Parents whose kids have learning and attention issues understandably want to give them the best chance to succeed. Many treatment options may hold out promises. But they don’t have a lot of scientific research proving they work. It can be tough to know which treatments are safe and worth the time (and money) and which aren’t.
How can you decide whether to try an alternative or complementary treatment? Here’s what to look for and the questions to ask.
Questions to Ask About Alternative and Complementary Treatments
Treatments that are OK to try have been studied scientifically and proven effective. Here are questions to ask about a possible treatment:
- Does your child’s doctor recommend that you try this treatment?
- Is this treatment backed by multiple scientific studies that verify it works? (Make sure that at least some studies are financed by independent organizations or scientists not tied to the company selling the product or service.)
- Is there a national organization that provides licensure or credentialing for the practitioner? Are there state requirements and regulations for practicing this form of treatment? Has the practitioner gotten the proper licensing and fulfilled requirements?
- Is information about the treatment available online or from other sources? Does it describe the treatment and what to expect from it?
Money matters, too. If the treatment involves seeing a practitioner, such as an acupuncturist, will this be covered by insurance? If not, how long will treatment last, and can you afford the out-of-pocket costs?
Signs That a Treatment Is Too Good to Be True
As the saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” This is also true when considering alternative and complementary treatments. Here are some red flags that you may not want to have your child use a treatment:
- The promoters claim it works well for everyone.
- The treatment is based on a “secret formula” that isn’t shared with the public.
- The promoters promise the treatment is a “cure.” For example, they claim it will “cure” ADHD. (There is no cure for learning and attention issues. Some treatments, however, can help kids with learning and attention issues in many ways.)
- The promoters make vague claims. Or they cite claims that are hard to study or that don’t fit with the scientific understanding of what causes learning and attention issues.
- The treatment isn’t backed by independent scientific studies, or the studies cited involve a small number of people (“10 out of 14 users found it helpful”).
- The only studies that found it effective were funded by the company selling the product.
- Your doctor has never heard of the treatment and isn’t comfortable with it when you describe it.
Play It Safe
You also want to check out the possible risks before trying an alternative therapy. Having your child try something like meditation or deep breathing can’t hurt. But taking nutritional supplements your doctor isn’t aware of—or doesn’t approve of—could be harmful to your child.
To be on the safe side, always tell the doctor about any alternative or complementary treatments you’re considering. Then you can work together to monitor your child and find the best mix of treatments.