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January 2008

by Alan Solomon, Ph.D.

Treatment for ADHD without Medication

Some parents have raised concerns about medication treatments for their children who are diagnosed with ADHD, whether it be the more traditional stimulant (such as Ritalin), or a newer medication (Strattera, for example). Recent reports from the FDA, which identified possible issues for adults with ADHD on stimulant medications regarding blood pressure and stroke risks, have prompted more questions from parents about the use of medications for their children.

There is an alternative to medication, called Neurotherapy, offered to children at the ADD Treatment Center, in Torrance, California, run by Gary Schummer, Ph.D. The Center describes it as an approach that “…allows an individual to develop control over their own brain activity.” Feedback from a computer, using EEG technology, informs the patient “…when his/her brain is producing desirable patterns consistent with attention and alertness. Likewise, the computer lets the patient know when his/her brain is producing undesirable excess low frequencies or heightened muscle tension.” These low frequencies are associated with lower levels of attention, focus, listening, learning and comprehension – all the classic symptoms of ADHD. “By letting a patient know instantly when they are more attentive, focused, and alert, neurofeedback makes learned self-control possible, without the need for medications, or their side effects.”

The first reports of success with this approach were published in the mid and late 1970’s, by Dr. Joel Lubar at the University of Tennessee. He developed protocols for these initial treatment efforts with ADHD. Dr. Schummer, and others, have further advanced these efforts over the years. More information is available at

My own observations of children in this type of treatment does substantiate that it can cause significant progress. A substantial commitment of time and resources is needed, however – generally a minimum of 4-5 months of sessions that must take place 2-3 times per week. An initial evaluation with a specialized EEG is also required to identify the type of ADHD and the protocols to use in the therapy.

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