Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a relatively common affliction that affects approximately 3 to 5% of school age children in the United States (Friel, 2007). Although the majority of research into effective interventions for this disorder are primarily focused on pharmacological therapies (Karpouzis et al., 2009), some researchers have explored the efficacy of non-pharmacological treatments, such as types of psychotherapy and alternative interventions. It has been determined that the best clinical outcomes of treatments for ADHD are interventions that take a multidisciplinary approach, combining pharmacological therapy with behavioral or psychosocial therapies (Karpouzis et al., 2009). However, it is crucial that researcher further investigate the most effective means of treating ADHD outside of medication in order to provide clinicians and parents with more intervention options. The following discussion will review current research investigating non-pharmacological interventions for ADHD, and will evaluate these investigations according to their findings and limitations.
A current area of research into effective non-pharmacological treatments for ADHD has focused on the use of meditation-based interventions. Baijal & Gupta (2008), recognized how research had determined positive effects of meditation-based training, including lasting effects in regards to changes in brain and cognitive functions. ADHD is characterized by impairment of attention and executive control processing, and meditation-based training has demonstrated neuroplasticity in attentional networks (Baijal & Gupta 2008). Functional impairment experienced by individuals with ADHD despite improvement in symptoms due to pharmacological treatments is common, and necessitates a behavioral intervention that is effective and can become part of a comprehensive approach to treatment (Baijal & Gupta 2008). The review conducted by Baijal & Gupta (2008) concluded that future research investigating interventions for ADHD should include controlled, longitudinal studies measuring the effects of meditation-based training, as much research in this area showed limitations such as small sample sizes and lack of control groups.
Black et al. (2009) explored the efficacy of meditation as an intervention for ADHD by conducting a systematic review of several electronic databases in order to assess findings in regard to the effects of meditation with youth. Results of the review indicated that meditation was found to significantly improve attentional problems with youth (Black et al., 2009). These researchers also expressed the necessity for larger-scale empirical investigations with more diverse samples in order to more accurately assess the effectiveness of meditation as an intervention (Black et al., 2009).
A promising alternative treatment for ADHD is electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback, or neurofeedback (Friel, 2007). In fact, the effectiveness of this form of treatment has been demonstrated in large-scale clinical trials to be comparable to the effects seen with stimulant medication treatment (Friel, 2007). Research has demonstrated that EEG biofeedback results in a significant improvement in cognitive functioning in 75 to 85% of patients with ADHD (Friel, 2007). Also, even better outcomes would most likely be observed through the combination of EEG biofeedback with other alternative interventions (Friel, 2007). Synergy between dietary modification and EEG biofeedback is suggested by Friel (2007), in that the removal of foods that patients are sensitive to may improve and accelerate response to the EEG biofeedback treatment (Friel, 2007). Furthermore, Friel (2007) also discusses advantages to the addition of supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and its synergistic relationship with EEG biofeedback therapy. However, EEG biofeedback therapy may have adverse effects on some ADHD patients (Friel, 2007). Some of these adverse effects include moodiness, increased irritability, and hyperactivity with the use of EEG biofeedback is combined with the use of stimulant medication (Friel, 2007). Other adverse effects reported include tiredness, transitory headaches, or dizziness following EEG biofeedback treatment (Friel, 2007). Also, EEG biofeedback may have adverse effects on patients with a history of epilepsy (Friel, 2007).
Karpouzis et al. (2009) recognized the importance of exploring alternative treatments for ADHD considering the majority of research to date has primarily been aimed at pharmacological interventions. In particular, these researchers sought to investigate a treatment in the realm of complementary and alternative medicine known as the Neuro Emotional Technique (NET). NET is a therapy that evolved out of chiropractic medicine, and it is designed to deal with biopsychosocial components of conditions, both chronic and acute (Karpouzis et al., 2009). The researchers noted that successful outcomes had been anecdotally reported concerning the use of NET for the treatment of ADHD, and therefore aimed at scientifically assessing the efficacy of the intervention.
The study consisted of a randomized clinical trial that was both double-blind and placebo controlled. This clinical trial was specifically designed to assess…
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