How To Treat ADHD In Children
ADHD treatment for children becomes necessary when problems with attention mean making careless mistakes, failing to complete tasks, difficult staying organized and consistently losing things, easily becoming distracted, and so on. Problems can also include difficulty with hyperactivity, which can be characterized by extreme fidgetiness and squirminess, running or climbing when it is not appropriate, excessive talking, and being in the state of perpetual motion. Or areas of difficulty may be include impulsivity, which is demonstrated by impatience, difficulty waiting one’s turn, blurting out answers, frequent interrupting, and things such as these.
A quality ADHD treatment for children should be child-specific, individualized around the child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. The program should aim to maximize the child’s autonomy and function by improving the child’s relationships with family members, friends and peers, to better performance at school by increasing concentration and organizational abilities, promote safety by reducing the tendency to give in to impulses, to increase independence and improve self-esteem by allowing the child to operate to the best of his strengths, and to decrease disruptive behaviours such as talking out of turn or excessive fidgeting.
It is becoming increasingly clear that around 70-80% of children with ADHD will continue to exhibit significant deficits in attention and increased impulsivity relative to their peers during adolescence, and approximately 50% continue to evidence symptoms into adulthood. However, numerous studies have demonstrated that stimulant medication as a form of ADHD treatment for children has been shown to have significant benefit with approximately 80% of the children.
There are many and varied options for ADHD treatment for children:
- Medication: The most commonly prescribed medication used in ADHD treatment for children is Ritalin (the generic form is called methylphenidate); however, a number of other stimulant medications are also used including Adderall, Dexedrine, and Cylert. For children who are not helped by stimulants, or who have symptoms of depression and/or anxiety in addition to ADHD, there are various types of anti-depressant medication which have proven to be helpful.
- Behaviour Strategies and Interventions: Behavioural treatment strategies as a form of ADHD treatment for children is based on the simple truth that specific behaviours will increase or decrease depending on the consequences they produce. Thus, a parent can increase their child’s desirable behaviour by providing positive consequences when such behaviour occurs (i.e. reward). Similarly, undesirable behaviour can be reduced by making sure it results in a negative consequence (i.e. punishment). What is more, research is revealing that there are a number of brain training games that seem to be helpful in increasing focus and mental stamina in children with ADHD.
- Make Environment ADHD Friendly: Structure the environment in a way that is ADHD friendly – reduce distractions (i.e. – TV, music, people walking in and out, toys being left out, etc.) while increasing strategies for keeping attention (i.e. – break up work periods with frequent breaks, etc.) or organization (i.e. – one place to put backpack, laying out clothes the night before, etc.).
- School Support: “It takes a village to raise a child”, so don’t try and do it alone. Enlist the help of teachers or educational assistants. Figure out which programs or additional help is available that could become a valuable part of the ADHD treatment program.
- Parental Training: Be consistent. Follow through on both punishments and rewards. Keep rewards frequent and short-term; promising something on the weekend might be too far away and thus lose its value.
- Social Skills Training: As is the case, unfortunately, for many children with ADHD, part of the ADHD treatment for children may need to include a section on social skills training, thus improving relationships with peers for the child. Learning such skills as turn-taking and showing consideration for the feelings of others will enable the child to make more friendships.
- Exercise: Research is demonstrating that exercise improves the ability to learn in three ways: 1) by heightening the child’s senses, while elevating their ability to focus and improving their mood, 2) exercise helps to increase Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) which aids in learning, and 3) exercise fuels neurogenesis, which aids in making new pathways in the brain, which thereby allows the brain to learn more.
More and more research is being done on ADHD; with increased knowledge comes the increased ability to make ever more effective programs of ADHD treatment for children. With the right treatment, it is possible that a child with ADHD may grow to be indistinguishable from his or her peers, being able to capitalize on his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.