ADD/ADHD have become quite prevalent, with the number of children prescribed powerful pharmaceutical medicines to treat its symptoms growing in leaps and bounds during the past few decades. The range of symptoms associated with ADD/ADHD is broad, with many coming down basically to a matter of degree. In other words, in lesser or more controlled doses, the some – perhaps even many – of the ADD/ADHD spectrum behaviors in and of themselves wouldn’t be problematic. Many parents and health care professionals have concerns about the medications typically used to manage ADD/ADHD, leading researchers to study alternatives, including such cognitively oriented solutions as meditation.
In November of 2007, ABC News reported on an Australian study that took place at Prince of Wales Hospital, the results of which were announced at that year’s World Psychiatric Association conference. Children under 12 that were being treated pharmaceutically for ADHD were taught simple meditation techniques, as were their parents. Symptoms in the children were reduced by just over a third during the 6 week study, and some were even able to decrease the use of prescribed medicines. The parents also benefited from the meditation, reporting that they felt more relaxed and better able to manage the symptoms that their children displayed.
Utilizing meditation techniques to manage ADD/ADHD symptoms makes a lot of sense, when viewed strictly in terms of logic. Cognitive therapies, or strategies, place real, practical tools in the hands of people that have need of them. Knowledge is different from medications in that medicines can run out, be misplaced, or eventually lose their effectiveness. Knowledge is something that a person carries with them wherever they go, it is something that cannot be taken away, and – once attained – doesn’t require depending on somebody else. Indeed, cognitive therapies, like meditation, can be very empowering, setting in motion a positive cycle that spirals toward further positive experiences.
Even the simplest of meditation techniques, such as regulating the breathing, can produce positive results, such as stress reduction. These initial successes encourage the user to continue using the techniques that have been mastered and to learn more, as well as instill a spark of confidence in being able to have some degree of control over thoughts, emotions, and behavior. That experience of control, with the confidence that it inspires, can improve symptoms in and of itself, simply by offering that empowering realization that it can be done. Even young children can learn simple meditation techniques, and those techniques will serve them well for their entire lives.
Some of the symptoms that serve as markers for ADD/ADHD spectrum disorders, such as difficulty in concentrating and struggles to control impulses, can be directly addressed by practicing meditation techniques on a regular basis. Like any skill a child tries to learn, whether it be learning to play an instrument or mastering calculus, truly mastering meditation skills and learning how to apply them to meet specific cognitive challenges and situations will take time. Researchers continue to study the potentials of meditation in helping families to cope when there has bee a diagnoses of ADD/ADHD.