DALLAS -- Once a week, young Asher Meachem gets in a good workout by swinging, climbing up on towers, and running across the padded gym in a North Dallas doctor’s office.
When he's done, he then tries his best to clap his hands to a beat or hit buttons as they light up on the board. This may all sound like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, but all of the exercises are designed to help train Asher’s body and mind.
“It is helping to strengthen his body. A pill is not going to make you stronger,” Dr. Sally Fryer Dietz of Integrative Pediatric Therapy said.
According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 11 percent of children in America suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, many studies and medical experts believe ADHD is over-diagnosed due to poor evaluations or outside pressure.
“So many times kids get misdiagnosed with ADHD because they cannot sit still in a chair,” Dietz said.
That's why she provides a different type of therapy at her practice, which began more than 20 years ago with her own son -- who is now an attorney.
“Our approach is different because we do not advocate medication from the very beginning," she said.
Instead, the exercises give the neuro pathways in the brain a chance to develop on their own without added prescription medications, according to Dietz.
Asher’s mother said his pre-school teachers noticed behaviors consistent with ADHD, but the weekly trips to Dr. Dietz’s office have made a difference without the need for pharmaceuticals.
“We have seen a difference, his teachers have seen a difference, and we see a difference without it as well,” Mia Meachem said.
The interactive games are part of therapy commonly referred to as “sensory integration” and, although the therapy technique has been used since the 1950s, Dr. Dietz believes it is too often overlooked.
“I do not think it is well-known enough because I do not think all pediatricians are as up on the child development literature as we are," she said.
Dr. Dietz said she has recently begun using the same sensory integration techniques to treat athletes who suffer concussions. The principles of connecting the brain with body control and coordination are very similar to treating ADHD.
“They used to just put kids and adults [who suffer concussions] in a dark room," she said.
She says her patients have seen improved post-concussion processing with less headaches and secondary symptoms.