Behavior Therapy for ADHD - Topic Overview
Children and teens with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) do not
misbehave to spite their parents or other adults. Problems develop because ADHD
often causes children and teens to react impulsively and makes it difficult for
them to learn and to comply with rules.
Many children with ADHD
need behavior therapy to help them interact appropriately with others. Parent
training in these techniques usually takes 8 to 10 counseling sessions for 1 to
2 hours a week.
Behavior therapy is not meant to treat
inattention, overactivity, or impulsivity. But it can help with some of the
behavior problems that go along with ADHD, such as not getting along well with
others or not obeying rules.
For children with ADHD who are
younger than age 18, behavior therapy typically involves two basic
- Encouraging good behavior through praise or
rewards. Praise for good behavior should immediately follow the
natural and logical consequences for negative
Preschool-age children (5 and younger)
- Be aware of your child's need for routine and
structure. Warn him or her beforehand if something out of the ordinary is
expected, such as taking a different route home from the grocery store. Even
small changes in a normal routine can upset your child.
- Tell your
child exactly what you expect from him or her before activities or events
throughout the day. For example, when you plan to go grocery shopping, make
sure your child knows that he or she is going to sit in the cart or hold your
hand. Also, let your child know before you go in the store specifically what
items, if any, he or she will be able to pick out.
- Use a system to
reward your child for positive behavior, such as token jars or sticker charts.
After accumulating a certain number of tokens or stickers, plan a special
activity for your child, such as going to the park.
- Use a timer to
help your child anticipate a change in activities and to keep him or her on
task. Set a certain amount of time for activities, such as coloring. Tell your
child that when the timer goes off, that activity will be over and specify what
will happen next (for example, "When the timer goes off, we will be finished
coloring and then take a bath"). Also, you can use the timer for chores,
such as picking up toys. If your child finishes the task in the allotted time,
you can use the token or sticker reward system.
- Participate with
your child in activities that build attention skills, such as puzzles, reading,