12 Ways to Reduce Attention Deficit Problems
- Limit television, video games, cell phone use and media and instead increase reading time, which helps lower the threshold for both children and adults that need high, constant levels of stimulation to stay engaged.
- Change your environment to be more varied and unpredictable to increase your levels of engagement and stimulation. Some people just have a high threshold for stimulation and need a more exciting environment to stay engaged. This has worked for people with attention deficit issues. By changing their work environments, behaviors like impatience and impulsivity can become assets instead of liabilities.
- If you live with other family members, especially if you are in a household with young children, increase the amount of time you spend with them.
- Green or Outside time – Time in nature increases focus and improves impulse control. Even facing a desk towards a window, increasing the amount of recess time, or walking to school can make a difference. This treatment is also FREE, as opposed to other treatments available for Attention Deficit.
- Healthy eating (especially limiting pesticide consumption, preservatives, additives, and food coloring) –as noted above, high pesticide content has been linked to ADD, so limiting pesticide exposure by eating organic produce is recommended when possible. Eliminating the excitatory compounds in processed foods generally improves behavior and attention in both children and adults.
- Assessing and addressing nutritional deficits –In some cases, iron deficiencies can create Attention Deficit symptoms and are easily eliminated through iron supplementation. Omega-3 supplementation has also been linked with improvement in behavior, reading and spelling. It is worth ruling out iron and Omega-3 deficits with a doctor before moving forward with other treatments, especially in children.
- 30 minutes daily exercise (especially outdoors)
- Getting enough sleep – this is crucial for optimal brain functioning and professionals often find that children with ADD and ADHD diagnoses are severely lacking in daily sleep needs. Early bedtime, strong bedtime rituals and behavioral modification directed at getting a good night’s sleep are all recommended interventions.
- Meditation – the benefits of meditation for calming the brain and helping focus are well proven, although some children and parents give up on meditation because of the challenges with sitting still. Walking meditation and mindfulness exercises that children can do while moving are equally as beneficial to the brain of a person with Attention Deficit as sitting meditation exercises.
- Neurofeedback – an individual sits in front of a screen displaying images that respond to the child’s brain activity. When the child has the right kind of brain activity, the images are rewarding or positive, encouraging more “positive” behavior over time.
- Counseling – family therapy to help prevent negative labeling by family members, to build self-esteem and to help focus on strengths is particularly helpful. Counseling can also assist with educating immediate family members about Attention Deficit so they are able to educate friends, extended family, neighbors, teachers and coaches in a way that supports the success of the child or adult struggling with Attention Deficit.
- Medication (only if desired or as last resort). NOTE: It is important to note that Americans are currently consuming 90% of stimulant drugs worldwide, and much of this is a direct result of the billions of dollars spent by pharmaceutical companies on marketing. Stimulants are both addictive, overprescribed and harmful to the developing brains of children. That being said, for some with clinical ADD/ADHD, medications may be warranted and have proven to have positive outcomes. Given the many nonmedical approaches there are to treating the spectrum of Attention Deficit issues, it is prudent to try these behavioral approaches first, before spending money on a stimulant drug.
Specific recommendations for children with Attention Deficit:
- Early Intervention – One of the most crucial components of treating Attention Deficit is catching it early, before the child becomes so behind in reading and other academics that they cannot catch up to their peers. This can be challenging since, as noted above, it is normal for 3-4 year olds to be inattentive and impulsive. Attention Deficit is often accompanied by learning challenges, including dyslexia and other reading difficulties and research shows that there is nearly a 90 percent chance that a poor reader in first grade will remain a poor reader. This research underscores the importance of early identification of ADD and ADHD.
- TEAMS – Psychologist Jeffrey Halperin’s non-pharmaceutical early intervention approach to treating ADHD. Parents and kids play a variety of nursery games focused on increasing self control, working memory and motor control (otherwise referred to as executive functions) for at least 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
- Supportive School Environment – An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or a 504 Plan are both ways of assessing what modifications will help a child with Attention Deficit in public school. Small modifications in the classroom can make a big difference, including having a smaller classroom, with less stimulation and a strong routine, or having an individual desk versus one in a group. 1:1 help and targeted tutoring are other modifications that can make the school environment more supportive. The IEP and 504 Plan assessments also aim assess whether there is a learning disability that may be adding additional academic challenges. For some children, private schools designed specifically to teach to students with clinical diagnoses of ADD and ADHD. This option is of course limited to whether these schools exist within one’s community and whether the parents can afford this option.
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