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So You’re Thinking About Complementary and Alternative Therapies?

Controversial LD Therapies - Complementary and AlternativeAround my desk at work I have a few hand-written notes to myself that might also be good reminders for parents and others when they venture into the uncharted waters of complementary and alternative therapies.
  • Not everything that counts can be counted.
  • The plural of anecdote is not evidence.
  • “A lie can travel half-way around the world before the truth gets its boots on.” – Mark Twain
  • Good science and data are intended to protect us from making mistakes, but we ignore them because that’s what humans do.

While there is a lot that we know about learning disabilities (LD) and ADHD and how to intervene, there is much more that we don’t know about what might offer benefit and relief. There is no question that rigorous science provides us with a sure footing when it comes to weighing evidence and making choices about treatment approaches. But the decisions we make we are ultimately going to reflect more than just rational thought. We may at times cast aside reason and allow ourselves to venture to places where science has not yet been. Not a reason for concern—but maybe a reason for caution and certainly a reason for healthy skepticism. Enjoy.

Chiropractic CareThe practice of chiropractics is founded on the belief that problems with the spinal cord can result in a wide range of disorders, and that spinal manipulation (or “adjustments”) can restore healthy functioning. Some chiropractic practitioners attribute symptoms of LD and ADHD to the misalignment of certain bones in the skull and by applying pressure to certain parts of the spine, body and head (called applied kinesiology or neural organization technique), they profess to be able to provide relief.

These beliefs are not consistent with our current knowledge of specific learning disabilities and there are not data to support the use of these treatments for ADHD.

Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback)This approach has not been studied for individuals with LD but has been of interest for some time to the ADHD community. It is based on the discovery that some individuals with ADHD show low levels of arousal in the frontal lobes of the brain and that, with practice, individuals can be helped to become increasingly sensitive to and even manipulate certain types of brainwaves that are responsible for focused attention. There is no reason to suspect that these types of treatments are harmful, and some who use them report feeling more relaxed and focused as a result of their use. There is no sound evidence to suggest that these types of treatments result in improved academic or behavioral functioning.

For more information about these treatment approaches, visit the Resource Center on ADHD and see the summary provided on Complementary and Alternative Treatments: Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback) and ADHD.

Assorted Other Therapies Here’s where you are free to roam without supervision, left to explore without worry about what science might tell us about each of these approaches and what benefit they might provide to individuals with LD or ADHD. If you come upon convincing evidence, please write to NCLD and let us know.

  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Homeopathy
  • Naturopathy
  • Osteopathy
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Music therapy
  • Bach flower remedies
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Alexander Technique
  • Massage therapy
  • Reflexology
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Chromotherapy
  • Magnetic field therapy
  • Reiki
  • Green play environments (outside time)
  • Drum therapy
  • Interactive Metronome Training
  • Sound Enhancement Therapy

…and the list goes on!

The bottom line about complementary and alternative therapies:

  • Remember: “Science should inform practice, but practice should also inform science”—but be careful that your decisions are not based on magical thinking and that you protect your child from unintended harm.
  • Don’t go it alone: consult with your child’s physician, trusted clinicians and school personnel or others before investing time, effort, money and hope into an unproven treatment or approach.
  • If something works well for your child, please share your experience with others and encourage the professional community to engage in formal research to understand and document the potential benefits to others.












controversial-therapies - cure for ld?