Treatment for Kids With ADHD

By The Understood Team


At a Glance

  • Experts agree that ADHD medication is the most effective treatment for the majority of kids.
  • There are a number of therapies that may also help kids manage the symptoms of ADHD.
  • Some kids do best with a combination of treatments.

The symptoms of ADHD (also known as ADD) don’t just impact learning. They can also create difficulties in everyday life with friends and family.

So how is ADHD treated? There are a number of treatments available for ADHD, in addition to medication. Some kids respond best to one kind of treatment. Other kids may do best with a different treatment or combination of treatments. Together with your child’s doctor, you can come up with an ADHD treatment plan that’s tailored to meet your child’s needs.

ADHD Medication

For many kids, medication is key to ADHD management. Experts largely agree that it’s the most effective form of treatment for most kids with ADHD. Medication works well for around 80 percent of the kids who take it, if the type and dosage is carefully tailored to them. But medication may not be right for all kids and families.

There are two main types of medication for ADHD: stimulant and non-stimulant. They work in different ways in the brain to help control ADHD’s key symptoms.

For some kids, ADHD medications can have side effects. These usually go away after a few days. If not, the prescriber will probably suggest trying a different medication to see if that will work better. Or she might recommend changing from a stimulant to a non-stimulant, or vice versa.

It’s fairly common for kids with ADHD to also have anxiety or depression. For these kids, doctors may suggest some additional medication or behavioral treatment.

Watch as an expert talks about the importance of treating ADHD in children, and various ADHD treatment options.

Therapies for ADHD

Kids and families affected by ADHD often find it helpful to work with a mental health professional. It’s important to base the type of therapy you choose on what your child and family need. Here are some options.

Behavioral therapy: One of the goals of behavioral therapy is to change negative behaviors into positive ones. It often involves using a rewards system at home. This type of therapy is helpful for some kids with ADHD, and is often used along with medication.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of talk therapy. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to get kids to think about their thoughts, feelings and behavior.

In part, CBT helps kids replace negative thoughts with ones that are more realistic and positive. It also helps kids build self-esteem, which tends to be negatively affected by ADHD.

CBT is effective for treating ADHD, anxiety and depression. Anxiety and/or depression occur in about 50 percent of people with ADHD.

Social skills groups: For some kids, ADHD symptoms can make it hard to socialize. Kids may talk nonstop or have trouble thinking before they speak. They may also have trouble managing their emotions. Joining a social skills group run by a professional can help kids learn and practice important skills for interacting with others.

Other Non-Medication Treatment Options for ADHD

There are other non-medication treatment options that have some research backing. Research has shown these alternative treatments to be somewhat helpful in relieving ADHD symptoms. These treatments and therapies include exercise, outdoor activities, omega supplements, mindfulness and changes in diet.

There are also alternatives some parents try that aren’t backed by research. These include over-the-counter (OTC) supplements and “train the brain” games. It’s important to know that OTC supplements are not regulated by law.

Support in School for ADHD

There are a number of classroom accommodations that can help kids with ADHD. These include things like getting extended time on tests, being seated at the front of the classroom and having permission to get up and move during class. You can also talk to your child’s teacher about trying informal supports

behavior intervention plan (BIP) might be helpful for some kids with ADHD. This plan outlines steps teachers take to stop problem behaviors at school. A BIP also explains how teachers and the school will encourage appropriate behavior.

Ways to Help at Home

There are many strategies you can try to help your child with ADHD at home. Discover expert tips for handling behavior issues in Parenting Coach. Learn about differentprofessionals who help kids with ADHD. And find out what to do if your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD.

Understood is not affiliated with any pharmaceutical company.

Key Takeaways

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps kids talk about and manage negative feelings.
  • Accommodations can help kids with ADHD work to their potential in class.
  • Behavioral therapy may help kids with ADHD replace negative habits and actions with positive ones.

About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.


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Reviewed by

Portrait of Stephanie Sarkis

Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, Ph.D., NCC, DCMHS, LMHC, is an ADHD/ASD expert and a best-selling author.