ADHD Alternative Treatments

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When you think of ADHD management methods, there are many, and you should explore them to discover what woks for your unique ADHD brain.

One way is to try different forms of exercise and especially martial arts and meditation techniques (which are often, though not always, stationary).

I’ve done Judo, Wrestling, Kung Fu, Aikido, a bit of Kendo in Japan, Tai Chi and Chi Kung. And a vary wide range of meditation techniques. I would highly recommend you experiment with different martial arts and teachers.

Not every martial art is a good fit for everyone, and even within a martial art there are usually many different styles, for example in Aikido you can do Ki Society Aikido, ( Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido), or Aikikai Aikido  or another style. One might suit you better than another one. The same thing with teachers even within the same style, the teacher matters, find the one that is suited for you.

If you have a child with ADHD it’s arguable even more important to do martial arts, for self confidence, health, self esteem, self control, self respect, respect for others.

Also to help the ability to deal with the higher rates of bullying ADDers get.

Plus all those dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and feel good beta endorphins, a great way to self medicate ADHD.

The same with meditation. If you’re new to meditation don’t start off with the emptying your mind type, start off by giving your restless ADHD body and brain a chance to calm down so you can meditate, by involving one or more of the five senses.

Here are some article on Martial Arts and Meditation and ADHD.

Attention Deficit Disorder In The Dojang. (Korean Version Of The Dojo)

By Diana H. Dunlap, Ph.D.

“Increasingly, more and more professionals engaged in the treatment of children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD are recommending that these children become involved in a martial arts program.

For many children with Attention Deficit Disorder, the dojang provides ideal place to increase attention span, decrease distraction, develop motor and behavioral control, improve self-esteem, and build positive peer relationships.

As a Certified School Psychologist, I have frequently recommended Taekwondo instruction for ADD children.

As a Taekwondo instructor, I have seen ADD children make tremendous strides in their ability to sustain attention and control behavior. Finally, as the mother of an ADD child, I have seen the impact that Taekwondo instruction can have on attentional and behavioral concerns on the home front.”

Goes over how to chose a Taekwondo school for an ADHD child and list several practical things that parents can do to help their ADHD child to have a positive experience in the Dojang. (Korean version of a Dojo, a Martial Arts training centre)


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Benefits from Tai Chi

Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. By Maria Hernandez-Reif, PhD, Tiffany M. Field, Eric Thimas.

“Thirteen adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) participated in Tai Chi classes twice a week for 5 weeks.

Teachers rated the children’s behaviour on the Conners Scale during the baseline period, after the 5 week Tai Chi session period and 2 weeks later.

After the 10 Tai Chi sessions the adolescents displayed less anxiety, improved conduct, less daydreaming behaviours, less inappropriate emotions, and less hyperactivity.

These improved scores persisted over the 2-week follow up (no Tai Chi period).”


Benefits of Martial Arts for ADHD Students

By Lesley Jackson, High School teacher, black belt, Taekwondo teacher and Deputy Editor of Martial Edge.

This High School teacher and Martial Arts teacher explains how students with ADHD can benefit from the Martial Arts, and gives some specific tips on how Martial Arts instructors can be more effective in teaching their ADHD students. She also give some links to other articles on ADHD and the Martial Arts.


Effect of Taekwondo Practice on Cognitive Function in Adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The impact of Taekwondo (TKD) practice on cognitive attention tests in the experimental and control groups. 1:3

The impact of Taekwondo (TKD) practice on cognitive attention tests in the experimental and control groups. 2:3

The impact of Taekwondo (TKD) practice on cognitive attention tests in the experimental and control groups. 3:3

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. By Abdelmotaleb Kadri, Maamer Slimani, Nicola Luigi Bragazzi, David Tod, and Fairouz Azaiez.

“Objective of this study was to investigate the effects of a one-and-a-half-year-long Taekwondo (TKD) intervention on cognitive function in adolescents with ADHD.

Two cognitive instruments, namely the Stroop and the Ruff 2 and 7 tests, were administered to assess attentional inhibitory control and sustained and selective visual attention, respectively. 

For post-test scores, there were statistically significant differences on the Stroop color block test (large effect size or ES = 1.26 [95% confidence interval or CI 0.30–2.22]), the color-word interference test (large ES = 2.16 [95% CI 1.10–3.26]), the interference test (large ES = 1.63 [95% CI 0.62–2.64]) and error (large ES = −2.20 [95% CI −3.31 to −1.10]).

Similar trends were reported for the Ruff 2 and 7 automated detection trials (large ES = 2.78 [95% CI 1.55–4.01]), controlled search trials (large ES = 2.56 [95% CI 1.38–3.75]) and total speed (large ES = −2.90 [95% CI −4.15 to −1.64]). 

The TKD group demonstrated significantly greater improvements in a computerized executive function test, which measured accuracy and response time in completing tasks designed to assess inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.”


Effects Of Taijiquan And Qigong Practice Over Behavioural Disorders In School-Age Children: A Pilot Study.

Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies Rodrigues JMSM, Mestre MICP, Matos LC, Machado JP.

“In this pilot study, conducted during the academic year  a combination of exercises of TaijiQuan (TJQ) and Qi Gong (QG) were taught to four selected children, three males and one female, aged between 6 and 10, suffering from the above mentioned behavioural disorders

Results measured by the Achenbach Teacher’s Report Form (TRF), showed very interesting improvements in symptoms of CD, ODD and ADHD-HI (hyperactive-impulsive), while ADHD-PI (predominantly inattentive) showed only minor improvements.

The overall symptom improvement was 43% across pathologies, which demonstrates that TaijiQuan and Qi Gong may be a promising treatment of symptoms for children with behavioural disorders.”


The Effects of Mixed Martial Arts  (Karate, Aikido, Jujitsu) on Behavior of Male Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

adaptive behaviour martial arts vs exercise vs control ADHD and Martial Arts


Percentage of Homework Completion Aggregated for all Participants Daily. Martial Arts and ADHD

Average Number of Teacher Rules Broken Aggregated for all Participants Daily

Average Number of Inappropriate Call-Outs Aggregated for all Participants Daily


Average Number of Times Student Leaves Seat Aggregated for all Participants Daily

Percentage of Task Completed Aggregated for All Participants Daily

Percentage of Times Redirected to Task Aggregated for All Participants Daily

Percentage of Preparation for Class Aggregated for all Participants Weeklymartial arts ADHD, Percentage of Homework Completion, teachers rules broken, inappropriate call outs

martial arts ADHD Number of Times Inappropriately Leaving Seat

The Effects of Mixed Martial Arts on Behavior of Male Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Specifically, a hybrid of Karate and Jujitsu and Aikido By: Matthew K. Morand. Here’s the full PDF of his thesis on that topic.

Very comprehensive study check out the charts, quite dramatic changes. I’ve done two of those three martial arts (Aikido & Judo) & highly recommend them if it’s the right fit and a good teacher. I think martial arts are great for ADHD highly recommend them, I’ve also done Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.

“In this research the effectiveness of a martial arts program two times per week at increasing the percentage of completed homework, frequency of following specific classroom rules, improve academic performance, and improve classroom preparation was explored.

In addition, decreasing maladaptive behaviors including necessity for redirection to task, inappropriately calling out in class, and inappropriately leaving the seat during class were explored.

Participants were assigned to a martial arts intervention (hybrid style of Karate, Jujitsu and Aikido), exercise intervention, or control group condition and data was collected on the behaviors exhibited in school.” Had 6 boys in each group, age 8-11 years old.

“The martial arts intervention utilized a highly structured and disciplined program. The atmosphere was one of traditionalism coupled with an effort to run a class disciplined so the participant was empowered to act with self-discipline.”

“Results of this study were determined by a comparison between pre scores and post scores on the rating scale. Five of seven hypotheses were supported.

Martial Arts was proven to increase percentage of homework completion, academic performance, and percentage of classroom preparation while decreasing the number of classroom rules broken and times inappropriately leaving the seat.

This study lends empirical support to martial arts as a positive intervention for children with ADHD. Results of the study are discussed in terms of future interventions in the physical education classroom or in a private setting to help children control symptoms associated with ADHD.”


Turning Fidgets Into Karate Kicks; Some Find That Martial Arts Ease Attention Disorders NYT.

“Some parents say they have discovered a therapeutic element to the martial arts that helps children with attention deficit disorder cope.

Many doctors support that idea, as do several national nonprofit resource groups for people with the disorder, including the National Attention Deficit Disorder Association and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. They say that such courses help ease the symptoms of the disorder: impulsiveness, inability to concentrate and, in some cases, hyperactivity.

”I talk about this all the time because I think it’s a huge intervention,” said  (author of several books on ADHD) Dr. John J. Ratey, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Harvard Medical School. ”It’s becoming very popular as a means of treatment.”

Parents said that the benefits of martial arts study were manifold, augmenting medical treatment by specifically focusing on the aspects of personality that A.D.D. affects — most importantly, the ability to concentrate.

Dr. Ratey, who has written several books about attention disorders, a couple of which include sections on the benefits of the martial arts, said that exercise coupled with medication does a lot more than medication alone.

While exercise in general would benefit those with such disorders, he said, martial arts helps moreso than, say, baseball or soccer.

”There is no doubt that something in the brain is changing” when individuals with attention disorders study the martial arts, Dr. Ratey said. ‘

The martial arts demand a kind of concentration that forces coordination of the attention centers in the brain: the frontal cortex, the cerebellum and the limbic system, Dr. Ratey said.

That coordination skill is erratic when individuals have attention disorders, he added. The martial arts, which are repetitive, slow, structured and individualistic, facilitate a learning of the coordination skill that is digestible for those with attention disorders, he said, adding that dancing and gymnastics might have similar benefits.

”This is not a cure,” Dr. Ratey added, ”but it is certainly a useful intervention.””


Adolescents With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Benefit From Massage Therapy.

Pediatrics. Field TM, Quintino O, Hernandez-Reif M, Koslovsky G.

“Twenty-eight adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were provided either massage therapy or relaxation therapy for 10 consecutive school days.

The massage therapy group, but not the relaxation therapy group, rated themselves as happier and observers rated them as fidgeting less following the sessions.

After the 2-week period, their teachers reported more time on task and assigned them lower hyperactivity scores based on classroom behavior.”


A Physical Activity Program Improves Behavior And Cognitive Functions In Children With ADHD: An Exploratory Study.

Journal of Attention Disorders. Verret C, Guay MC, Berthiaume C, Gardiner P, Béliveau L.

The objective of this study is to explore the effects of a moderate- to high-intensity physical activity program on fitness, cognitive functions, and ADHD-related behavior in children with ADHD.

Fitness level, motor skills, behaviors, and cognitive functions are assessed by standardized tests before and after a 10-week training or control period.

Findings show that participation in a physical activity program improves muscular capacities, motor skills, behavior reports by parents and teachers, and level of information processing.

A structured physical activity program may have clinical relevance in the functional adaptation of children with ADHD. This supports the need for further research in the area of physical activity with this population.”


Effects Of An 8-Week Yoga Program On Sustained Attention And Discrimination Function In Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

PeerJ. By Chien-Chih Chou and Chung-Ju Huan

“This study investigated whether a yoga exercise intervention influenced the sustained attention and discrimination function in children with ADHD.

Forty-nine participants (mean age = 10.50 years) were assigned to either a yoga exercise or a control group.

Participants were given the Visual Pursuit Test and Determination Test prior to and after an eight-week exercise intervention (twice per week, 40 min per session) or a control intervention.

Significant improvements in accuracy rate and reaction time of the two tests were observed over time in the exercise group compared with the control group.

These findings suggest that alternative therapies such as yoga exercises can be complementary to behavioral interventions for children with attention and inhibition problems.”


The Effects Of Physical Exercise In Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Randomized Control Trials.

Child Care Health and Development. By Cerrillo-Urbina AJ, García-Hermoso A, Sánchez-López M, Pardo-Guijarro MJ, Santos Gómez JL, Martínez-Vizcaíno V.

Eight randomized controlled trials (n = 249) satisfied the inclusion criteria. The studies were grouped according to the intervention programme: aerobic and yoga exercise.

The meta-analysis suggests that aerobic exercise had a moderate to large effect on core symptoms such as attention (SMD = 0.84), hyperactivity (SMD = 0.56) and impulsivity (SMD = 0.56) and related symptoms such as anxiety (SMD = 0.66), executive function (SMD = 0.58) and social disorders (SMD = 0.59) in children with ADHD.

Yoga exercise suggests an improvement in the core symptoms of ADHD.

The main cumulative evidence indicates that short-term aerobic exercise, based on several aerobic intervention formats, seems to be effective for mitigating symptoms such as attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, executive function and social disorders in children with ADHD.”


The Effects Of Yoga On The Attention And Behavior Of Boys With ADHD. 20 Session Study

Journal of Attention Disorders. “Significant improvements from pre-test to post-test were found for the 20 session yoga group, but not for the control group on five subscales of the Conners’ Parents Rating Scales (CPRS): Oppositional, Global Index Emotional Lability, Global Index Total, Global Index Restless/Impulsive and ADHD Index.

For the yoga group, positive change from pre- to post-test on the Conners’ Teacher Rating Scales (CTRS) was associated with the number of sessions attended on the DSM-IV Hyperactive-Impulsive subscale and with a trend on DSM-IV Inattentive subscale.

Those in the yoga group who engaged in more home practice showed a significant improvement on TOVA Response Time Variability with a trend on the ADHD score, and greater improvements on the CTRS Global Emotional Lability subscale.”


Yoga for the Special Child™

is a comprehensive program of yoga techniques designed to enhance the natural development of children with special needs including ADHD and Learning Disabilities. She’s the author of Yoga for the Special Child

On a personal note, I’ve done yoga off and on for more than two decades and when I finish a class it definitely helps with my focus and energy. It gives me energy but a calm non scattered energy. Great for stress relief, body awareness and peace of mind.

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