The good news is that there are very effective treatments for ADHD, including medication and behavioral therapy in which children and their parents learn techniques for diminishing disruptive and impairing behaviors.
The most common medications prescribed for ADHD are psychostimulants, including methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Adderall). What these drugs stimulate the brain's production of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which activate the areas of the brain that are responsible for attention and impulse control. They serve to focus the attention and curb the impulsivity and hyperactivity of kids with ADHD.
Medicating children with ADHD is a process of trial and observation, with overwhelmingly positive results; 70 percent to 80 percent of kids have an excellent response to their first medication, and 15 percent will respond well to a second. Although 20 percent to 30 percent are not helped by medication, or experience troublesome side effects, those effects are completely reversible by ending the course of treatment.
One promising therapy for youngsters with ADHD who are prone to outbursts and other disruptive behavior is Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, which trains parents to systematically cultivate desired behaviors and minimize undesirable or disruptive ones. PCIT doesn't eliminate the core ADHD symptoms, but it has been successful in reducing stress in the family, and helping children learn to control their own behavior to enjoy more positive attention from their parents.
For a first-person account from parents of a child with ADHD who participated in PCIT, as well as more information on the disorder, go to childmind.org.
Published with permission of the Child Mind Institute, 2011.