Book Review: ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens

ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens by Debra Burdick is highly accessible tool for parents and caregivers of children with ADHD when it stays on point. Treating ADHD requires a comprehensive approach that included proper medication levels, healthy diet, and therapy treatments. This workbook provides a valuable resource as far as mental exercises parents can employ with their children in their day-to-day lives.

The worksheets themselves are clear and easy to use. Burdick does a fine job of setting up each worksheet in a concise manner. Worksheets are practical and cover “real-world” scenarios that children and teens can relate to.

There are, however, a few places where Burdick’s personal prejudices show through. As a practitioner of neurofeedback, she presents it as settled science that is a “magic wand” for some patients with ADHD. Her chapter on the subject reads like a long infomercial with anonymous success stories presented but no actual information on the core research in the field or even how to find a trustworthy practitioner. While neurofeedback studies have proven promising, few studies have produced concrete, reproduceable results and there are concerns about the quality of the studies themselves.

There is also some language in the chapter regarding diet that didn’t sit well with me. There are a lot of dangerous “some” statements regarding antibiotics that are not backed up by meaningful citations to clinical studies. And then there is the concerns about artificial sweeteners, a common villain in New Age circles, that are downright silly. There is a rambling statement about how aspartame breaks down into methanol, which breaks down into formaldehyde and thus is poisonous.

This is what is referred to as “junk science” because it takes a very specific chemical reaction and a specific toxicity level and makes an over-generalization about it. Much like recent panics about arsenic in apples and other “toxins” in food. In fact, the amount of potential metabolized methanol is aspartame is less than what is naturally occurring in the environment. The body can metabolize these trace amounts with no negative effects. Implying otherwise against all the available evidence does a huge disservice to parents by engaging in unhelpful fearmongering.

Ignoring the forays into New Age pseudo-science, the actual worksheets in this book are an excellent resource for parents to use. But parents should take the pseudo-science with a healthy dose of skepticism before making sweeping changes to their child’s diet. Discuss potential food allergies with your child’s pediatrician and get the correct testing to rule out food-related issues, but don’t make changes based on junk science that has been discredited by Snopes.com.

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