Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the outlook for most children who receive treatment for ADHD is encouraging. There is no specific cure for ADHD, but there are many treatment options available.
Each child's treatment must be tailored to meet his individual needs.
In most cases, treatment for ADHD should include:
- A long-term management plan with
- Target outcomes for behavior
- Follow-up activities
- Education about ADHD
- Teamwork among doctors, parents, teachers, caregivers, other health care professionals, and the child
- Behavior therapy including parent training
- Individual and family counseling
Treatment for ADHD uses the same principles that are used to treat other chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes. Long-term planning is needed because these conditions are not cured. Families must manage them on an ongoing basis. In the case of ADHD, schools and other caregivers must also be involved in managing the condition.
Educating the people involved about ADHD is a key part of treating your child. As a parent, you will need to learn about ADHD. Read about the condition and talk with people who understand it. This will help you manage the ways ADHD affects your child and your family on a day-to-day basis. It will also help your child learn to help himself.
Setting target outcomes
At the beginning of treatment, your pediatrician should help you set around 3 target outcomes (goals) for your child's behavior. These target outcomes will guide the treatment plan. Your child's target outcomes should focus on helping her function as well as possible at home, at school, and in your community. You need to identify what behaviors are most preventing your child from success.
Here are examples of target outcomes:
- Improved relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, and friends (e.g., fewer arguments with brothers or sisters or being invited more frequently to friends' houses or parties)
- Better schoolwork (e.g., completing class work or homework assignments)
- More independence in self-care or homework (e.g., getting ready for school in the morning without supervision)
- Improved self-esteem (e.g., increase in feeling that she can get her work done)
- Fewer disruptive behaviors (e.g., decrease in the number of times she refuses to obey rules)
- Safer behavior in the community (e.g., when crossing streets)
The target outcomes should be:
- Something your child will be able to do
- Behaviors that you can observe and count (e.g., with rating scales)
- Your child's treatment plan will be set up to help her achieve these goals.
Keeping the treatment plan on track:
Ongoing monitoring of your child's behavior and medications is required to find out if the treatment plan is working. Office visits, phone conversations, behavior checklists, written reports from teachers, and behavior report cards are common tools for following the child's progress.
Treatment plans for ADHD usually require long-term efforts on the part of families and schools. Medication schedules may be complex. Behavior therapies require education and patience. Sometimes it can be hard for everyone to stick with it. Your efforts play an important part in building a healthy future for your child.
Ask your pediatrician to help you find ways to keep your child's treatment plan on track.
What if my child does not reach his target outcomes?
Most school-aged children with ADHD respond well when their treatment plan includes both medication and behavior therapy.
If your child is not achieving his goals, your pediatrician will assess the following factors:
- Were the target outcomes realistic?
- Is more information needed about the child's behavior?
- Is the diagnosis correct?
- Is another condition hindering treatment?
- Is the treatment plan being followed?
- Has the treatment failed?
While treatment for ADHD should improve your child's behavior, it may not completely eliminate the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children who are being treated successfully may still have trouble with their friends or schoolwork.
However, if your child clearly is not meeting his specific target outcomes, your pediatrician will need to reassess the treatment plan.
You may have heard media reports or seen advertisements for "miracle cures" for ADHD. Carefully research any such claims. Consider whether the source of the information is valid. At this time, there is no scientifically proven cure for this condition.
The following methods need more scientific evidence to prove that they work:
- Megavitamins and mineral supplements
- Anti–motion-sickness medication (to treat the inner ear)
- Treatment for candida yeast infection
- EEG biofeedback (training to increase brain-wave activity)
- Applied kinesiology (realigning bones in the skull)
- Reducing sugar consumption
- Optometric vision training (asserts that faulty eye movement and sensitivities cause the behavior problems)
Always tell your pediatrician about any alternative therapies, supplements, or medications that your child is using. These may interact with prescribed medications and harm your child.
Will there be a cure for ADHD soon?
While there are no signs of a cure at this time, research is ongoing to learn more about the role of the brain in ADHD and the best ways to treat the disorder. Additional research is looking at the long-term outcomes for people with ADHD.
Will my child outgrow ADHD?
ADHD continues into adulthood in most cases. However, by developing their strengths, structuring their environments, and using medication when needed, adults with ADHD can lead very productive lives. In some careers, having a high-energy behavior pattern can be an asset.
Additional Information on HealthyChildren.org:
The following is a list of support groups and additional resources for further information about ADHD. Check with your pediatrician for resources in your community.