The third part of behavioral treatment involves teaching children how to improve their interactions with other children. Social skills interventions are typically most effective when they are implemented in school or recreational settings, and the training typically needs to take place frequently for the child to learn the skills (e.g., such as through daily practice at school or in Saturday or summer therapeutic recreational programs). Besides social skills training, a new intervention called Organizational Skills Training has also been shown to improve organization, time management, and planning skills in elementary school children with ADHD.
Finally, it is important to note that individual or small group counseling sessions with children in a therapist’s office (such as “Play Therapy”) are not effective for treating child ADHD because they do not help a child practice new skills in other settings. Behavior therapy is effective because it teaches concrete skills to parents, teachers, and the children themselves.
And, a quick note: When I am providing guidance to families about how to help their child, I rely on recommendations that are backed by scientific evidence. Some great websites for finding unbiased information about interventions for children are www.Effectivechildtherapy.org and www.ChildMind.org. Treatment guidelines for ADHD in children can be found at the Center for Disease Control website (believe it or not, a great resource for parents!). Importantly, ADHD is a chronic condition and children with unmanaged ADHD are at risk for poor academic performance, greater problems (such as substance use) in adulthood, and difficulties in their relationships.
Some parents at this point may be thinking, “Gosh, that seems like a ton of work!” And they’re right that behavior therapy does require time and commitment from parents on the front end. But, once learned, the skills quickly become a more natural part of a family’s routine, and they set up a child for more success both in academics in their relationships. The extra effort on the front end can help a child overcome challenges in daily life functioning, which can be valuable in managing ADHD throughout a lifetime.
Dr. Lindsay Evans