When you find out your child has ADHD, you can turn to a team of pros who can get them the right treatment. Each one plays a different role that helps your kid improve their behavior at school and home.
There's no one-size-fits-all remedy if your boy or girl doesn't stay focused, can't seem to sit still, or tends to be impulsive. But a group of specialists will use behavior therapy, medicine, or a combo to let your child put their best foot forward.
The same doctor that takes care of your child's overall health can treat their ADHD, too. They'll map out an action plan that's based on guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your child is 4 to 5 years old, that will likely mean behavior therapy. If they're 6 or older, medicine will also be part of it.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist
They can prescribe and manage your kid's medication. Your pediatrician can do the same, of course, but a psychiatrist is a specialist who has the expertise to closely monitor the effects of different drugs.
They'll give your child tools to manage some of their behavior and emotional problems. They'll show them ways to control angry outbursts, for instance, or stay focused in the classroom. They may also teach your child social skills, like how to wait their turn, share toys, ask for help, or respond to teasing. A psychologist can also come up with a plan to help make the child's life a bit easier in school.
A psychologist will likely use one of these types of treatment:
Behavioral therapy. The goal is to help your child change some of the ways they act. It might be helpful for some practical everyday things like trouble finishing schoolwork. Or the psychologist can show them how to work through emotionally tough events.
This kind of therapy can also teach your child to monitor their behavior. They'll learn how to praise themselves or give themselves rewards when they control their anger or think before acting.
Cognitive behavioral therapy. It uses what your child's psychologist may call "mindfulness" techniques. To help your child improve their focus and concentration, they'll find out how to become aware and more accepting of their own thoughts and feelings.
Does your child have trouble with everyday stuff like organizing their backpack or getting from one class to another on time? An occupational therapist can help. They'll evaluate your child at home and school to figure out how their ADHD affects their ability to keep up with things like assignments and regular family life. Then they'll work with your kid to help them get organized and manage their time better.
School support team
If ADHD gets in the way of your child's ability to learn, they may qualify for special accommodations under a law known as "Section 504." Their teachers and other members of the school staff can help set up an agenda called a "504 plan." It will outline changes to the lesson plans for your child, specialized teaching techniques, behavior management methods, and beefed-up parent/teacher collaboration.
A social worker may be the first member of a care team to notice symptoms of ADHD and suggest a medical evaluation. They will typically explain the reasons for such a referral as well as the possible treatment options. A social worker can sometimes help keep a child on their medication and answer questions from concerned parents. Kids in child protection services, with whom social workers are more likely to work, are three times more likely to have a diagnosis of ADHD. This could be due to a more challenging and changing home environment.
An ADHD coach can help you and your child attack the core problems caused by the disorder. They give practical advice about how to better:
- Manage time
- Set goals
- Solve problems
Coaches mostly work with college students and adults. But some coaches work with adolescents and children as well, often along with the child's parents.