 years the number of children diagnosed with ADHD has been growing. There are complaints from parents and teachers.

1 . Problems of the perinatal period. When a mother bears a child for 9 months, certain events may occur in her life, which are definitely connected with her emotional and stressful state. For example, she is stressed because of an unplanned pregnancy, the rejection of the child by the spouse and even the rejection of the child by the mother, but for some reason she leaves the child alive and bears it to the end. When a baby (embryo) experiences such rejection, it already leads to certain emotional consequences for the child, because, starting from the third day of pregnancy, the nervous system and brain are formed in the baby.

2. Birth injuries . These causes are reflected in the child's nervous system, and then lead to ADHD.

3. Parents themselves have problems. For example, my father is addicted to drugs. Even if several years have passed after their use, this entails consequences related to the nervous system of the child. Health must be protected from a young age,” explains Elena Razumovskaya .

Symptoms of ADHD in children

This syndrome is typical between the ages of 3 and 12 years. The specialist divides them into 2 groups:

From 3 to 6 years :

“The syndrome is characterized not only by hyperactivity, but also by aggression towards the outside world. Whenever preschool children are brought to me for counseling and remedial work, I always observe an aggressive reaction in such children. As soon as you start not allowing them, prohibiting them, restricting them in any way, these children always begin to show increased aggression. At first, it may look like whims, tantrums, but sometimes it comes to physical aggressive reactions. A child with ADHD between the ages of 3 and 6 is sloppy: he throws and breaks things, toys, and various objects. He does not think about the consequences and does not think that it can harm someone or something.

ADHD is also characterized by excessive energy during play, which is sometimes destructive. For example, a child flirts and, without thinking at all, can strike another child.

This also includes excessive talkativeness, the child is restless, asks many questions. Moreover, his speech can be chaotic. In this regard, I also want to note that to this day the question of the level of development of intellectual abilities remains controversial. There are children with ADHD whose level of intellectual thinking is somewhat reduced compared to the average level. And there are children with ADHD, in whom, on the contrary, it is above average. From my own experience, I can say that it is much more difficult to work with them for the reason that they require some kind of clear argumentation. It just won't work. You will never be in authority if you do not maintain a dialogue on an equal footing with him.

Children with ADHD argue very often, they have high demands, they do not accept refusals, which also causes aggression. They are noisy, noisy, often interrupt other people and do not listen to anyone.

Such children have strong irritability, the child is not obedient, he practically does not obey any requirements of his parents, he does everything in defiance. Often such cases get into dangerous situations and get injured because of the syndrome. This is due to motor awkwardness - this is one of the most striking symptoms that we can observe on a non-verbal level. The speech of such children is often disturbed, crumpled, the child does not have time to control the meaning that he wants to convey to the interlocutor. It is usually characterized by those whose level of intellectual thinking is below average. If, on the contrary, he is above average, and the child is talented enough, then in this case his speech will also be somewhat crumpled, but for a different reason - his thought processes proceed so quickly that he cannot have time to give out that information to the end, like his thoughts jump to other topics, details, ”says the clinical psychologist.

7 to 12 years:

  • the same increased physical activity;
  • quick distractibility;
  • the child poorly organizes homework, does not complete something, makes many mistakes due to inattention, shouts out even before the teacher forms his question, often gets up from his seat in the classroom, walks around the classroom, it is difficult for him to sit longer 10 minutes;
  • are very impatient. They can't wait, they can't stand in line, they can't see the game through. Accordingly, they are characterized by irresponsibility and carelessness;
  • they have problems with communication skills, building relationships;
  • it is difficult for them to comply with any rules, including social ones.

Treatment of ADHD in children

“There are three fundamental ways to treat ADHD:

1. Pharmacological . In this case, a child psychiatrist prescribes medication that will help remove emotional instability and hyperactivity from the child. These are drugs aimed at suppressing the transmission of neural impulses so that the child is more calm;

2. Method of ontogenetic replacement. Suitable when we observe a child who has already formed habitual forms of response to situations, circumstances, specific people at the usual behavioral level. He can no longer launch some intellectual program and control its execution to the end. Accordingly, this method is aimed at returning back to the period of time when neural connections were formed and replacing the usual forms of response with more effective ones.

3. Cognitive therapy (behavioral therapy) - when we form new habits in a child.

When parents with children with ADHD contact me, I divide correctional sessions into three main blocks:

The first block is a question of national intelligence so that the child begins to comprehend the root causes of his reactions, feelings, so that he can control his actions ;

The second block - work on muscle hypertonicity, which often affects children with ADHD;

The third block is work with the replacement of any habitual forms of behavior with a new form of behavior. Depending on the age groups, the third block is built either at the intellectual level, or at the game level, ”the specialist states.


The specialist recommends contacting a child neuropsychologist. He has the specific knowledge to conduct a full examination of children. A neuropsychologist diagnoses the presence of a focus in the brain, which is responsible for impaired transmission of neural impulses between brain neurons. It is this hearth that results in behavioral problems.

Folk remedies

The psychologist notes that folk remedies are powerless before a mental disorder. They can only help children with hyperactivity. Parents of a child with ADHD need to turn only to neuropsychological or cognitive methods of correction.

Prevention of ADHD in children

“There can be no prevention of ADHD, because such a syndrome cannot be predicted. It can be caused by an infection during pregnancy, and intoxication, and the use of drugs by a parent a long time ago. Therefore, in this case, prevention is less stress during pregnancy, a healthy father and mother, health, by the way, you need to think about already from adolescence.

Methods of prevention that can be used in terms of increasing executive function and control in a child with ADHD is the parenting system. For example, the introduction of family rules that will help control yourself and your actions in the future.

I would like to note that ADHD is a syndrome that will accompany you throughout your life. But if we're talking in terms of hyperactivity, it tends to decrease closer to adolescence. If we are talking about attention deficit, it has no dynamics of decline. In some cases, it can even after adolescence, in adults it can even progress, ”says a child neuropsychologist.

Popular questions and answers

Answers Elena Razumovskaya, clinical and legal psychologist, child neuropsychologist, forensic psychologist-expert, psychotherapist with almost 30 years of experience .

Why is sport useful for ADHD?

For ADHD, some sports are recommended so that the child can direct his energy in a positive and positive direction. Sport in itself, in addition to any muscle loads, physical development, also forms the norms of a disciplinary nature. And in this case, if the coach or the head of the section is a competent teacher, then he can discipline the child, and when a habit is already formed, the child begins to control his emotions himself. Minimally traumatic sports are acceptable for children with ADHD. That is, if there is a possibility that a child may get injured during training, then in a child with ADHD this probability increases significantly. All because it is very difficult for them to control themselves. The coach has a lot of wards, and he simply may not have time to keep track of everyone. Therefore, when choosing a sport for a child with ADHD, it is necessary to choose a safe sport so that there are fewer injuries. For example, football. Hockey is already traumatic - he can hit other guys with a stick. When it comes to sparring sports, I recommend wrestling. According to its technique, it suggests a more gentle regime. Swimming is great for kids with ADHD. It strengthens the entire immune system. In the pool, he spends a lot of energy, gets tired, after - the muscles relax. It also stabilizes thought processes - thoughts will no longer run so chaotically.

Is it necessary to see a psychologist for ADHD?

I recommend contacting a child neuropsychologist, because he has specific knowledge that allows you to conduct a full examination of children. Also, the specialist will conduct an examination of several areas at the same time in the format of various mental processes, unlike just a psychologist. For example, a child psychologist-diagnostician can conduct a survey of the level of development of attention, perception, memory, thinking, depending on the age of the child's personality characteristics. If we are talking about child neuropsychology, this is not just a statement of the level of development of mental processes, but rather a statement of predisposition or the presence of any pathological foci and deviations in neurological terms at the behavioral level. A neuropsychologist diagnoses the presence of a focus in the brain, which is responsible for impaired transmission of neural impulses between brain neurons. It is this hearth that results in behavioral problems. In this case, the psychologist will not be competent enough.

What are the myths about ADHD?

The first myth is that ADHD disrupts perception. Perception in children with ADHD, heightened. They just have a problem that they perceive everything. And just the “jumping” of thoughts depends on what they perceive. It can be visual images - pictures, people, situations. Similarly, on the audio channel: the child will hear sounds, no matter what: a voice outside the window, noise from a neighboring apartment. And he will react to all this very quickly and, of course, with curiosity. The myth that perception is impaired is not entirely true. Perception has a characteristic feature of non-retention, that is, depending on what enters the sensory channel, the child reacts very quickly. Therefore, perception is characterized by a certain instability. If, for example, an elementary school child is sitting in a lesson, he cannot perceive the teaching material from the point of view of his impatience. It is difficult for him to sit for a long time in one place and perceive the same information. His perception is fluent, reactive, so in this case, any distractions will be reflected in the perception. But perception as a mental process is preserved. Unstable, but safe.

The second myth is that children with ADHD have comprehension deficits . During a neuropsychological examination of a child with ADHD, it is necessary to carry out the level of development of intellectual abilities, the level of development of thinking. Thinking can also be of different types - older children have an abstract, logical, there is analytics, there is logic. Therefore, thinking in itself as IQ only speaks about the level of thought processes. But depending on what kind of thinking prevails, these are already individual characteristics. For example, we have children who have creative thinking, they have a richer imagination. If we consider a technical orientation, then it manifests itself in a child of any age in the form of some inclinations, interests. Therefore, in this case, if we are talking about a violation of understanding, as a myth of ADHD, first of all we need to talk about how developed the intellect is. Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder understand everything perfectly. The question is, they can't do it. For example, when a parent or teacher gives some task, it is difficult for children to concentrate. And when parents make a request that the child does not understand them, I always try to convince the parents by conducting a preliminary examination and understanding at what level of development the intellectual development of thinking is at, that the child understands them, it is simply difficult for him to complete such a task due to certain specific neural connections that are characteristic of ADHD children.

The third myth is that children with ADHD are not sick, but spoiled. ADHD is a mental disorder and children with ADHD are seen by a child psychiatrist, including taking pharmacological treatment. There is an emotional overload here.

The fourth myth is that you need a belt to soothe your baby. Physical violence will not solve this problem. As mentioned earlier, children with ADHD are very aggressive, and they perceive all options for pressure and restrictions very sharply, they will respond to any pressure with resistance.

The fifth myth is that such children have no place in a normal school . Here you need to answer in terms of statistics. If a child with ADHD in a class is alone among 15 people, then the teacher must cope with him. But if there are more than a third of such children, the teacher may simply not be able to cope, because there will be fights, quarrels, everyone will try to draw attention to themselves. Such children, having the level of intelligence at the level of the average statistical norm according to age criteria, have every right to be engaged on an equal footing with children like him. If you place children with ADHD in a separate class, there should be no more than five.

The sixth myth is that children watch TV, use gadgets and therefore become aggressive. In fact, neither television nor computer games cause ADHD, but it must be clarified that if a child has ADHD, the load from computer games, TV should be reduced. Because when a child perceives something bright and eventful from the screen, he will react very brightly and violently, up to aggression.

The seventh myth is that children with ADHD have a low intellectual level of development . This myth concerns educators. Almost all educators consider children with ADHD to be children with a low intellectual level of development. This is absolutely not true. Before drawing such conclusions, it is necessary to conduct a neuropsychological examination, its results will already tell about the level of intelligence development.

How to treat ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Read the first part of the article (on diagnosing ADHD) here.

Passionate controversy accompanies the use of drugs. In the United States, stimulants are used to treat the symptoms of ADHD, the most common of which is Ritalin (methylphenidad). Their use is sharply criticized by some experts, the public, the World Health Organization expresses concern about them, but a number of medical agencies insist on the effectiveness and safety of stimulants.

Studies confirming the efficacy of stimulants and counter-work demonstrating ineffectiveness, harmful side effects, and the risk of cocaine addiction in adolescence in children who have taken stimulants for a long time could be the subject of a separate article.

Both in the West and in Russia, antipsychotic drugs (Sonapax, Neuleptil, Rispolept, Abilify, Seroquel) are widely used to reduce hyperactivity and excitability of a child. Meanwhile, studies show that these drugs reduce the volume of brain tissue, not to mention such side effects as weight gain, increased blood cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure, the development of diabetes, tremors, up to tardive dyskinesia.

In the UK, the right to prescribe antipsychotics is given not only to narrow specialists, but also to pediatricians. In 2011, the British found that over the past 10 years the number of children taking these drugs has doubled, and among them there are many who are barely 5 years old.

This made a strong impression on the government, which decided to allocate 32 million pounds to expand mental health services for children and adolescents.

As mentioned in the first part of the article, it is very important to conduct a medical examination of a child with ADHD. In some cases, by taking control of physical problems, it is possible to reduce the symptoms of hyperactivity and impaired attention. For example, this happens when the normal blood supply to the brain is restored after the correction of birth injuries of the cervical spine.

In Russia, to improve brain metabolism and increase cortical tone, children with ADHD are often prescribed nootropic drugs (piracetam, encephabol, akatinol memantine, glycine, phenibut). We often hear from doctors that they observe a positive effect of drugs in their practice, but their effectiveness has not been clinically proven.

The image of a child with an unnamed diagnosis of ADHD - inattentive in class, poorly in time, unorganized in everyday life - is often used to advertise multivitamins. I drank the Alphabet and immediately mastered the alphabet and other academic knowledge and skills. In fact, it is unlikely that multivitamins will produce just such an effect. This does not exclude the possibility that a number of specific nutrients may have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms.

There are studies (like this one) that show a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in the body of children and adolescents with ADHD, as well as a positive effect of taking them (like this). The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil, which is beneficial in many ways and has no harmful side effects, except for individual intolerance.

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In this French study, 40 children with symptoms of ADHD were given vitamin B6 (0.6 mg per 1 kg of body weight) and magnesium (6 mg per 1 kg of body weight) daily for 8 weeks. The study participants significantly decreased hyperactivity and aggressiveness, and improved attention. Children in the control group who took placebo showed no such changes. A few weeks after the end of the course, the symptoms of ADHD in children from the experimental group resumed, which also indicates that the improvements were provided precisely by the intake of B6 and magnesium.

For a child and adolescent with ADHD, dietary patterns are important. Some parents are very happy with the effects of a gluten-free/casein-free diet (eliminating the protein gluten found in wheat, rye and a number of other grains, and casein found in milk), which is often recommended for children with autism who share some of the common symptoms of ADHD. (Mercy published a detailed article on the gluten-free diet). Others praise the sugar-free diet (excluding polysaccharides, that is, sucrose and starches), which is also called the specific carbohydrate diet or paleo diet in Russian-language sources, and SCD, GAPS, Paleo Diet in English-language sources.

A recent meta-analysis by Danish scientists suggests that the best results in ADHD were achieved by elimination diets that eliminated certain foods that provoke hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. By the way, the same study also revealed the usefulness of fish oil for children with ADHD.

Experts advise parents to identify foods to which a child may have an individual intolerance. To do this, you need to rotate products, alternately removing them from the diet for a week or two, observing the severity of ADHD symptoms and evaluating the result.

Dr. Richard Sogn, a child psychiatrist and one of America's leading experts on ADHD, believes that anything that is good for the brain is good for children with ADHD. First of all, their diet should be rich in protein in the form of meat, eggs, nuts, cheese, legumes. He advises to give these products to the child for breakfast, and also as a snack between lessons.

Carbohydrates are necessary, but in the form of vegetables and fruits, but sugar, sweets, flour products, rice and potatoes should be eliminated or severely limited. It is important to include fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts, Brazil nuts, olive oil, and canola oil in your diet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding foods with preservatives and artificial food coloring in children with ADHD, and some experts believe that all food additives should be avoided.

The most important method of treating ADHD are behavioral therapies: for children, this is primarily Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), for adolescents and young people - cognitive behavioral therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Applied Behavior Analysis is considered the gold standard in behavioral intervention for autistic children in the US and UK, but is also being applied to children with ADHD.

In Russia, this method appeared not so long ago and mainly through the efforts of parents-activists with the continuing resistance of domestic defectology and correctional pedagogy, who declared this therapy to be training. Such an opinion can only be formed with a very superficial acquaintance with this technique. In fact, it is based on a careful analysis of the child's behavior, allowing to identify his strengths and weaknesses and create a carefully structured behavior modification program based on the encouragement of the desired behavior of the child.

Unfortunately, outside the capital it is almost impossible to find a competent behavioral analyst and therapist, but many parents complete distance courses, participate in conferences, seminars and webinars in order to learn the basics of therapy and help their child on their own. (You can learn more about this in the group "Autism Problem Center").

There are also home behavioral strategies that experts recommend parents use :

  • Daily routine is very important for a child with ADHD. Make it up and make sure your child follows it.
  • Organize the space so that all the items your child needs (clothing, toys, school supplies) have a well-defined place. This will allow the child to lose them less often.
  • Avoid distractions, especially when your child is doing homework. Be sure to turn off the radio and TV during this time.
  • Give the child a choice, but reduce the number of choices to make it easier. Offer a choice of two options for clothing, food, toys, so as not to create sensory and emotional overload.
  • When you remind your child of the need to fulfill a particular duty, try to keep all explanations and instructions short and clear. If possible, avoid both persuasion and the threat of punishment.
  • Use visual aids to mark goals and your child's progress toward achieving them. Look for a form of reward for his efforts. Be sure to make sure that the tasks are realistic, do not exceed the child's capabilities.
  • Help your child find an area where he can apply his abilities and experience a sense of success. This will raise his self-esteem and will contribute to the development of social skills.
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