Treatment Options for ADHD
There’s no known
cure for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But there are a
number of options that can help those with the condition effectively manage
their symptoms. Treatments range from behavioral intervention to prescription
medication. In most cases, medication alone is an effective therapy for ADHD.
However, the National Institute
of Mental Health suggests that including other options is important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data
collected in 2011 indicated that approximately 6 percent of children in the
United States are taking medication for ADHD. Medication use is highest among children
who are 6 to 12 years old. Medication is often an important and difficult
reality for parents of a child with ADHD. To find out which medications are
safe and appropriate for your child, be sure to research and discuss any
questions you have with your doctor.
Central Nervous System Stimulants
system (CNS) stimulants are the most commonly prescribed class of ADHD drugs.
The parents and their doctor should decide together on which medication is best
for their child and whether the child needs medication during school hours only
or on evenings and weekends as well.
- amphetamine-based stimulants (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat)
- dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn)
- dextromethylphenidate (Focalin)
- methylphenidate (Concerta,
Daytrana, Metadate, Ritalin)
- nonstimulant medications
medications are often considered when stimulants haven’t worked or have caused intolerable
side effects. Nonstimulant medications used to treat ADHD includeatomoxetine (Strattera)
and antidepressants like nortriptyline HCI (Pamelor)
Therapeutic ADHD Treatments
There are several therapy options for children with ADHD. Talk
to your child’s doctor about what option is best for their situation.
Psychotherapy can be useful in getting a child to open up about their
feelings of coping with ADHD. ADHD might cause problems with authority figures
and peers. Psychotherapy can help children handle these relationships
In psychotherapy, a child may also be able to explore their behavioral
patterns and learn how to make the right choices moving forward. Family therapy can be a great venue for figuring
out how best to work through disruptive behaviors.
(BT) attempts to teach a child how to better monitor their behaviors and then
modify those behaviors appropriately. The child and the child’s parents or
teacher will work together to develop strategies for dealing with certain
situations and resulting behaviors. This frequently involves some sort of
direct feedback so that the child learns suitable behaviors. For example, a
token reward system could be devised to reinforce positive behaviors.
Social Skills Training
training can sometimes be useful if a child shows significant issues
functioning in social environments. Like BT, social skills training attempts to
teach new and more appropriate behaviors. This specifically helps a child with
ADHD play and work better with others. A therapist may try to teach behaviors like:
- waiting in turn
- sharing toys
- asking for help
- dealing with teasing
Support groups are
great for helping parents of children with ADHD to connect with others who may
share similar experiences, concerns, and successes. Support groups typically meet
regularly so relationships and support networks can be built. Knowing you’re
not alone in dealing with ADHD can be a huge relief. Support groups can also be
a great resource for specialist recommendations and practical strategies,
especially if you are a parent of a child newly diagnosed with ADHD.
Parenting Skills Training
gives parents tools and techniques for understanding and managing their child’s
behaviors. Some techniques may include the following:
- A point system or other means of immediately rewarding good behavior or
- How to utilize a timeout when the child becomes too unruly or out of
control. For some children, being pulled out of a stressful or overstimulating
situation can help them learn how to react appropriately the next time it comes
- Finding time every week to share a pleasurable or relaxing activity.
During this time together, a parent should look for opportunities to point out
what the child does well and praise their strengths and abilities.
- Structuring situations in a way that allows the child to find success.
For example, allowing only one or two playmates at a time, so that the child
doesn’t get overstimulated.
- Stress management methods such as meditation, relaxation techniques, and
Behavioral Interventions for Home and School
One of the biggest
concerns for parents of children with ADHD is their child’s success in school. A
lot of the success hinges on organization. This is a skill that many children
with ADHD struggle with. Simple interventions such as the ones listed below can
be an immense help.
- Schedule. Set the same routine every
day. Try to make sure that waking up, bedtime, homework, and even playtime are done
at consistent times. Post the schedule in a visible place. If a change must be
made, make it as far in advance as possible.
- Organize everyday items. Clothing,
backpacks, school supplies, and play items should all have a designated,
clearly marked space.
- Use homework and notebook organizers. Stress the importance of writing down assignments and bringing
home anything needed to complete homework.
- Ask about using a computer in class. For some children with ADHD, handwriting is another stumbling block on
the road to success. If necessary, see if their teacher will allow for computer
use in the classroom.
Children with ADHD
often receive, and then start to expect, criticism from authority figures. If
they get only negative feedback without ever hearing positive things about
themselves, they’ll start to think of themselves as “bad.” If rules
are followed and behavior is good, give small rewards and praise to boost your
child’s self-esteem and reinforce appropriate behavior.
Children with ADHD
often do very well with activities like: art class, music or dance lessons, or
martial arts classes. These activities allow energy to be channeled creatively
and productively. These activities can also be a source of positive reward and foster
mental discipline. Find out what your child is interested in. Remember not to
force them into anything.