Should Kids With ADHD Get Behavioral Therapy Before Meds?
If your child is one of the more than 4 million kids in the United States diagnosed with ADHD, chances are you've thought about starting them on Adderall or Ritalin. You also may have thought about using behavior therapy to supplement the medication. But now a new study has revealed that kids with attention-deficit problems may actually improve faster when a non-medical approach is the first treatment they receive.
For the study—which involved 146 children ages five to 12 with an ADHD diagnosis—half of the kids were randomly assigned a low dose of generic Ritalin. The other half received no medication, but their parents began using behavior-modification techniques based on a system of rewards and consequences.
- RELATED: Is Your Child's ADHD Your Fault?
Behavior therapy works by addressing specific problem behaviors through predictability, routine and increased positive attention. Good behavior—like, say, paying attention to homework for a few moments—is rewarded with a pat on the back, for example. Misbehavior, on the other hand, leads to withheld privileges or enforced time outs.
While the medication route might seem like an easy and quick fix, researchers found it was actually the behavior modification therapy that was more effective and worked faster. Meds, it turns out, work better as a supplemental treatment.
William Pelham of Florida International University, a leader of the study, told the New York Times: "The children who started with behavioral modification were doing significantly better than those who began with medication by the end, no matter what treatment combination they ended up with."
Pretty amazing findings. Could behavioral treatment be a safer, more effective alternative to medication? Researchers says more data is needed. But one thing they do know is that beginning with behavioral therapy right out of the gate is defintiely more cost effective, even if it's later followed up with medication. The study found that it cost an average of $700 less annually per child—an eye opening number for the many parents of children regularly prescribed meds as an initial treatment.
I think this article is overly simplistic and doesn't mention symptoms to screen for. Some ADHD children are not disruptive or figity in class but daydream and doodle more than their peers. This article also doesn't take into account the diagnosises that often accompany ADHD like depression and anxiety. Some children aren't even diagnosed until middle school when school becomes harder and symptoms of ADHD become more apparent. Some children will already by that time have started behaviors like avoidance, defiance, inward criticism and feelings of shame and feeling like 'other'. It is important to educate parents of what ADHD actually looks like in reality.Read More