Taking the Adderall out of ADD
September 11, 2009
As kids return to the classroom, parents are on the lookout for anything that might impede their child’s academic success. A hyperactive preschooler, distracted kindergartner or squirmy second-grader is presumed to have an attention deficit disorder, shuffled into a psychiatrist’s office, and more often than not, handed a prescription.
But today’s health-care providers are beginning to look at root causes of attention deficit disorders and develop alternative approaches to treatment. For kids who are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, medication is no longer the only option.
On Wednesday, Sept. 16, local specialists Merrilee Buchanan, licensed clinical social worker, and Dr. E.J. Raven, chiropractor and owner of Freedom Chiropractic Family Life Center in Park City, will host a free workshop exploring natural and alternative approaches to ADD/ADHD treatment. The workshop will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the National Ability Center and is open to the public.
Buchanan is a licensed psychotherapist who lives in Park City and served as program manager at Valley Mental Health for 17 years. She says that she is not opposed to medication for attention deficit disorders, and in some cases, medication is the best option. However, "Most people don’t recognize that there are other influences and there are other options for treatment," she says.
Buchanan currently works with emotional intelligence, which involves assessing and managing emotions underlying brain functions. "Instead of labeling something as a dysfunction of the brain, we try to understand what’s going on and see if there are other options we could consider," she explains.
Buchanan also recently became certified in HeartMath, a set of tools for stress-management. At the workshop, she will introduce techniques that improve focus and coherence in the brain.
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"The root of ADD is the inability to manage attention and to focus. It disrupts learning and behavior, and it gets in the way of a lot of the things we need in life." But attention, she says, is actually a trainable thing, and HeartMath teaches techniques that help manage it. "It’s a great set of tools that anyone from age 0 to 100 can use," she says.
Buchanan says the workshop is geared toward parents with children who have been diagnosed or may be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. "I think that it’s best to teach it to parents and then have parents teach it to kids," she says.
HeartMath utilizes breathing techniques and other skills that are also useful when kids are upset, stressed or anxious. "If parents learn the skills, they’re more likely to practice with their kids," she says. "[The workshop] is really for anyone who wants to know how we can address these kind of issues."
Raven will draw on his background working with kids with all types of mental and physical disorders to discuss a more holistic approach to ADD and ADHD.
"There are much less invasive and less aggressive options that are skipped over in the process of treating attention deficit disorders," he says. "We’re hoping to give people a few different ideas that maybe they haven’t seen or maybe they’ve thought about but never really explored."
Raven will cover topics including nutritional research, structure and movement, and the importance of assembling a health-care team. He says that creating a balanced diet and correcting postural issues and tension can help reduce symptoms that may be interpreted as signs of ADD or ADHD.
"There is a place for drugs, but oftentimes the cause of the problem is some sort of imbalance," he says. "If we teach our children, ‘You have a problem, take a drug, it fixes you’ that creates the belief that there’s something wrong with them. We start to model to our children that we turn to drugs for answers instead of looking within."
As a parent, Raven says he likes when doctors give him options rather than tell him what to do. "This class is all about options and what’s possible. There are things to explore or look at that may be a better fit for your child."
Raven plans to continue holding informative workshops and classes covering different topics in the future. For more information, call 655-7789.