Although there is no cure for ADHD, there are many forms of treatment that can relieve and reduce symptoms. Traditional treatments for ADHD include various forms of therapy, counseling or training, and medication. It may take some time to find the best treatment or combination of treatments for your child.

Therapy

 

  • : ADHD not only harms a child’s ability to pay attention or control impulses in various settings, but it also affects their performance in school and their relationships with others. One therapy option that can help reduce these issues is Behavior Therapy. This form of therapy attempts to help change a child’s behavior through practical assistance such as helping children complete their homework or by working through emotionally challenging situations. It also helps children control their own behavior by rewarding desired actions and providing negative feedback for unwanted behaviors. Behavior therapy helps parents, family members, and teachers approach difficult situations by learning certain behavior-changing strategies. Specifically, as parents, you can participate in your child’s behavior therapy by creating routines and trying to stay organized. Use of a goals and rewards system to reinforce positive behaviors, and timeouts or a removal of privileges to discipline your child, is also part of this type of therapy. It may also be valuable to help your child avoid distractions, such as television, when trying to focus on other activities and also to limit choices to avoid overstimulation.
  • : CBT is a form of psychotherapy that is geared toward older children. It allows them to talk and work with a therapist in order to identify troublesome issues and learn ways to appropriately deal with symptoms of ADHD.
  • : Children with ADHD often need support and guidance from parents and teachers to overcome hardships and reach their potential. Many times parents may not feel fully equipped to help their child. Parenting skills training can help you develop methods to understand and guide your child’s behavior. It teaches parents how to use a system of rewards and consequences to encourage certain behaviors and how to enjoy relaxing activities with their child. Additionally, parenting skills training can be useful for learning effective stress-management techniques for dealing with certain behaviors.
  • : It can sometimes be very stressful when a family member has ADHD. Therapists can help the whole family in finding the best methods for coping with troublesome behavior and encouraging positive change.

Medication

Medication can be an important part of a child’s treatment and can help children deal with ADHD in their everyday life. The most appropriate course of action likely combines behavioral therapy with medication. The most commonly used medications for ADHD are stimulant drugs. Many children with ADHD have an imbalance of key chemicals in the brain, or neurotransmitters, that serve to regulate emotion, thoughts, and actions. These drugs affect neurotransmitters in the brain to increase or balance out their levels which can sometimes significantly improve inattention and hyperactivity. The right dose will most likely vary from child to child and it may take a while to find out what works best for your child. Stimulant medications come in different forms such as patches, capsules, pills, or as a liquid. In addition, these drugs are available in short-acting and long-acting varieties. Some specific examples of stimulant medication include:

  • methylphenidate (Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, etc.)
  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • amphetamine (Adderall)
  • lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)

Other medications that have been used to treat ADHD include:

  • atomoxetine (Strattera)

And antidepressants such as:

  • bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • desipramine (Norpramin)

Both atomoxetine and antidepressants may be good choices if your child is unable to take stimulants, but take longer to take effect.

A common concern parents may have is whether or not stimulant medications are safe for their children. There is no evidence that these medications may lead to substance abuse in children who use the drug for appropriate reasons and are considered safe under the right medical supervision. The down side to stimulant drugs are side effects that include:

  • Decreased Appetite
  • Sleep Problems
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Other, less common, side effects may include personality changes or repetitive motions called tics. It is important to speak with your doctor if your child experiences these rare side effects.

It is extremely important that your child receives the right amount of medication at the right time and that the medication does not fall into the wrong hands. Here are some measures that can be taken to make sure your child’s medication is safe:

  • Make sure your child is properly supervised when taking his/her ADHD medication
  • Keep medication locked in a childproof container at home
  • Do not give your child the medication to take to school. Instead, send it directly to the school health office or nurseand have them administer it to your child when needed.

Alternative Treatments

Many parents may consider using alternative medicine sources for their child; however, there is little evidence supporting these methods. If you are interested in pursuing alternative interventions, make sure to first speak with your child’s doctor. Alternative treatments can include the following:

  • : Yoga routines and relaxation techniques may help your child relax and learn self-control to manage his/her ADHD symptoms.
  • : Although there is no research to prove a link between certain diets and a reduction in ADHD symptoms, some people promote diets that eliminate certain foods believed to increase hyperactivity like sugar, caffeine and food dyes.
  • : Some people suggest adding vitamin and mineral supplements or even fatty acid supplements (such as omega-3 oils) to improve brain function and help with ADHD. There is no scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of this method but some parents feel that it has helped.

Working with your child’s school

Your child’s school may have special programs for children with ADHD and it is important to take advantage of these opportunities. Federal law mandates that schools provide extra support to children with disabilities that impact their learning. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, children can receive additional services such as changes in classroom setup, curriculum adjustments, study skills instruction, and more.

It may also be helpful to maintain constant communication with your child’s teachers. Share with them any skills and tips you have learned in helping your child deal with ADHD. Make sure teachers provide clear instructions for assignments and give positive feedback to help your child cope with self-esteem issues and manage his/her ADHD.

Next Steps

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