attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually first appear during the early elementary school years. Many children, however, show signs of ADHD in preschool. Although there are many different treatments for ADHD..." /> attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually first appear during the early elementary school years. Many children, however, show signs of ADHD in preschool. Although there are many different treatments for ADHD..." />

Which Treatment Is Most Effective for Preschoolers with ADHD?

Symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) usually first appear during the early elementary school years. Many children, however, show signs of ADHD in preschool. Although there are many different treatments for ADHD, including behavioral, training, and cognitive, one of the most common approaches is pharmacological. But for preschool-aged children, the side effects and negative outcomes often outweigh the benefits of medication. Addressing the symptoms and behavior associated with ADHD as early as possible can have many benefits for the child and family. Therefore, it is imperative that effective non-pharmacological approaches be identified.

Estrella Rajway of the Department of Psychology at the University of New York attempted to do just that in a recent study. Rajway reviewed 29 separate studies on various treatments for ADHD in preschoolers, including teacher training, parent training, child training, diet manipulation, acupuncture, supplemental diet aids, and multimodal approaches. She found that the least effective and least studied approaches were acupuncture, diet manipulation, and nutritional supplements. Although there were some modest improvements in the behavior of the children studied, these methods did not address parent and teacher outcomes. There was also very little evidence supporting their effectiveness.

Behavioral parent training (BPT) emerged as the most effective approach for treating ADHD in preschoolers. This strategy teaches parents how to change their reactions to behavior and how to set rewards and punishments. The results of this analysis showed that BPT improved child aggression, noncompliance, and parental mental health. The children also exhibited less hyperactivity and impulsivity. More importantly, these effects were maintained over the course of a year.

Rajway believes clinicians, teachers, and especially parents should focus on issues that impair daily functioning in children with ADHD, specifically peer and family relations, academic performance, and behavior problems. “As such, focusing on improving impairment, rather than just ADHD symptoms per se, should result in a greater likelihood of altering the often poor trajectories of youth with ADHD,” she said. Other methods of treatment, including multimodal approaches and child training, appear to be somewhat promising, but more research needs to be done. Overall, the results of this study clearly show that medication is not the only form of effective treatment available for young children with ADHD and that many alternative approaches exist that can drastically improve the quality of life for these children and their families.

Rajwan, Estrella, Anil Chacko, and Moshe Moeller. Nonpharmacological interventions for preschool ADHD: State of the evidence and implications for practice. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice 43.5 (2012): 520-26. Print.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jean Nystrom

    December 10th, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    This is heartfelt material. I turned from the medications when I saw the effects they were having on my child and turned to the neurofeedback/edufeedback platform called playattention. Parents and teachers do need the training to deal with this different nature. I have seen great success and yes, I am now my daughter’s behavior coach, teacher and best friend!

  • Jeni

    December 10th, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    I love this concept of finally someone looking toward the parents and the things that we can modify and change to help the kids! It is an awful lot of pressure to always place the full brunt of change upon the kids. We are adults, we can take it, and I think that this is such a valuable lesson for us to begin looking at the things that we can do to help our own children when faced with these situations. I am not saying that the kids don’t eventually have to make some changes too, but when they are this young, the more that we can take off of their shoulders, then I think the better equipped they will be to handle it when it their turn. And it will feel like a team effort, changes that we were able to make together.

  • regis

    December 11th, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    shoving meds down our children’s throats is something that has concerned me in the past.but this study is like music to the ears!

    meds should be avoided for children as far as possible.when a certain disorder is diagnosed I think the no-meds theory would figure quite low on the priority list of parents because their primary concern would be to go for whatever treatment works.but to have both the factors complimenting each other would be great!

  • massey

    December 11th, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    Just how pervant is ADHD among preschoolers? Because it seems like not a lot of them would be diagnoses so soon even if they have the condition.

    Also,do our present learning methods help identify an further help those with such a disorder once they step into school? If we could have it designed and integrated within the learning system then it would go a long way in solving so many problems for little children to get over their disorder.

  • Jean Nystrom

    December 13th, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    The platform I use was developed by teachers for teachers, parents and individuals with ADD/ADHD and I truly believe that this is why it has been a success with my daughter, my family and myself.

  • M.

    December 14th, 2012 at 6:43 AM

    This article is great. I believe that this could work for some, but it doesnt address other issues that some ADHD children have, for example ticks and involuntery motor movements. My daughter was diagnosed at 3 with sever case of ADHD. We tried therapy, changes to her diet, books, parenting courses, you name it we tried it out of hope.
    This article seems to address the cases which are mild. I am all for no meds for young children.

  • Jean Nystrom

    December 14th, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    My daughter does not have the “wiggles” anymore I believe it could have been a result of the medication but cannot verify that. An extremely sad day for all of us and the people of Newton, CT. It is horrific and makes me realize how simple my life really is.

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