10 alternative therapies for children with behavioural problems
Is your child acting up? Doesn't want to share his feelings anymore? Try one of these alternative therapies for children, specially meant for their overall growth and development
In August last year when Samya Aslam, 10, came home crying as her teachers often sent a complaint note regarding her lack of attention, little did she know that a few sessions of meditation would help her. When her parents visited a child psychologist on the suggestion of the teachers, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The psychologist suggested that she try meditation which is a popular alternative therapy for children instead of popping pills to help out Samya. After about three months of the meditation therapy, Samya was doing much better in school, her grades are now up and she has made many friends.
Why use alternative therapies for children
For psychological problems such as ADHD, professionals are opting for unconventional methods of treatment. Dr Mrigaya Sinha, senior clinical psychologist, ePsyClinic.com, Delhi, explains, “Alternative Therapy (ATs) practices like yoga, meditation, homeopathy, ayurveda and art therapy are becoming increasingly mainstream.”
She adds the following reasons to the increasing popularity of ATs.
- Many of the ATs evolved much before the conventional treatments.
- Most parents are vary of medication for children and lean naturally towards ATs which are seen as safer.
- Professionals, are acknowledging and addressing the beliefs about ATs and are discussing them with parents about their best use.
Our experts discuss the 10 commonly used alternative therapies for ADHD and other physical and psychological problems and what each one entails.
What: Children who feel scared and experience blocks in expressing themselves in a conventional therapy can successfully express themselves through the medium of art. Art therapy, therefore, uses the creative medium to help children explore behavioural problems.
How: Experts suggest that art therapy can cure the following problems:
- It can help cure childhood trauma, death or losses, emotional fears like phobias and fear of abandonment and even deal with serious diseases like diabetes and cancer.
- Many times behavioural issues like aggression can be addressed through art.
- Children can use the medium of art to relieve stress, increase self awareness, develop healthy and effective coping skills.
- Art therapy can help children cope with change, shed light on emotions and concerns and reinforce healing images created during guided imagery and hypnosis.
What: Music therapy has been used extensively in children with autism to overcome communication deficits and facilitate non-verbal communication.
How: Dr Sinha says, “Music therapy has shown positive outcomes in improving social functioning, increasing cooperation and decreasing disruptive behaviors.” She lists the way in which music therapy helps a child.
- This type of alternative therapy for children has been used successfully in reducing anxiety, depression and pain and is a good option if the child is willing to engage in it.
- Children naturally enjoy music and once they identify aspects of which that they most enjoy, they deeply engage with it and use it as a medium of self expression.
Dance or movement therapy
What: A child is always moving, for them movement is about how they feel, think and do. Dance therapy involves the therapeutic use of movement to access creativity and emotions and promote emotional, mental, physical, and social health.
How: Dr Sinha explains the ways in which dance therapy helps children.
- Dance therapy can improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain and promote health and well-being. In cancer patients it can decrease hurt, nausea and improve mood.
- "The techniques of dance therapy are developed in a way that children can use their body to express themselves and also gain control over their emotions," says Dr Sinha.
- Dance and movement enhances cognitive development through controlled movements, balances work and enhances different levels of communication.
- “Movement therapies can also increase a child’s feelings of mastery, discharge excess physical tension, provide focus and improve mood,” says Dr Kapur.
What: Nutritional deficiencies are the leading cause for physical and mental health problems and this has made dietary supplements much sought after. They provide nutrients that may otherwise not be easily available in regular food.
How: Dr Sinha says, “In India, it is common for parents to look for dietary supplements for children with learning difficulties to enhance memory and learning." She lists the following supplements for overall growth and development of the child:
- Natural products like vitamins, minerals, herbs, probiotics, amino acids, and other dietary supplements are used for treating various problems of digestion memory, sleep, mood changes and fatigue.
- Ashwagandha is found commonly in supplements and prescribed for multiple problems like anxiety, ADHD and sleep difficulties.
- Chamomile, ginko biloba, valerian and omega-3 fatty acids are some of the popular options for depression and cognitive functions.
What: There are ample evidences stemming from the West suggesting that foods which are good for the brain can reduce symptoms of disorders like ADHD and autism.
How: Experts recommend that you limit processed food in children as more and more of regular diet is becoming reliant on processed food. They suggest the following dietary changes to be included in a child's meal:
- High-protein foods including eggs, meat, beans, and nuts, may improve concentration.
- Eliminate caffeine or sugar as found in soda drinks.
- Emphasize on whole grain foods rich in complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and healthy sources of protein.
Continue reading to know more of the various alternative therapies for children that can help with ADHD
What: "Homeopathy treatment relies on developing a deep understanding of what is causing the mental and bodily responses and doesn’t rush to treat the symptoms,” says Dr Sinha.
How: Unlike psychotherapy, a homeopathic physician tries to put the child's illnesses into the context of the rest of his life and understand them in a complete way. Dr Sinha lists the following ways how homeopathy which is a popular alternative therapy for children helps them in their overall growth:
- Homeopathic medicine elicits a powerful healing that can cure the problem from its root and change the child’s personality.
- Many children with problems of asthma, eczema, behavioural and sleep problems can be cured with homeopathy.
- It can also help with problems such as ADHD, aspergers and autism.
What: The main focus of yoga is to balance the mind, body and spirit while simultaneously working towards increased relaxation. Children are believed to be natural yogis with their superb flexibility and it can be easily integrated into their routines.
How: There are many aspects to yoga which work in different ways for children. Dr Sinha lists the following uses of this ancient technique:
- Deep breathing and concentration can alter usual reactions of anger, anxiety and fear.
- Yoga is also a beneficial exercise for children who are struggling with weight issues or who do not excel at sports.
- With its approach of moderation, gratitude and non judgement, yoga can build a healthier body image, increase tolerance for imperfections and enhance a sense of confidence.
- Yoga is beneficial to children of all ages, but it has been found to be particularly so for kids with special needs.
- A daily yoga programme reduces aggressive behavior, social withdrawal, and hyperactivity, compared with a control group of children with autism who did not practice yoga.
What: "Each child is born with their own unique proportion of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. An Ayurvedic doctor can understand which dosha is leading to a health concern and can treat it with certain medicines and lifestyle changes,” says Dr Sinha.
How: She lists certain practices that is generally advised in Ayurveda for promotive childcare.
- Following a consistent daily routine, waking and sleeping up on time and eating food that is natural to digest.
- Home remedies are also recommended for building immunity and promoting growth; like ginger, turmeric and honey are seen as both treatments as well as preventive measures against colds and allergies.
- Certain treatments like Swarna Bindu Prashana are prescribed to improve immunity in children. Dr Sinha says, "It is a method of administering gold calx (Swarna Bhasma) in very small quantities to improve immunity, strength, memory and intelligence in children.
- Other remedies like Amrit Ambrosia and Nectar Tablets reduce effects of environmental toxins.
What: Massage is an integral part of every day childcare routine in the Indian culture. It is believed that an everyday massage routine is prescribed in many ailments which are related to pain and also emotional issues.
How: Dr Sinha explains, “Touch is the first sense to develop in humans and the practice of massage reaffirms a close bond with our children and conveys a comforting sense of security and trust."
- Children who grow up with a healthy sense of touch become adults with healthy self-esteem, a sense of appropriate boundaries and long-lasting intimate relationships.
- Dr Kapur says, “Massage decreases muscle tension or soreness and increases relaxation.”
What: Through mindful meditation people learn to focus their attention as a way of gaining better control over various mental and bodily phenomenons. Experts suggest that mindfulness can be inculcated in children by using simple practices to enhance focus and attention.
How: Meditation is used to treat a variety of symptoms, such as elevated blood pressure, anxiety, stress, pain and insomnia, as well as to promote overall health and well-being. Experts list the following benefits:
- While meditating, children can be taught to focus their attention on breathing or repeating a word to bring their focus on the present and learn to suspend the stream of thought that is occupying their mind.
Meditation can help relieve focus from a pain or anxiety and worry.
- Dr Sinha says, “Studies show that mindfulness can enhance learning and memory and result in better academic performance."
- Mindfulness can enhance physical health as well as help a child to develop a critical, curious but non-judgmental approach to life.
- Experts suggest that it can also aid in improving mood, pain, itching, sleep, nausea, and concentration. Dr Sinha explains, “Simple activities like asking children to focus on the clouds and observe them change shapes, focus on a ringing bell can be used to engage them in the practice."
Alternative therapies for children are designed to help them overcome severe behavioral disturbances that can hamper their personality development. That is perhaps the reason for its increasing popularity among parents and professionals alike.
Disclaimer: This is just an informative article. We do not propagate the use of these therapies without a qualified doctor’s supervision.
Do you have any questions regarding alternative therapies for children with behavioral problems? Please share in the Comment box below.