About half of young children 2 to 5 years of age receiving care for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not receiving psychological services, including the recommended treatment of behavior therapy, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report.
The report urges healthcare providers to refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy before prescribing medicine to treat the disorder.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends healthcare providers first refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy before trying medicine.
With the support of healthcare providers and therapists, parents can become trained in behavior therapy. Behavior therapy can work as well as medicine. Both behavior therapy and medicine work for about 70-80% of young children with ADHD.
However, only about 40-50 percent of young children with ADHD received psychological services. This percentage has not increased over time. ADHD medicine can cause side effects, such as poor appetite, stomach aches, irritability, sleep problems, and slowed growth. The long-term effects of ADHD medicine on young children are not known.
Behavior therapy can take more time, effort, and resources than medicine and can be longer lasting.
Parents do not cause ADHD, but parents do play a key role in the treatment of ADHD. In behavior therapy, parents are trained by a therapist over the course of eight or more sessions, and they learn strategies to encourage positive behavior, discourage negative behaviors, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship with their child.
When applied, these skills can help the child at school, at home, and in relationships by improving behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. Learning and practicing behavior therapy requires more time, effort, and resources than treating ADHD with medicine, yet the lasting benefits make it worth the investment.
CDC is calling on doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals who treat young children with ADHD to support parents by explaining the benefits of behavior therapy and refer parents for training in behavior therapy. This report recommends that healthcare providers
- Follow clinical guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in young children.
- Discuss with parents the benefits of behavior therapy and why they should get training.
- dentify parent training providers in the area and refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy first, before prescribing medicine.
- Talk with their child’s healthcare provider about the benefits of being trained in behavior therapy for their young child with ADHD.
- Learn and use these strategies to support their young child with ADHD.