For the parents of a child with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, everyday tasks turn into battles—from getting the child out the door in the morning to getting him to bed at night. My son was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6, so I remember what it was like to have a daily tug of war with an attention disordered child all too well. Parents look for help everywhere. They may read one book after another and hear a parade of behavioral experts speak who give them parenting tips that don’t seem to work. The more books they read and experts they seek out, the worse their child’s behavior seems to get.
“ADHD is a ‘brain difference.’ Your child’s brain works differently than 95% of his peers. So ‘one size fits all’ parenting techniques won’t necessarily fit your child.”
In my practice and in my work with my own son, I discovered a number of techniques and strategies that can help parents of children with ADHD improve behavior. Here are 8 Secrets I have learned that can help parents improve their child’s behavior and school achievement:
A research study conducted at Nottingham University in the UK found that immediate reward in the form of points in a video game had a similar effect on brain activity as stimulant medication. Based on EEG results, the team found that both the rewards and the child’s usual dose of stimulant medication resulted in the normalization of brain regions and improved task completion though the medication yielded a slightly higher effect.
The researchers cautioned that immediate consequences in this case, reward are associated with positive effects on behavior in ADHD children. They stated that it may be difficult for parents and teachers to provide rewards immediately. However, other research shows than children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder actually respond as well or better to social reinforcement such as a smile as they do to tangible reinforcers like points, tokens or money. This means that a smile or a brief word of encouragement may achieve significant benefits and could reduce or eliminate the need for medication for some children.
Years of research and current professional guidelines indicate that behavioral interventions should be tried first before medication except of children with severe symptoms. However, many parents find it difficult to find an effective, affordable and user friendly option for behavioral interventions. Total Focus is a comprehensive behavioral program using evidence-based techniques to improve behavior, learning, self-esteem and social skills. Parents and children work together as a team to bring about real lasting change involving activities that are fun and require less than an hour per day. Total Focus costs less than one visit to a mental health professional.
I often joke that kids with ADHD would make great politicians or lawyers, because they never give up a fight! Trying to cope with a child who argues at the drop of a hat can test the patience of any sane person. Not surprisingly, over the years many parents have asked me what they can do to make the arguing stop. What you can do is help your children turn their ability to argue into a positive trait rather than a negative one.
Here’s a way to understand what’s happening in your ADHD child’s brain: Many experiences of kids with ADHD are amplified or more intense than those of average kids. So when the word “No” is heard by a child with ADHD, it registers a “10” on their emotional scale while it probably would be a “5” or less for the average kid. Quite a few of them also have a lower-than-average tolerance for any departure from what they consider to be fair, whether it’s rules for a game or requests for doing something around the house. Added to this is the fact that most of these kids are also not known for their patience or low-volume voices! Continue reading →
A recent exploratory study conducted at a private school reported in Current Issues in Education stated that the use of meditation can be beneficial to 11 to 14 year old students diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. According to the researchers, “the technique has potential to improve attention, behavior regulation, and executive function by naturally reducing stress and anxiety and improving brain functioning.”
It is encouraging to see the growing interest in and availability of funding for research dedicated to the investigation of non-medication interventions for ADHD. Actually, relaxation training has been known for some time to provide benefits, and I have been using this technique along with others since the ’80s to help kids with ADHD. When combined with parent training, behavior modification and several other evidence-based techniques, I have found that children with mild to moderate symptoms can achieve significant improvement at home and at school without medication.
Published professional guidelines recommend that children with mild to moderate symptoms receive behavioral interventions, ie, some kind of behavioral help, training or modification, prior to moving on to medication. In the MTA study conducted by the NIMH, 30% of the children in the behavioral-only group normalized after 14 months, which means they were able to function on a normal level without medication. After 3 years, all of the children in the behavioral-only group demonstrated the same improvement in symptoms as those receiving medication and those receiving a combination of medication and behavioral intervention.
Unfortunately, even with this information, the rate of inclusion of behavioral intervention has been limited due to financial and time constraints. After years of working with kids with ADD and ADHD, I developed The Total Focus Program to help parents and families learn how to manage the behaviors that come along with the disorder. It can be used with or without medication as part of a total treatment program. Whether you try Total Focus or another program, I encourage you to seek out some kind of behavioral training program for your child with ADHD.
I have long believed that behavioral therapy is the key to helping kids with ADHD. In fact, a new study on ADHD said that comprehensive behavioral therapy works as well as medication over the long haul. Also, earlier studies showed that after 14 months, 30% of the behavioral therapy group did just as well as those with medication. Of course, there are no side effects to behavioral therapy—except, perhaps, much happier parents and kids.
The results of this research show that 3 years from the start of the study, there was no difference in the amount of improvement between four different treatment methods. Three of the methods used medication alone or in combination with behavioral therapy, one used behavior therapy only. All four groups demonstrated significant improvement in symptoms, but the amount of improvement was the same for all of them. The research also showed slight reduction in predicted height and weight for those taking medication. I developed The Total Focus Program, after having worked with kids with ADHD for more than 20 years and parenting my own son with ADHD.
I think it works because it’s a comprehensive behavioral intervention package that helps both parents and kids learn to not only cope with ADHD, but to overcome it. The format makes it easier for parents and kids to work on getting the help they need into their busy schedules
In a commentary in The Boston Globe, pediatrician Claudia Meininger Gold wrote, “medication can’t fix a broken childhood.” She goes on to say, “with our over-reliance on psychoactive medication, we have created another Ponzi scheme where, just as Bernard Madoff’s investment fund was not really earning any money, we are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are helping these children in any significant way.”
Also, US News & World Report also provides in-depth coverage of this topic, starting first by citing the recent recommendation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence of the UK. They recommend the trial of behavioral intervention prior to medication for the treatment of children diagnosed with ADHD.