According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 7.5% of school-aged children in the United States have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While many families rely on medication alone, a recent study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found that the best outcomes were a results of medication plus behavior therapy.
Behavior therapy can improve the child’s behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. Drugs can only do so much regarding behavior, and don’t do anything for self esteem. Child psychiatrist Thomas Kobylski, M.D., chairman of the Washington area chapter of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, compares ADHD to diabetes: Medications are necessary but not sufficient for either condition. For optimal results, people with diabetes need to watch what they eat and to exercise, in addition to taking medication. Additionally, studies have found that children treated with behavior therapy can take lower doses of medication.
This type of therapy teaches children to better control their own behavior and, with practice, can have lasting benefits. The best practice is for parents to become trained so they may give the therapy to their child with the support of healthcare providers, making it most effective. Pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, or licensed counselors specializing in training parents in this regard will help parents learn skills and how to use them effectively with their child.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), parents engaging in this training will learn:
– Positive communication skills that will strengthen their relationship with their child;
– How to give positive attention and effective praise to reinforce good behavior; and
– How to create structure and provide consistent discipline.
The goal of therapy is to teach children new ways of behaving by rewarding desired behavior, such as following directions, and eliminating undesired actions, such as losing homework, notes Ginny Teer, a spokeswoman for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (CHAAD), a national advocacy group. It usually also includes changes in the child’s environment to minimize distractions.
Once an effective system is in place, it is important to coordinate with teachers and caregivers to provide a similar system and reinforcement. Cooperation may vary, so it’s a good idea to keep in regular contact and ask for frequent reports, even daily. The key is to keep things simple and be consistent about applying it.
Behavioral therapy is a key component to effective treatment, but it does take time and effort. Other non-drug treatments, such as play therapy, cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, and special diets, may also help, but only behavioral therapy has been shown to work.
If you have concerns about your child—whether they have been diagnosed with ADHD or not—please feel free to reach out to Meridien Research’s Bradenton, Lakeland, or Maitland locations. We have several pediatric ADHD research studies enrolling now. Call 888-777-8839 or visit our individual study pages for more information.