If your child has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD, ADHD) chances are, your physician has discussed or prescribed ADD drugs. You may also have learned that behavioral therapy, also called behavior modification, may be helpful. As you try to figure out the best treatment for your child, bear in mind that these two therapies are not mutually exclusive options. In fact, they often work best together in solving ADHD behavior problems.
This is clearly shown by the landmark National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD. NIMH found that medication therapy alone, and medication and behavioral therapy together, resulted in the greatest improvement in children's ADHD symptoms. In addition, the combination treatment worked best in improving ADHD-associated oppositional behaviors, as well as other areas of functioning, like interactions with parents and school.
Even if you opt for behavioral therapy alone -- you've decided on a non-medical approach, your child's too young for medication, or suffers bad side effects from it -- your child can learn behavior, social, and academic skills that will be useful in managing ADHD throughout his life. Most children don't get diagnosed until school age, so if you suspect your child has ADHD before then, it's nearly always helpful (and never harmful) to treat him behaviorally as though he has the condition.
It's about focus
What is behavior therapy, and how can a parent use it on its own or as a component of combined treatment? While medication works on a neurological level to regulate the brain (kids with ADHD often have irregular brain-wave levels), behavior therapy addresses specific problem behaviors by structuring time at home, establishing predictability and routines, and increasing positive attention.