a photo of a pile of white pills coming out of a blue dispenserThere’s a news feature in the New York Times today (“Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions”)  that focuses on the problem of addiction to ADHD medications.  While the article deals mainly with college students and young adults who deceive mental health professionals into thinking they have ADHD so that they can receive these highly addictive drugs, this story underscores the fact that drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, and other psychostimulants, are highly addictive for ALL age levels (including young children) and should be prescribed only as a last resort after other non-drug alternatives have been tried.  The article suggests that these drugs are often given out by physicians without appropriate screening and monitoring.

The fact is that there are quite a number of non-drug alternatives out there that should be considered before going into the risky world of addictive psychostimulants.  In my book The Myth of the ADHD Child, I outlined 101 practical non-drug alternatives to ADD/ADHD.  Here are 50 of them:

  1. Provide a balanced breakfast.
  2. Consider the Feingold diet
  3. Limit television  and video games
  4. Teach self-talk skills.
  5. Find out what interests your  child.
  6. Promote a strong physical education program in your child’s school.
  7. Enroll your child in a martial arts program.
  8. Discover your child’s multiple intelligences
  9. Use background music to focus and calm.
  10. Use color to  highlight information.
  11. Teach your child to visualize.
  12. Remove allergens  from the diet.
  13. Provide opportunities for physical movement.
  14. Enhance your  child’s self-esteem.
  15. Find your child’s best times of alertness.
  16. Give  instructions in attention-grabbing ways.
  17. Provide a variety of stimulating  learning activities.
  18. Consider biofeedback training.
  19. Activate positive  career aspirations.
  20. Teach your child physical-relaxation techniques.
  21. Use  incidental learning to teach.
  22. Support full inclusion of your child in a  regular classroom.
  23. Provide positive role models.
  24. Consider alternative  schooling options.
  25. Channel creative energy into the arts.
  26. Provide hands-on  activities
  27. Spend positive times together.
  28. Provide appropriate spaces for  learning.
  29. Consider individual psychotherapy.
  30. Use touch to soothe and calm.
  31. Help your child with organizational skills.
  32. Help your child appreciate the  value of personal effort.
  33. Take care of yourself.
  34. Teach your child focusing  techniques.
  35. Provide immediate feedback.
  36. Provide your child with access to  a computer.
  37. Consider family therapy.
  38. Teach problem-solving skills.
  39. Offer your child real-life tasks to do.
  40. Use “time-out” in a positive way.
  41. Help your child develop social skills.
  42. Contract with your child.
  43. Use  effective communication skills.
  44. Give your child choices.
  45. Discover and  treat the four types of misbehavior.
  46. Establish consistent rules, routines,  and transitions.
  47. Hold family meetings.
  48. Have your child teach a younger  child.
  49. Use natural and logical consequences.
  50. Hold a positive image of your  child.

For details on using each of these strategies (plus 51 more) – see my post on 101 strategies, and get my book The Myth of the ADHD Child, Revised Edition: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion.  Most of these strategies can also be adapted for use with adolescents and adults.

This article was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.

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20 Responses
  1. Four years old is still a little young for ADHD – most young kids have a short attention spans and are ”hyperactive.” Just provide him with lots of opportunities to explore the world – give him plenty of time to play (this is especially important) – make sure he eats nutritious food – spend time with him on a regular basis – keep him away from computers, TV, and smart phones – understand what his personal strengths are and make sure he knows what they are too. Above all, don’t worry!

  2. Sameera

    Hello. Just read your article. Helped me a lot to understand adhd. My ten year old has been diagnosed with it. And I’m so worried. Don’t want to put him on medication.

  3. Hello Sameera, this may sound self-serving, but I’d recommend that you get my book The Myth of the ADHD Child: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion, and start using the strategies that are most relevant to your child’s situation. All best wishes!

  4. Sir, just seen your article while preparing notes for my students of Diploma in Education. simple en wonderful tips to treat ADHD without medication. As a teacher educator of psychology department and a counsellor, I was fascinated to know these things. Thank you so much sir

  5. Thank you for sharing your tips on how to manage a child with ADHD without the use of drugs. My son is diagnosed with mild ADHD and we were wondering if we can start with alternative treatment for him. I heard that music therapy can also help with someone with ADHD. I am willing to try anything to help my son go through this.

  6. Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that the list was helpful to you. You might want to get my latest book on ADHD, which describes 101 strategies. It’s called The Myth of the ADHD Child: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion. Here’s the link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Myth-ADHD-Child-Revised-Attention/dp/0143111507/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=myth+of+the+adhd+child&qid=1592345274&s=books&sr=1-3. Good luck with your son!

  7. Euna

    Just read your coping mechanisms I am a deeply hurt confused grandma helping to raise my son’s toddler, not yet confirmed for ADHD but have some of the symptoms ,am looking for ways to manage him I’m accused by my daughter of spoiling him and not disciplining him . I want to turn my back from all this if I don’t get skills to deal with it.please help

  8. Your grandchild is still a toddler, and many of the normal behaviors of very young children can look like the symptoms of ADHD. More than anything, your grandson needs plenty of time to play freely with blocks, action figures, small cars and trucks, and other age appropriate toys. He should be given quality outdoor time (maybe on walks or in the backyard). I’ve provided full explanations for the coping mechanisms list in my blog; they are in my book The Myth of the ADHD Child: 101 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Attention Span without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion. Get the book, try some of the strategies, and let me know what worked and what didn’t. Good luck!

  9. Thanks for this article. My 8 years son was recently diagnosed of ADHD and I don’t want to use drugs due to the addictive effects. Please how do I get the book 101 strategies… Thanks

  10. Menno

    I got diagnozed whit adhd starting to forget everything i could do back in the day like i do stuff whitout thinking about it starting to lose memory words and more my body starts to feel like it itsnt mine im 14 years old does ritalin get me my memory back for the time its active and le me get my focus back and more and if i keep using ritalin does it get less and less worse the adhd and does ritalin damage the brain and does it le me be like some one normal for the time its active pls answer it would help me out a lot

  11. Thanks for your message. First, let me say that I am not a medical doctor, and for the best answers about Ritalin you should talk with your medical doctor (MD). Ritalin (and other similar drugs like Adderall) do help many people focus better (I’m not sure how much it improves memory, but since problems with working memory often accompanies ADHD, it probably does help). Ritalin will not damage your brain, but you should work closely with your MD doctor to monitor any side effects you may experience. Your doctor can always change the dosage or switch you to another medication to help manage these side effects. I’ve been critical in the past of Ritalin because I feel people can rely on it alone without trying out some of the 50 strategies I mention in my blog post. But it has helped a lot of people, and perhaps it’s wise to give it a try and see it if helps you.

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