ADHD Diagnoses Among Preschoolers Have Stabilized

And it looks like we have the AAP's 2011 recommendation that behavior therapy be the first-line therapy to thank.

child holding ADHD sign
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One in every three children diagnosed with ADHD is diagnosed during the preschool years. But according to a new study published in the December issue of Pediatrics, it looks like the rate of diagnosis may now be leveling off.

Researchers looked at the changes in ADHD diagnosis in kids ages 4 to 5 between 2008 and 2014, and found that the increasing rate of diagnosis has stabilized and the rate of prescribing stimulants remained constant, following the 2011 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that behavior therapy—not meds—be the first-line therapy.

"Behavior therapy helps parents develop strategies to manage problematic behaviors," study author Alexander G. Fiks, M.D., MSCE, associate professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, explained to "Evidence suggests that it can be very effective in preschool-age children."

But it all hinges, he added, on parental engagement. Parents play a central role in behavior therapy programs, he explained. "They definitely need to be highly involved."

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Which means learning how to manage your child's behavior. "You may meet regularly with a counselor, psychologist, or therapist," Dr. Fiks told us. "You and your child will learn how to build a system that rewards good behavior at home and school. Children may get rewards for finishing homework or following directions. These may include praise, attention from you, and privileges. You may also learn how to manage problem behaviors. For example, you may take away privileges. If your child loses control, you may send him or her to a quiet room."

Psychologists, social workers, and licensed counselors can provide this kind of training to parents. In order to find the right program for your child, Dr. Fiks suggests talking to your pediatrician. Or click here to view an online provider directory.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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