ADHD Kids Helped by Relaxation Techniques

Posted February 13, 2009 by

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A recent exploratory study conducted at a private school reported in Current Issues in Education stated that the use of meditation can be beneficial to 11 to 14 year old students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. According to the researchers, “the technique has potential to improve attention, behavior regulation, and executive function by naturally reducing stress and anxiety and improving brain functioning.”


It is encouraging to see the growing interest in and availability of funding for research dedicated to the investigation of non-medication interventions for ADHD.  Actually, relaxation training has been known for some time to provide benefits, and I have been using this technique along with others since the ’80s to help kids with ADHD.  When combined with parent training, behavior modification and several other evidence-based techniques, I have found that children with mild to moderate symptoms can achieve significant improvement at home and at school without medication.

Published professional guidelines recommend that children with mild to moderate symptoms receive behavioral interventions, ie, some kind of behavioral help, training or modification, prior to moving on to medication.  In the MTA study conducted by the NIMH, 30% of the children in the behavioral-only group normalized after 14 months, which means they were able to function on a normal level without medication. After 3 years, all of the children in the behavioral-only group demonstrated the same improvement in symptoms as those receiving medication and those receiving a combination of medication and behavioral intervention.

Unfortunately, even with this information, the rate of inclusion of behavioral intervention has been limited due to financial and time constraints.  After years of working with kids with ADD and ADHD, I developed The Total Focus Program to help parents and families learn how to manage the behaviors that come along with the disorder. It can be used with or without medication as part of a total treatment program. Whether you try Total Focus or another program, I encourage you to seek out some kind of behavioral training program for your child with ADHD.

About

Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program. Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website, 4parenting.com which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

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  1. London Spa Report

    A good article for a diificult to identify solution. I say to adults that taking some time for yourself is one of the most important ways to relax, I wonder if this can be applied to children also? I know they are young and full of energy but giving them some time away from distractions may help them to learn how to relax.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Report

    I’ve had my daughter doing yoga and deep breathing since she was two. I gave her very strict discipline starting at 24 months and it helped although is did not take away her disorder, which is SPD. It DID make her feel like someone was in control and taking care of her, thus alleviating some of the anxiety. We have just started traditional OT and an alternative therapy. Here are some websites that have helped us:
    http://brainbalancecenters.com – they work with ADHD kids and others
    http://www.AITinstitute.org – work with auditory issues
    http://www.ictsonline.com – traditional occupational therapy info
    http://www.sensoryplanet.com – sensory integration disorder support

    Reply
  3. SecondWivesClub.com Report

    I have two boys with ADHD & Aspergers. I have started to homeschool the youngest who is 13. We have started using the Wii Fit for Yoga and Meditation after my mother read an article about how it was beneficial for kids like mine. There is a fun game called “Lotus Focus”. You sit still on the balance board with legs folded in a lotus position, and watch an onscreen candle in the darkness. Various things try to distract your attention, like moths fluttering about and people creaking about in the night. The longer you can stay still, the better your score. My son doesn’t realize he is meditating. He’s calmer after we’ve used the Wii before we do our day’s lessons.

    Reply
  4. journeymom Report

    I have hated and despised the idea of letting big Pharma use my kid as a guinea pig. They are messing with things they dont know enough about yet, if you think thats ok, well good luck. But I “just say no. ” I beleive Pills will never solve your problems. Blind and deaf, wheelchairbound and many others have learned to overcome there handicap and there was no pills involved. Hes 18 next month, its been one heck of a long road and an uphill battle all the way. Hes really turning into a man now and I hope with all my heart I did the right thing. Good luck !!!!!

    Reply
  5. Jackleen Report

    Dear jmcgrath from Februaru 17th-
    I could have written the exact same thing you did!!
    Tell me… what have you been able to do to help your child given the circumstances of the other parent not complying? This is a tragic situation that I am in as well. And my daughter is the victim here.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

    Reply
  6. dlmiller1054 Report

    I think this article could be very useful. What type of parent training do you recommend? It seems that any type of relaxing or techniques to slow activity could be helpful. Am I on the right track? I am also interested in knowing if physical exercise is helpful? I think we can relax better after exercising. I would also be interested in what role diet plays?

    Reply
  7. maj.mom Report

    I think this article is great! My question is in regards to what type of parent training you are referring to? I am willing to try anything as I have a 15 yr. old son who has been diagnosed with a mood disorder and possibly ADHD,in any case HE has been to doctors psychologists, psychiatrists, anger management, social skills training etc. etc. since he was 7. Things are getting progressively worse (but he could TEACH all the skills he has learned)Obviously I am totally ineffective as his parent, so I am interested in what kind of parent training as I have also taken parenting class after parenting class.

    Reply
  8. Dr. Robert Myers Report

    WWE: The purpose of the blog post was to note that relaxation techniques in general are helpful for kids of all ages (that includes those over 21) with or without ADHD. I included the article because of the sound research design rather than the specific technique used. I do not use TM or recommend it. Deep breathing, progressive relaxation especially when one or both are combined with positive visual imagery are what I have found to be effective for ADHD as well as anxiety, OCD and other psychological and medical disorders. Thanks for your comment.

    Reply
  9. WWE Report

    As one who spent nearly 15 years with the Transcendental Meditation organization, I would be very suspicious of their claims. Few if any are replicable, but are hastily put into the popular press and their marketing materials.

    In addition, I would seek many of the alternatives to the “TM” organization, not only for the expense, but because their technique involves the repetition of “mantras” which are the names of Hindu gods (Shiva.) The organization says that these are “meaningless sounds” or that using names of gods is acceptable because “no faith is needed.” I found it repugnant to have my child chanting these names. This is well documented.

    I would be very careful in what programs you submit your vulnerable child into.

    Thank you

    Reply
  10. jmcgrath1 Report

    Relaxation, structure, routines, consistency, a healthy diet & mulivitamins…..in my view they all help. I noticed some talk on one of these blogs about 50/50 split time with one parent supporting the TT program and the other not. It was noted that you can only control what happens at your house. Unfortunately, if you have a family court system that will not impose on or enforce the 50/50, and the child says they will just go to mom’s (or dad’s)if they can’t get what they want at your house and they can at the other parents, anytime, it creates a huge challenge. I find the “you can only control what happens at your house”, and the unwillingness to provide consistency on the part of one parent or the other, a real problem. Our children deserve better from those appointed to make legal decisions and I think the psychological profession needs to fight harder in supporting the fact that kids will do better if they have a CONSISTENT environment. Yes, adapting to school, social situations, etc, is an important skill to develop, but can you imagine what goes through a kids mind when he sees completely contradictory rules and expectations from one house to the next, and also realizes that he or she has the power to demand one parent cave under or he or she will refuse to spend their time with the other parent? I see big contradictions in recommendations, and I think it is a cop out in terms of doing what is truly best for the kids. What needs to happen is the psychologists, the Medical doctors, and the family court system need to get on the same page. Failure to do so is damaging thousands of children. Medication is prescribed so recklessly these days, we ought to be outraged, and not stand for it. If everybody took the ADHD test, 50% of the population would be diagnosed with ADHD! There needs to be a groundswell of protest and a magnitude of change that is hard to measure. I would venture to guess that 1-2 out of 10 kids with an ADHD diagnosis, actually have it to the degree where they might need medication in combination with behavioral therapy to turn the corner. Another 3-4 likely have a mild to moderate issue with ADHD type issues and effective parenting and behavior modification will work for them, and another 1-2 of these kids are suffering from the effects of a divorce/custody situation that is the primary issue. In this case, one of the parents is ineffective and irresponsible, and likely has a significant personality issue that is causing most of the problems. The failure of the court/legal system to hold these parents accountable, and require behavior modification/therapy for the parent, is very sad. It only serves those who earn a living in the family law arena. I think this is one of the most dysfunctional aspects of our society. In any case, those who are not informed, mentally healthy, and/or motivated to do what is in the best interests of the children, seem to me to be in control of the system that is failing kids everyday.

    Reply
  11. MH Report

    Have these techniques only been tried on samples of adolescents? I have been taking medication for ADHD since I was ten years old and recently after ten years on the medication have stopped, I am finding it hard to concentrate and to control my activities. Would meditation or a program like this be of help at all?

    Reply
  12. Colleen Report

    Dr. Bob: Thanks so much for spreading the word about this. We’ve been using meditation with our 12 year old son with ADD for about a year now and have found that it really helps him calm down and focus.

    Reply

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