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(a) Non-medication treatments for ADHD

Education is the key!

Learn about ADHD: (get from library)

Putting on the Brakes, by Patricia Quinn, MD.  (a short read, the best explanation I’ve found for children)

The Misunderstood Child, by Larry Silver MD (longer, more detailed, for parents who really want to know!)


Additional omega three fatty acids — best in sardines, fish (not farm raised); also in walnuts, flax seeds (find in health food store, or many other places)

Good breakfasts: with proteins and fat (not just carbs and grains).  (I often recommend eggs, cheese, even pizza for breakfast. Cholesterol free, vegan options include sautéed tofu and tempeh, beans, nuts and nut butters.

Large snacks in the evening, if your child is hungry then.


Help your child get enough sleep.  Peaceful bedtimes.

If needed, try melatonin (from health food store) 1-2 hours before bed– give 4-6 mg.


Firm expectations;

Rewards (praise) for compliance

Gentle if any punishments.

Behavior Therapy:

Set goals– long-term goal, and short-term goals;

Choose rewards — praise + something else;

Keep records — daily calendar of “trials”

School plans:

Sit up by teacher;

Frequent praise for listening;

Specific goals (raise hand, hands to self…)

Daily home-school report cards.

Problem-Solving Approaches to help children with ADHD


(1) Define problem in terms of skills that need to be learned. For example, the skill of asking other children to play with you in a way that works; or the skill of knowing how much goofiness is fun, and how much is too much; or the skill of knowing when to pay attention to something an adult is asking you to do, and being able to keep that request in mind long enough to do it.

(2) Break down complex skills into simpler steps.  For example, “cleaning up room” is really picking up clothes from the floor and putting them in hamper; picking up toys and putting them in box; straightening out covers on the bed; etc.

(3) Set goals that your child can reach with moderate effort. For example, a first goal might be to play nicely for 5 minutes. Later, the time could be extended to 10 minutes. Later, shoot for 15 minutes, and so on.  A first goal might be to pick up the clothing and put it in the hamper, with help. Later, the goal could be extended to include toys. Later, clothes, toys, and blankets on the bed, etc.

(4) Praise successes, look beyond failures.  If your child fails, think about making the challenge easier to allow for success. Keep focused on the end goal (success). Track your child’s progress, using a chart. That way, both you help your child grow in self-awareness.

(5) Teach when your child is in an agreeable mood.  Be a coach, rather than a task-master. Think about discipline as teaching. Believe that your child wants to do the right thing and earn your approval. When children do the right thing and earn their parent’s approval, they feel good. You can help your child learn how to get this good, healthy feeling.

Build Listening Skills

When making a request or giving an order, make eye contact first. Get up and walk over to your child (this is very important). Get down on your child’s level. Touch your child gently. Make sure you have your child’s attention. Teach your child to repeat the request back to you, to let you know he/she has heard it.

Dad: “I want you to pick up that toy and put it away, now, please”

Kid: “You want me to pick up that toy; I’ll do it now”

Dad: “Great!”

Practice this skill many times, until it becomes automatic. Record successes in a daily calendar. Praise each success. When you can give 10 commands in a day, and each is responded to correctly, celebrate progress with a treat (special time together, small gift, special food, whatever; nothing too big). Then make task a bit harder, e.g., “Now I’ll ask you to do things, but I want you to repeat the instructions to yourself, (or whispered) not out loud.”  When that is mastered, work on commands given from further away across the room.

Build Play Skills

Coach your child in how to play with other kids. “Follow the rules of the game; do what the other kids do.”

Let child know that you’ll coach her in playing with others, by reminding her of the rules, putting her into the game for a few minutes, then taking her out and giving her feedback.

Start by putting child in game for only about 5 minutes, after giving her a reminder of how to play and get excited but not carried away. Watch to make sure your child succeeds (step in, if it looks like she is not going to succeed; success is crucial!).

After 5 minutes, pull her out and praise her success.  Coach her again, then put her back in. Define success this way: “Have a good time, be happy, but follow the rules without getting carried away.”

Record success, and share them between home and school. Doing same program at home and at school increases the effectiveness. So share notes with your child’s teacher.

Control Your Body when it’s Time to Sit Still

Lots of children with ADHD have a hard time controlling body movements, for example, during circle time.

Talk with your child ahead of time about what it means to control his or her body movements.  Give your child a “fidget” to use to discharge physical energy (for example, a soft ball to squeeze).

Practice at home: Teach your child to sit without too much moving around movement while you read a story to him or her. See how long he/she can do this, with you watching. Set a reasonable goal (start with 5 minutes) that will be achievable with moderate effort. A reasonable goal is not so easy that it is meaningless, but not so hard that it is frustrating or impossible.

Coach your child.  Observe your child meet the goal. Praise your child. Record your child’s success. When your child has a string of 10 or more successes, make the goal a bit harder. For example challenge your child to sit quietly for 7 minutes (up from 5 minutes).

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