Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders in children and adolescents. In recent studies, The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that as many as 3.8 million schoolchildren in the United States are diagnosed with ADHD. At least one child in every classroo is diagnosed with the disorder, and there are many more who show symptoms but aren't receiving treatment.
Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine have different approached to diagnosing and treating ADHD. In the West, ADHD sufferers are usually prescribed anti-depressants and/or stimulants, such as, Ritalin, Concerta, Clonidine, or Adderal. However, while prescription drugs may temporarily alleviate symptoms, they don't treat the core problems. In addition, parents are often concerned about the effectiveness of prescription medication as well as the possible side effects.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ADHD is attributed to an imbalance between Yin and Yang, the negative and positive phases in the body's flow of qi (vital energy). TCM is a system composed of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Tui-Na (massage), and nutritional therapy. It's founded on the belief that good health is a function of inner harmony.
Treatment focuses on correcting the imbalance by applying the Yin and Yang theory. For example, a child with a Yang (active) nature would receive treatment for the hyperactive, impulsive type of ADHD as opposed to a child with a Yin (passive) nature who would be treated for inattentiveness. Once a pattern is diagnosed, acupuncture, Tui-Na massage and in some cases herbs, are used to restore balance and a sense of relaxation and wellbeing in the patient.
For children and infants, a non-needling modality called "Shoni-Shin" is most recommended before introducing needles. It consists of using small tools in a gentle stroking, rubbing or tapping manner to stimulate the child's qi.
Over the years, large strides have been made to treat ADHD with a combination of TCM and lifestyle changes. In cases of mild ADHD, TCM can be used as a sole form of treatment, eliminating the need for prescription drugs. For more severe cases, TCM is often used in conjunction with western medicine to help lower the dosage of medication needed and/or to reduce the side effects of prescription drugs.
Nevertheless, in order to achieve faster results in the treatment of mild or severe ADHD, lifestyle changes are strongly recommended. Studies have shown that, in addition to a well-balanced diet, ADHD children can benefit from a reduction in sugar, food colorings, junk food and dairy. It's also important to reduce excess stimuli, such as watching television and playing video games. Instead, physical exercise is encouraged as a valuable outlet to release excess energy and to stimulate the body-mind connection. Martial arts, gymnastics and swimming are some activities that can help develop focus, concentration and balance. Strengthening the immune system, and regulating sleep, can also give the child a feeling of overall wellbeing.
It's important to keep in mind that children can easily become frustrated and discouraged. Simplifying playtime by limiting the number of toys and providing instructions that are easy to understand can help children avoid feeling overwhelmed. To encourage better communication, parents can encourage the use of toys that aid with expression. Action figures, paint, clay and markers can all be used to stimulate both the verbal and nonverbal communication, and thus unblock children's creative energies. feeling of overall wellbeing.
Sharing in their child's lifestyle changes benefits parents as well. They, too, should try to live balanced lives. Diet, physical exercise, yoga, meditation, or just some alone time, can all help parents restore balance and energy in their lives while reflecting positively on their children.
Montserrat Markou, MS, L.Ac., LMT is New York State and Board Certified Acupuncturist and Massage Therapist.
Preceding to her work as an Acupuncturist and Massage Therapist, Montserrat had 15 years of experience working abroad at a private language school (500+ students) where she was an important liaison between the school, the children and the parents. During this time she also organized an after school activity teaching English as a foreign language to children ages 5 to 13. Her teaching modalities included role playing, expression and concentration techniques. One of the main priorities of her practice is to help children lead a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. She is member of the Holistic Pediatric Association.
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