Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be a distressing diagnosis, but families have more treatment options than they might realize. Although Ritalin and other stimulant drugs are the most common prescription, ADHD treatments that don’t involve medication have a proven track record. And here’s a surprise: One of the most beneficial options treats the parents, not the child. For children, skills training programs and ADHD summer camps can help teach techniques to overcome everyday problems that often make life miserable, such as remembering to bring assignments home from school or to listen without interrupting.
How training parents helps the child. Parent skills training has been used for years to improve the behavior of children, and multiple clinical trials have validated its effectiveness. Those same programs improve the behavior of kids with ADHD. Although it may seem odd to be changing parents’ behavior to treat what’s considered a medical condition in children, research has found that for children with ADHD, having parents who use effective parenting techniques is one of the best predictors of success in adulthood. These programs teach parents to make clear, specific requests of children, for instance, and to use praise and rewards for good behavior far more often than punishment.
In fact, parent training for ADHD is considered so mainstream that last fall the British government mandated parent training as the first choice for treatment in many cases. “For milder cases, we recommend starting with behavioral therapy,” says Eric Taylor, a professor of psychiatry at King’s College Hospital and an ADHD authority who helped write the new standards for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. In England, parents of children with ADHD are offered free government-funded classes where they learn to set clear limits for the child, be consistent in enforcing those limits, and reward good behavior.
In a perfect world, all children with ADHD would get coordinated, “multimodal” treatment, which would include parent training; a tailored program at school; education about ADHD for kids, parents, and teachers; and medication if necessary. But all too often, kids get just the pills. Most children are treated by pediatricians, who may not be aware of the data on the benefits of behavioral treatments such as parent training, despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends both behavioral interventions and medication. The various professional societies favor their own strengths, not surprisingly, with the psychologists endorsing behavioral therapy and the psychiatrists big on medication as the first line of treatment. “The behavioral treatment had no side effects,” says William Pelham, a research psychologist who directs the Center for Children and Families at the University at Buffalo-SUNY and who was a pioneer in the use of parent training as a behavioral intervention for ADHD. Side effects of medication include insomnia, loss of appetite, and stunted growth. That, he says, is reason enough to follow the British model.
Read full article here: ADHD Medication: Can Your Child Go Without? – US News and World Report
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