Unlocking ADHD writer Tricia Lim introduces therapy and other activities as options to manage ADHD symptoms.
As a child, did you ever receive rewards for good behaviour or have your play time curtailed when you misbehaved? If so, you’re already somewhat familiar with how behaviour therapy works.
Behaviour therapy essentially entails a structured manner of rewarding desired behaviour and delivering consequences for undesirable behaviour. It aims to increase preferred behaviour and eliminate unconstructive ones.
Citing its effectiveness in improving children’s behaviour, self-control and self-esteem, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends beginning with behaviour therapy before embarking on medication for children below six.
Most psychology clinics will have psychologists trained to carry out behaviour therapy with your child. Hospitals with Psychological Medicine divisions, such as KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, would also likely be able to provide behaviour therapy. Parents may also receive training and carry out behaviour therapy on their own.
While these do not substitute proper training from professional psychologists, here are some tips from ADDitude magazine to get you started:
- Start with just one to two behaviours you want to encourage or eliminate
- Set clear and realistic expectations and communicate them to your child
- Be consistent in rewarding and meting out consequences
- Focus more on the positives and be patient
Sometimes, it isn’t specific behaviours that need to be addressed. Rather, getting through everyday tasks may pose some difficulty — here’s where occupational therapy may help.
Hospitals such as SGH and private psychology practices commonly offer occupational therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT seeks to change the negative thought processes behind unhelpful behaviour in order to correct said behaviour.
For example, being frequently put down in the past may have built a mindset of being incapable, causing one to be reluctant to face challenges. In CBT, clients and therapists work together to correct this mindset and enable clients to take on challenging tasks.
Several studies have shown the efficacy of CBT in treating ADHD. One such study reported that 63% of all participants saw improvement in management of ADHD symptoms after nine weeks of individual CBT sessions.
A separate neuroimaging study showed similar positive changes in the brain that were often seen after medication use. Participants also saw reduced severity of ADHD symptoms and improvement in executive functioning.
CBT is widely offered by both hospitals with psychological services as well as private psychology clinics.
Along with raising the level of endorphins (which help improve your mood), exercise also increases dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels, which all play a role in focus and attention.
To even better reap these benefits, try activities that require very technical movements, e.g., martial arts, ballet, rock climbing and skateboarding. Achieving the balance, timing and coordination involved in getting those complex movements right activates regions of the brain that facilitate intense focus and concentration.
Research suggests that 50 minutes of aerobic exercise two to three times a week improves attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, anxiety, executive function and social functioning. A single 60-minute session of Yoga each week similarly improves anxiety, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and oppositional and social problems.
“Spend more time in nature” may seem like an overused piece of advice, but there is some truth to it.
A study showed that inattention is less severe when one’s environment is “greener”, lending support to the idea that time in nature may indeed benefit attentional functioning. So take some time off this weekend and explore one of the many green trails around Singapore!
Ultimately, many view medication as their mainstay for treatment, which has proven effective. However, a myriad of other options are often able to achieve complementary management of ADHD symptoms. Given that options such as exercise and time in nature are largely free (and fun), why not try anyway?