Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle to stay still, concentrate and control their impulses. These symptoms can vary from one child to the next. And they can affect kids at home, at school and with friends.
If you’re looking for ways to help your child with ADHD, you have options. A number of different treatments, therapies and strategies can help kids with ADHD. In many cases, a combination of approaches is most effective.
Are there medications to help kids with ADHD?
Medication is often part of the treatment plan for kids with ADHD. For many kids, ADHD medications help to decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve focus. Many kids with ADHD also have anxiety. For those kids, anti-anxiety medication may be helpful.
Whether to include medication in your child’s treatment plan is a personal decision. Your child’s doctor will work with you to find the medication that works best for your child. When a medication works well, kids may be more able to succeed in other aspects of a treatment plan.
What types of therapy and intervention can help kids with ADHD?
Kids and families affected by ADHD often find it helpful to work with a psychologist or other mental health professional. It’s important to base the type of therapy you choose on what your child and family need. Here are some options.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: In cognitive behavioral therapy, your child can learn to be aware of and keep track of his behavior. Being able to recognize his behavior can help him to learn to think before acting impulsively. Behavioral therapy can also help your child develop practical ways to get organized and learn to control emotions. Part of therapy may involve coming up with a reward system for certain behaviors.
Social skills training: Some kids with ADHD struggle with social skills. For example, they may have trouble making friends. Or they may not act or speak appropriately in social situations. Some kids do well in social skills groups in which they learn appropriate skills with other kids. Other kids may benefit from a social thinking program. Social thinking focuses on teaching kids to recognize how they think about and react to other people. It also teaches them how their behavior affects how other people react to them.
Parenting skills training: Parenting a child with ADHD presents unique challenges. In parent skills training, a professional can help you learn more about ADHD and how it impacts the whole family. The professional can teach you different ways to deal with your child’s behavior, such as using reward systems and redirecting or ignoring unwanted behaviors. The professional may also help you learn stress-management techniques. The goal is to help the whole family interact more positively.
Parent-child interaction therapy: Some kids with ADHD exhibit defiant and disruptive behavior. Parent-child interaction therapy is a treatment for kids whose behavior causes major problems at home or at school. It’s designed for kids whose aggressive behavior is very different from what’s typical for their age.
The program works to change the interactions between parents and child and improve their relationship. Parents are taught specific skills to increase the amount of positive attention they give for behaviors they want to encourage. They also learn how to discipline undesired behaviors.
You may also see “train the brain” touted as a therapy that helps kids with ADHD. “Train the brain” programs can be educational. However, there isn’t enough evidence to support claims that it helps kids with ADHD.
What educational strategies can help kids with ADHD?
There are a number of classroom accommodations that can help kids with ADHD—such as seating a child away from windows, doors and other distractions. A 504 plan or an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can provide formalized accommodations. If your child isn’t eligible for a 504 plan or an IEP, you can talk to your child’s teacher about the possibility of informal accommodations.
A behavior intervention plan (BIP) could be helpful, too. Behavior interventions are steps teachers take to stop problem behaviors at school. A BIP outlines how teachers and the school will deal with a child’s inappropriate behavior. A BIP also explains how teachers and the school will encourage appropriate behavior. Your child may, for example, have a reward system in place to encourage more positive behaviors.
What else can help kids with ADHD?
Poor diet doesn’t cause ADHD, but a healthy diet is important for all kids. Kids who are overactive may burn a lot of calories. Making sure your child eats complex carbs (like whole grains) and protein can help him stay fueled longer. However, researchers haven’t found a reliable link between what your child eats and improving ADHD symptoms. If you’re interested, get more details on food and nutrition therapy.
Some claim that omega-3 oils could help with concentration, but there’s no solid research to back this up. Learn more about alternative and complementary treatments for kids.
If you’re looking for strategies to help a child with ADHD at home, explore tips from ADHD experts in Parenting Coach.
Not all kids with ADHD have the same symptoms or trouble spots. How does your child’s ADHD look? The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to help your child.