For kids: Non-medicinal treatments for ADHD

Non-medicine treatments for children with ADHD

Many parents search for a way to help their child with treatments for ADHD by using something other than medications like Adderall, Ritalin or Concerta.

The good news is that several types of non-medicine treatments have been successfully used for children with ADHD, and include things like parental behavior training, psychosocial therapy, and school-based programs.

When choosing a treatment plan, though, remember that it’s common for children to have more than one learning and/or emotional problem. ADHD may be just one of these problems. That’s why it is important to get a full evaluation from your doctor before deciding on treatment.

From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), here are some ideas.

Parental Behavior Training
  • non-medical treatments for adhd in childrenParental behavior training programs teach parents better ways to help their child or teen.
  • Often, parents and their child attend behavior training sessions together.
  • Usually one of the first things the programs focus on is creating a healthy bond between the parents and the child.
  • Programs teach parents how to understand their child’s behavior. Parents learn skills to help their child avoid behavior problems before they start.
  • Parents can learn how to organize tasks in a way that makes it easier for their child or teen to complete them.
  • Parental behavior training programs teach parents how to create a system of rewards and consequences.
  • Program sessions usually take place in an office, and there may be weekly sessions for several weeks or months.
  • These programs usually charge a fee. Some of these costs may be covered by your insurance.
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Psychosocial Therapy as treatments for ADHD
  • A trained therapist can talk with your child and other family members about controlling behaviors and emotions and improving social skills.
  • Therapy sessions usually take place in an office. The therapist may suggest weekly sessions for several weeks, months, or years, depending on the child’s needs.
  • Therapists usually charge a fee for each hour of therapy. Some of these costs may be covered by your insurance.
School-Based Programs
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to offer special education services to the children who qualify. Children with ADHD are often included.
  • Education specialists at schools help students with ADHD succeed in learning and academics. They can work with the child, the parents, and teachers to make adjustments to the classroom, learning activities, or homework assignments.
  • An individual education plan (IEP) is created with education specialists, teachers, and parents. The IEP outlines the actions taken at the school to help the child succeed. These plans are reviewed at the end of the year and should be passed on to the child’s next teacher.
  • These services may be free of charge for families living within the school district.
What does research say about non-medicine treatments?

Researchers found that:

  • Helping parents acquire new skills to help improve their child’s behavior (parental behavior training) reduces ADHD symptoms and disruptive behavior disorders in children under 6 with ADHD.
    • Improvements in disruptive behavior lasted as long as 2 years in some studies.
    • Parents who attend more parental behavior training sessions see more improvement in their child’s behavior.
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There is not enough research to know:

  • If combining more than one type of non-medicine treatment helps treat preschoolers with disruptive behavior disorders or ADHD.
  • If behavioral or psychosocial therapy alone works beyond 12 months to improve ADHD in children 6 and older.
  • If parental behavior training or school-based programs improve ADHD symptoms for more than 12 months in children 6 and older.




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