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Treatment for Children with ADHD Finding the Best Treatment for Your Child’s Attention Deficit Disorder Treatment for ADHD isn’ PDF

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Treatment for Children with ADHD
Finding the Best Treatment for Your Child’s Attention
Deficit Disorder

Treatment for ADHD isn’t just about taking medication. There are many other effective
treatments that can help kids with ADHD improve their ability to pay attention, control
impulsive behavior, and curb hyperactivity. Nutritious meals, play and exercise, and
learning better social skills are all part of a balanced treatment plan that can improve
performance at school, improve your child’s relationships with others, and decrease stress
and frustration.

ADHD treatment: Medication isn’t the only answer
Stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall are often prescribed for attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), but they might not be the best option for your
child—and they’re certainly not the only treatment.
Medications for ADHD may help your child concentrate better or sit still, at least in the
short term. But to date, there is little evidence that they improve school achievement,
relationships, or behavioral issues over the long term. And even in the short term,
medication won’t solve all problems or completely eliminate the symptoms of ADHD.
Furthermore, there are concerns about the effects these powerful drugs may have on a
child’s developing brain. And the side effects—such as irritability, loss of appetite, and
insomnia—can also be problematic.
The bottom line: medication is a tool, not a cure.
Everyone responds differently to ADHD medication. Some children experience
dramatic improvement while others experience little to no relief. The side effects also differ
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professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

from child to child and, for some, they far outweigh the benefits. Because everyone
responds differently, finding the right medication and dose takes time.
Medication for ADHD is more effective when combined with other treatments. Your
child will get much more out of your medication if he or she is also taking advantage of
other treatments that teach new coping skills.
ADHD medication should always be closely monitored. Medication treatment for ADHD
involves more than just taking a pill and forgetting about it. Your child’s doctor will need to
monitor side effects, keep tabs on how your child is feeling, and adjust the dosage
accordingly. When medication for ADHD is not carefully monitored, it is less effective and
more risky.
If you choose to put your child on medication, that doesn’t mean he or she has to
stay on it forever. Although it isn’t safe to bounce off and on any drug repeatedly, you can
safely decide to stop treating your child’s ADHD with medication if things aren’t going well.
If you want your child to stop taking medication, be sure to let your doctor know your plans
and work with them to taper off the drugs slowly.

ADHD treatment starts at home
As a parent, you have a huge influence over your child’s treatment. Evidence shows that
eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and making other smart daily choices can
help your child manage the symptoms of ADHD. That means your child can begin treatment
for ADHD today—at home.

The power of exercise in the treatment of ADHD

The benefits of “green time”
Studies show that spending time in nature can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.
Encourage your child to play outside for at least 30 minutes each day, if possible.
Exercising is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin
levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise and medications for
ADHD such as Ritalin and Adderall work similarly. But unlike ADHD medication, exercise
doesn’t require a prescription and it’s free of side effects.
Activities that require close attention to body movements, such as dance, gymnastics,
martial arts, and skateboarding, are particularly good for kids with ADHD. Team sports are

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professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

also a good choice. The social element keeps them interesting.

The importance of sleep in ADHD treatment
Regular quality sleep can lead to vast improvement in the symptoms of ADHD. However,
many kids with ADHD have problems getting to sleep at night. Sometimes, these sleep
difficulties are due to stimulant medications, and decreasing the dose or stopping the
medication entirely will solve the problem.
However, a large percentage of children with ADHD who are not taking stimulants also have
sleep difficulties. If your child is one of them, the following tips can help.
Set a regular bedtime (and enforce it).
If background noise keeps your child up, try a sound machine or a fan.
Turn off all electronics (TV, computer, video games, iPhone) at least an hour before
bed.
Limit physical activity in the evening.

Good nutrition can help reduce ADHD symptoms
Studies show that what, and when, you eat makes a difference when it comes to managing
ADHD.
Schedule regular meals or snacks no more than three hours apart. This will help
keep your child’s blood sugar steady, minimizing irritability and supporting concentration
and focus.
Try to include a little protein and complex carbohydrates at each meal or snack.
These foods will help your child feel more alert while decreasing hyperactivity.
Check your child’s zinc, iron, and magnesium levels. Many children with ADHD are
low in these important minerals. Boosting their levels may help control ADHD symptoms.
Increasing iron may be particularly helpful. One study found that an iron supplement
improved symptoms almost as much as taking stimulant medication.
Add more omega-3 fatty acids to your child’s diet. Studies show that omega-3s reduce
hyperactivity and impulsivity and enhance concentration in kids (and adults) with ADHD.
Omega-3s are found in salmon, tuna, sardines, and some fortified eggs and milk products.
However, the easiest way to boost your child’s intake is through fish oil supplements.

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professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Professional treatment for ADHD
Although there are many ways you can help a child with ADHD at home, you may want to
seek professional help along the way. ADHD specialists can help you develop an effective
treatment plan for your child. Since ADHD responds best to a combination of treatments
and strategies, consulting several specialists is advisable.
To find ADHD treatment providers, you may want to contact your primary care physician,
your child’s pediatrician, local hospitals, or clinics. Other sources for provider references
include your insurance company, officials at your child’s school, or a local parent support
group.
Child and adolescent psychiatrists:
Diagnose ADHD and prescribe medications
Psychologists:
Diagnose ADHD and provide talk therapy
Help people with ADHD explore their feelings
Cognitive-behavioral therapists:
Set up behavioral modification programs at school, work, and home
Establish concrete goals for behavior and achievement
Help families and teachers maintain rewards and consequences
Educational specialists:
Teach techniques for succeeding in school
Help children obtain accomodations from school
Advise families about assistive technology

Behavioral therapy for ADHD
Behavioral therapy, also known as behavior modification, has been shown to be a very
successful treatment for children with ADHD. It is especially beneficial as a co-treatment for
children who take stimulant medications and may even allow you to reduce the dosage of
the medication.
Behavior therapy involves reinforcing desired behaviors through rewards and praise and
decreasing problem behaviors by setting limits and consequences. For example, one
intervention might be that a teacher rewards a child who has ADHD for taking small steps
HelpGuide.org Reprint
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professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

toward raising a hand before talking in class, even if the child still blurts out a comment.
The theory is that rewarding the struggle toward change encourages the full new behavior.

Behavior Therapy for ADHD in Children
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are three basic principles to any
behavior therapy approach:
1. Set specific goals. Set clear goals for your child such as staying focused on
homework for a certain time or sharing toys with friends.
2. Provide rewards and consequences. Give your child a specified reward (positive
reinforcement) when he or she shows the desired behavior. Give your child a
consequence (unwanted result or punishment) when he or she fails to meet a goal.
3. Keep using the rewards and consequences. Using the rewards and consequences
consistently for a long time will shape your child’s behavior in a positive way.
As parents, you can set up a customized behavioral modification program for your child who
has ADHD with the help of a behavioral specialist such as a cognitive-behavioral therapist. A
cognitive-behavioral therapist focuses on practical solutions to everyday issues. This kind of
therapist can set up a behavioral modification program of rewards and consequences for
your child at home and at school and support you in shaping your child’s behavior.
Patience is key with behavioral therapy, since people with ADHD are notoriously variable in
their symptoms. One day, your child may behave beautifully, and the next, fall back into old
patterns. Sometimes it may seem as if the training is not working. However, over time,
behavioral treatment does improve the symptoms of ADHD.

Social skills training
Because kids with attention deficit disorder often have difficulty with simple social
interactions and struggle with low self-esteem, another type of treatment that can help is
social skills training. Normally conducted in a group setting, social skills training is led by a
therapist who demonstrates appropriate behaviors and then has the children practice
repeating them. A social skills group teaches children how to “read” others’ reactions and
how to behave more acceptably. The social skills group should also work on transferring
these new skills to the real world.
For a social skills group near you, ask for a referral from your school psychologist or a local
mental health clinic.

HelpGuide.org Reprint
©Helpguide.org. All rights reserved. The content of this reprint is for informational purposes only and NOT a substitute for
professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Tips for supporting your child’s ADHD treatment
Children with ADHD often have trouble translating what they’ve learned from one setting to
another. For instance, they may have learned how to control impulsive outbursts at school,
but impatiently interrupt others at home.
In order to encourage positive change in all settings, children with ADHD need consistency.
It is important that parents of children with ADHD learn how to apply behavioral therapy
techniques at home. Children with ADHD are more likely to succeed in completing tasks
when the tasks occur in predictable patterns and in predictable places, so that they know
what to expect and what they are supposed to do.
Follow a routine. It is important to set a time and a place for everything to help a child
with ADHD understand and meet expectations. Establish simple and predictable rituals for
meals, homework, play, and bed.
Use clocks and timers. Consider placing clocks throughout the house, with a big one in
your child’s bedroom. Allow plenty of time for what your child needs to do, such as
homework or getting ready in the morning.
Simplify your child’s schedule. Avoiding idle time is a good idea, but a child with ADHD
may become even more distracted and “wound up” if there are too many after-school
activities.
Create a quiet place. Make sure your child has a quiet, private space of his or her own. A
porch or bedroom can work well—as long as it’s not the same place as the child goes for a
time-out.
Set an example for good organization. Set up your home in an organized way. Make sure
your child knows that everything has its place. Role-model neatness and organization as
much as possible.

The importance of praise
As you establish a consistent structure and routine, keep in mind that children with ADHD
often receive criticism. Be on the lookout for good behavior—and praise it. Praise is
especially important for children who have ADHD because they typically get so little of it. A
smile, positive comment, or other reward from you can improve your child’s attention,
concentration, and impulse control. Do your best to focus on giving positive praise for
appropriate behavior and task completion, while giving as few negative responses as
possible to inappropriate behavior or poor task performance. Reward your child for small
achievements—these will lead to bigger successes down the road.
HelpGuide.org Reprint
©Helpguide.org. All rights reserved. The content of this reprint is for informational purposes only and NOT a substitute for
professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Recommended reading
My Child Has Been Diagnosed with ADHD: Now What? – A parent’s guide to the treatment
options. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Treatments for ADHD – Includes descriptions of various types of ADHD treatments and
therapies. (MyADHD.com)
Exercise and the ADHD Brain – Exercise as a treatment for ADHD. (ADDitude)
Train The Brain: Using Neurofeedback To Treat ADHD (NPR)

Authors: Jocelyn Block, M.A., and Melinda Smith, M.A. Last updated: October 2018.

HelpGuide.org Reprint
©Helpguide.org. All rights reserved. The content of this reprint is for informational purposes only and NOT a substitute for
professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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