Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is enormously over-diagnosed in children today; even so, it is a very real, debilitating yet completely treatable disorder. In a society where the focus is fixated on convenience, speed, fast gratification and instant “fixes”, pharmaceutical intervention is hailed as the fastest and easiest means to treat the problem. Does Ritalin work? Yes. However, there are a multitude of side effects from taking this medication – such as changes in the patient’s personality, sleeping patterns and appetite. There are, however, many other alternatives.

Eating Clean

Although it sounds pretty obvious, eating clean is so important and effective, drastically reducing the symptoms of ADHD. In a recent study where children aged 4-8 years were placed on a five week wholefood diet (cutting out preservatives, sweeteners and colourants) ADHD symptoms were reduced by up to 78%! As soon as foods such as wheat and sugar were reintroduced into the diet, ADHD symptoms were once again triggered.

The Great Outdoors

Outdoor activities in “green” environments such as parks, farms, even one’s backyard, have been reported to reducing ADHD symptoms (according to a 2008 study in the Journal of attention disorders). In children who had received a diagnosis of ADHD, exercise improved school performance.

Natural remedies

Natural supplementation is another popular choice that has had a lot of positive feedback. Three supplements combined have been said to be quite effective: krill oil (1000 mg), acetyl l carnitine and S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe). Of course the bonus is that there are no adverse side-effects – but instead – healthy “side-effects” (Your doctor should always be consulted before introducing supplementation as some of these “natural” remedies are very powerful and can interact with other medications. You should never ever cease taking your medication without consulting your doctor first).
Amongst other natural remedies is Magnesium Sulphate bath salts. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory, and this mineral is required for the production of Serotonin (notoriously called the “happy hormone”) and is also needed for the absorption of Omega’s and Calcium. Sulphate is what our bodies use to break down artificial additives and toxins that are consumed from the foods we eat – sometimes foods we aren’t even aware are riddled with additives! Increasing our Sulphate levels triggers a detox and rids the body of artificial additives, reduces the toxic build up and as such may reduce hyperactivity, migraines, stress and insomnia.

Play Attention

The last and probably exciting and an effective intervention in treating ADHD is a therapeutic programme called “Play Attention®”. Inspired by NASA technology, Play Attention® was developed in the States by a school teacher. This programme uses powerful advancements of neurofeedback technology that allows one to control the computer game by mind alone! This novel and extremely popular programme is still quite new to South Africa, but it has been around since 1994. So, how does it work? When one is actively engaged in a task (i.e. paying attention) brain signals are emitted. The BodyWave armband used is a device that measures brain waves through the skin. This signal is then transmitted wirelessly back to the computer allowing one to play games using mind alone! attention is therefore transferred into a concrete and controllable notion.
How many times have you said to your child “Listen to me! Why aren’t you paying attention!?” to which your child is baffled because in his mind, he was paying attention. However, if asked what you just told him to do – he will not know…and furthermore, he will not know WHY he does not know! A lot of the time, these children can be labelled as “naughty”. By having the notion of “attention” transferred into something concrete, that child can learn WHEN he is paying attention, HOW to pay attention, as well as WHAT behaviours are impacting his ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
Unlike the pharmaceutical route which is admittedly quite effective in a short space of time, the alternative remedies to ADHD do require time, commitment and patience. Play Attention® has shown significant results in students who have completed the required 40 hours. Just like learning to play a musical instrument, acquiring the skill of being able to block out all other external interference and focus on a single task takes time.
PsychMatters Centre is fortunate enough to offer the Play Attention® programme. Sessions are half an hour and a minimum of two sessions are recommended weekly. Thus the entire programme can take anything from six months to a year to complete.

In conclusion

If ADHD is not treated early on, it can lead to setbacks in school which in all likelihood are impossible to make up as time progresses. Early diagnosis and treatment is key. Acquiring the skill of focusing and concentrating will not only improve your child’s school performance – but all areas of life (on the sports field, at home and in social situations – to name a few). And once you learn this skill – you can never ‘forget’ it – much like learning to ride a bike. It’s probably the greatest gift you can give your child.

For more information, or to book your FREE Play Attention demo session, please contact PsychMatters on 011-4503576 or

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