Treatment depends on the age of your child. Children ages 4 to 5 years are treated first with behavior therapy. Your child's doctor will talk to you about medicine if your child's symptoms do not improve. Children ages 6 to 11 years are treated with medicine or behavior therapy or both. Children ages 12 to 18 years are treated with medicine and usually also with behavior therapy.
Behavioral therapy helps train parents, teachers, and other adults responsible for a child who has ADHD. These programs focus on establishing routines and rules for behavior and closely watching how a child responds.
The adult consistently delivers rewards or consequences depending upon how the child complies with the rules. This type of treatment has been shown to be more effective than cognitive-behavioral therapy. Cognitive-based therapies depend more upon the child to self-direct changes in behavior. A child with ADHD isn't likely to have the skills to change his or her behavior without help and guidance from adults.
Behavioral programs most often used to help treat ADHD in a child include:
- Behavior management. Time-out and reward systems can help a child who has ADHD learn appropriate behaviors for the classroom and home. Parents learn behavior management skills during a series of 6 to 12 counseling sessions of 1 to 2 hours a week.
- Social skills training. These techniques help the child learn to be less aggressive and impulsive. Children learn to manage anger and behave in a more socially acceptable way.
- Counseling, including family therapy. All household members can benefit from learning how to deal effectively with ADHD behavior.
Complementary medicine is used by some therapists and other health professionals. These therapies have not been proven effective in treating ADHD. But a person with ADHD may benefit. For example, acupuncture or biofeedback may help relieve stress and muscle tension and improve a person's overall well-being and quality of life.
If you are thinking about using complementary therapy for ADHD, be open with your doctor about the subject. He or she can help direct you to a method that is safe to use in combination with proven techniques. Only those therapies that best help control ADHD symptoms without causing physical or emotional harm should be used.