The Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder epidemic is nothing new to Americans. In fact, in the U.S., about 5% of children suffer from this disorder, and an ADHD diagnosis has been handed out to 5.2 million children between the ages of 13 and 17.
ADHD is often the reason for restlessness, lack of focus, impulsivity, and emotional outbursts, making it hard for students to handle these symptoms in class. These symptoms are also the reason that children with ADHD, or a history of the disorder, develop a higher chance of experiencing difficulties with their peers.
Medication, counseling for ADHD, and ADHD coaching, have spearheaded the treatment of ADHD over the years, with medications like Adderall being the most common one prescribed. But a new study from the University of Oregon shows that ADHD behavioral therapy could be the key to minimizing symptoms in children before the disorder fully manifests, and that it must start at home.
Researchers discovered that the type of interaction parents had with their child either aggravated or reduced the child’s ADHD symptoms. In other words, supportive behavior, such as positive reinforcement rather than punishment, could drop the chances of a child developing additional conditions, such as oppositional defiance, anxiety, or depression.
The key, say some experts, is to start ADHD behavioral therapy from an early age. The American Psychological Association even suggests that children under the age of six be treated with therapy before being referred to a physician for medication. The director of the Center for Children and Families at the State University of New York, William Pelham, has also stated that he believes therapy should be the first line of treatment for any child, regardless of age.
“There’s clear evidence that a behavioral approach will work for the majority of children with ADHD,” said Pelham in an article for ADDitude, a magazine that publishes advice, tips, and practical information for people who suffer from the disorder. “The benefit of using behavior therapy first is that, if a child also needs medication, he can often get by with a smaller dose.”
Pelham also states that more parents are seeing medication fail to adequately treat their child’s ADHD symptoms, and are increasingly turning toward therapy as a viable option. He also added that once children come off of medication, their ADHD symptoms re-emerge, and without the help of ADHD behavioral therapy, these children are essentially sent up a river without a paddle.
Behavioral therapy for ADHD patients involves altering the way children act in various situations. Counselors who specialize in children with ADHD, and even some ADHD Coaches, work with children to help them learn to control compulsive, negative behavior, and map out specific ways to handle triggers that prompt these responses. Parents are often included in these sessions to help them understand how to better communicate with their child.
Ultimately, in order for the therapy to be completely effective, parents must be able to extend the behavioral plan to the household, and essentially re-evaluate and change the way they interact with their child. Keeping open lines of communication with the child’s school, and caregivers, and the entire family is key in helping the child struggling with ADHD from receiving mixed messages and being misunderstood.
Even with the best parenting skills, some children will be difficult to control. Different ages present their own problems too, which makes handling the ADHD symptoms all the more difficult. Helping parents by providing a ‘roadmap’ is one way that support services can aid parents is raising a happy child who can succeed even with having ADHD.