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A Natural Approach to ADHD

By Jennifer Cerbasi
February 1, 2012

There has been an alarming trend to immediately medicate children upon diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Parents, educators, and physicians see children with the hyperactivity associated with ADHD and think they can help the child "settle down" by adding a daily dose of medication.


Though medication works for some children, there are many natural options for children with ADHD. Families and doctors are finally starting to take notice and think outside the box when finding ways to support children with this disability. Parents may look to an elimination diet- eliminating foods or ingredients suspected of causing or increasing behaviors associated with ADHD- or a supplementation diet- adding vitamins and minerals to a child's diet to support positive behavioral growth.


Elimination diets may reduce or remove dyes, sugars, or additives from the child's diets. These have all been suspected to increase hyperactivity in many children. Sugar seems like an obvious choice to eliminate but you'd be surprised at how much sugar is in some of the "healthy" foods you purchase. It's important to read labels carefully and to avoid high doses of sugary foods, especially at breakfast- before school- or at dinner- before bed.


Some studies and anecdotal reports from parents and educators cite that supplements such as zinc and fish oil have shown promise in reducing behaviors associated with ADHD. It is important to discuss these options with your child's physician before introducing them.


As with any disability, there are a number of behavioral strategies and supports to consider as part of the overall treatment plan. Allowing the child to take a gross motor break during work, giving a child a fidget toy to occupy his busy hands, and using positive reinforcement for tasks completed all aide the child in remaining on task. Behavioral strategies should always be included in the plan whether your child takes medication or not.


Even today, with all the knowledge we have, it seems there is another advertisement on television each week selling a new chemical treatment for ADHD. There are always images of smiling children, happily sitting in class and diligently completing their assignments. These ads don't show the awful side effects some children encounter or the constant adjustments in doses sometimes needed to find the right balance. Seeking natural or alternative therapies for children with ADHD seems like a safe bet in a world where we encounter so many chemicals each day.  It is important to talk to your doctor, take the time to research your options, and do what feels right for your child.

Jennifer Cerbasi works as a special education teacher at a public school in New Jersey. As owner of The Learning Link, LLC, she also works with parents in the home to support children's academic, social, emotional, and physical health through a variety of services. Jennifer utilizes her training in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis in both settings to foster children's development. Jennifer writes articles about current topics in education for the Fox News website. For more information, go to