HomeLearning DifficultiesLearning Disabilities & ADHDManaging ADHD

Controversial Treatments for Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Page 5 of 5

By Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.


In this paper we have reviewed approaches which have been offered as effective for AD/HD which have not met scientific standards which would justify their inclusion as mainstream treatments for this childhood disorder. Some of these controversial treatments merit continued research while others likely do not. Although these treatments may be offered in the marketplace as proven and accepted approaches, they are not. Parents are cautioned when considering these treatments that time and money might be better spent on treatments with proven track records. Among the most effective means to date are the judicious use of medication and behavior management. Parent education and appropriate classroom settings, as well as helping children locate areas of success in their lives, are also effective for children with AD/HD.

How Can A Parent Be A Wise Consumer?

If you are the parent of a child with AD/HD you know how difficult your job an be. You want to obtain the very best treatment for your child. In the spirit of "how can it hurt to try" you might be tempted to throw caution to the wind when you hear about a new treatment that promises to help.

Promises are not enough. You also have the responsibility to invest your family's resources of time, money and energy wisely. This means that as with any large purchase, you must become an informed consumer.

In this paper we have provided general guidelines for evaluating new treatments. Listed below are additional tips to help you recognize treatments that are questionable.

  • Overstatement and exaggerated claims are red flags. Be suspicious of any product or treatment that is described as astonishing, miraculous or an amazing breakthrough. Legitimate health professionals do not use words like these. Nor do they boast of their success in treating huge numbers of patients.
  • Be suspicious too of any treatment that claims to treat a wide variety of ailments. Common sense tells us that the more grandiose the claim the less likely it is that there is any real merit behind it.
  • Do not rely on testimonials from people who say they have been helped by the product or the treatment. Enthusiasm is not a substitute for evidence and legitimate health professionals do not solicit testimonials from their patients.
  • Be skeptical about claims that a treatment is being suppressed or unfairly attacked by the medical establishment. Legitimate health professionals eagerly welcome new knowledge and better methods of treatment for their patients. They have no reason to oppose promising new approaches.

Sam Goldstein, Ph.D. is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Utah, a Research Professor of Psychology at George Mason University and Director of the Neurology, Learning and Behavior Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Attention Disorders, author, co-author or editor of 26 books and dozens of book chapters and peer reviewed research articles.

This article originally appeared on Dr. Sam Goldstein's website in 2000,, and is reprinted here with permission.

Comments from readers

"When did Goldstein write this? His information about the Feingold diet is inaccurate and out of date. For example,the double-blind Rowe & Rowe (1994) study found a dose-response effect for tartrazine (Yellow #5), and there is the 2007 McCann study that found that even normal children react to a modest amount of food dyes with increased activity and decreased attention span. There is the landmark 2006 Lau study in which he tested additives in combination and found that the combinations were many times more powerfully toxic to developing nerve tissue. Actually, every single study done since 1987 has shown clearly that the diet works - often dramatically. Some tested a more restrictive diet called an oligoantigenic (few foods) diet, but they got the same results. These studies have been replicated over and over with similar results. Most recent literature reviews agree that the diet is effective to treat ADHD. The 2004 Schab meta-analysis agrees as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article in their 2008 Grand Rounds that admitted that after 30 years of saying the diet doesn’t work they “may have been wrong.� They now say, “. . . a trial of a preservative-free, food coloring–free diet is a reasonable intervention.� The British Medical Journal, in May 2008, said a “trial of eliminating colourings and preservatives should be part of standard treatment . . .� "
"Thank you so much for this artical on questionable ADD Treatments. I was wondering if you had another artical with Treaments that have proven success and how to get them? I am a desperate parent trying to help my son hear and understand me when I am talking to him. Thanks "