ADHD: Behavioral Treatment
Behavioral therapy and counseling can play a key role in treatment for children with ADHD, addressing both the symptoms – like restlessness or a lack of focus – as well as the related issues that may arise in relationships with family members, peers, and authority figures like teachers, school administrators or coaches.
Behavioral therapy and counseling, which can be provided by a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or other licensed mental health care professional, can also help with some of the other conditions that sometimes coincide with ADHD, like anxiety disorder, depression or other mood disorders. Because research has shown that behavioral therapy can be quite helpful to children with ADHD, it’s a good idea to begin treatment as soon as your child has been diagnosed with ADHD.
Counseling options may include:
Behavior therapy: This may include a system of rewards and time outs implemented by parents, teachers and caregivers to encourage good behavior and discourage inappropriate behavior.
Psychotherapy: This provides an opportunity for kids to speak with a mental health professional about concerns and issues, to explore their behavioral patterns and consider new ways to cope with their impulses, emotions and other symptoms.
Family therapy: This may provide the entire family with the tools to better understand, guide and cope with the behavior of a child or sibling with ADHD.
Parent skills training: This provides parents with specific tools and methods to help their child cope with the symptoms and stresses of ADHD.
Social skills training: This focuses specifically on helping a child learn how to behave appropriately in social settings.
Support groups: These may offer children, parents and family members information and support from other children, parents and families dealing with the symptoms of ADHD.
How you can help with your child’s behavioral therapy:
Stick to a reliable routine: Create a sense of structure and stability (and make sure your child is well fed and rested) by following a schedule with a set bedtime, wake-up time and mealtimes.
Stay organized: Help your child keep track of his school supplies, homework, clothes and toys by keeping them in set places.
Minimize distractions: Keep TV, radio and computer use to a minimum, especially when your child is trying to focus on something else, such as homework or chores.
Minimize choices: Don’t overwhelm your child with too many options, but do provide a sense of autonomy and control by offering a choice between two options when it comes to meals, toys, outfits or activities.
Give clear, concise directions: Your child may not respond best to long explanations, complicated rationales and nuanced requests. Keep your requests and directions clear and concise and your expectations consistent.
Come up with a clear, realistic system of goals and rewards: Some parents like to use charts to track positive behavior and allow their children to work towards realistic, achievable goals that can then be rewarded. It’s a good way to keep your child focused on progress and to celebrate his or her successes.
Make sure actions have appropriate consequences: Don’t freak out when your child misbehaves, but do make sure he or she knows that his behavior is inappropriate and that inappropriate behavior has consequences. Try not to yell and don’t spank. Instead, employ time outs and the denial of privileges; these discipline methods can be extremely effective, especially when you make clear to your child how he or she has misbehaved and how he or she should behave in similar situations in the future.
Find areas in which your child can excel: Reinforce your child’s sense of self-esteem by finding an activity he or she does well: sports, art, music, dancing, crafts. Group activities (like team sports) can also help your child’s relationships with peers and social skills.