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Unproven Treatments

You have been introduced to the treatment approaches that have been proven most effective for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Yet you are likely to read or hear about “alternative” types of treatment that proponents claim can diminish or eliminate ADHD symptoms or the conditions that may accompany them.

These approaches may seem particularly attractive to parents or children who have not experienced sufficient improvement in spite of standard treatments, who are uncomfortable with the idea of daily medication use, or who feel overwhelmed by the effects of ADHD on their daily lives.

Some of them have the additional attraction of being proposed as “cures” or “natural treatments.” The theories on which they are based may make a great deal of intuitive sense as well—for example, when they target a child’s diet to treat hyperactivity or his hearing to help attention.

However, none of the alternative approaches discussed here have been shown to reliably produce positive and sustained effects for most children with ADHD. Some have actually been proven ineffective.

Others may or may not eventually be demonstrated to have a positive effect, but have not yet been studied sufficiently for their use to be recommended at this time.

Because the claims for ADHD treatments are so vast and so varied, it is important to subject any report of a new or unconventional treatment approach to the same scrutiny and consideration you would apply to any major decision affecting your family: by considering the source of the information, reasonableness of its claims, and scientific evidence that backs them up, and by discussing the treatment with experts in the field such as your child’s pediatrician or psychologist.

You can better judge the validity of claims for ADHD treatments by

  • Understanding how a proposed treatment is scientifically evaluated, and what steps must be taken to prove that a treatment is sound
  • Reviewing the evidence for and against such proposed ADHD treatments as dietary changes; visual, auditory, and sensory integration approaches; hypnotherapy; biofeedback; applied kinesiology; homeopathy; and various other methods
  • Considering the types of questions you should ask, and the steps you should take, before committing effort, time, and money to a new form of treatment, however promising it may seem
Last Updated
ADHD: A Complete and Authoritative Guide (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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