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How Effective Are the Treatment Options for Children with ADHD?

Provided by the New England Comparative Effectiveness Public Advisory Council (CEPAC), based on their Action Guide for ADHD.

Health experts estimate that ADHD affects between 6 and 16 percent of children in the U.S. — that's at least 5 million kids ages 4 to 17 years. More than 2.5 times as many boys have a diagnosis of ADHD as girls, and children from lower income families are at nearly double the risk than those from higher income households. The following is a guide to help parents understand ADHD treatment options for children preschool-age and up, based on CEPAC's review of treatment options outlined in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ's) ADHD report. Also check out these 6 action steps for parents of children with ADHD.

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ADHD treatment options, mother and son working together

Parent-Behavior Training

Parent-behavior training involves individual or group training sessions, which typically track progress through a training manual. Sessions generally last one to two hours per week over a treatment course of 8 to 20 weeks. The main objectives include management of problem behaviors and fostering of positive and caring parent-child relationships. While programs differ somewhat in their approach, all of them utilize rewards and non-punitive (punishment-free) tools to modify child behavior. Manual-based programs include the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program®, The Incredible Years® parenting program, and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy.

CEPAC's Stance on Parent-Behavior Training:

  • Parent-behavior training is effective in improving the outcomes of preschoolers (children ages 4 and 5) with ADHD and is an appropriate first-line treatment for most preschoolers. (Medications may still be appropriate as a first-line therapy for preschoolers with severe symptoms or certain psychological conditions.)
  • For children over age 6 with ADHD, there is not enough evidence to indicate parent-behavior training is beneficial in the long-term.

Next: Medication


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