Non-medicinal treatment successful in ADHD

Non-medicinal interventions can be very effective in preventing the behavioural and academic problems associated with ADHD, according to an ambitious five-year US study.

Focusing on children aged three to five, who had shown significant symptoms of ADHD, the study evaluated the effectiveness of early intervention techniques in helping children decrease defiant behaviour and aggression, while improving academic and social skills.

The interventions used included highly individualised programmes that relied on the positive reinforcement of good behaviour and the modification of home and school environments, such as altering tasks and activities in the classroom, to better accommodate children with the disorder.

Using a variety of early intervention strategies, parents reported, on average, a 17% decrease in aggression and a 21% improvement in their children’s social skills. Teachers saw similarly strong results in the classroom: there was a 28% improvement in both categories and early literacy skills improved three-fold.

Whereas medication only addresses the symptoms of ADHD, this study demonstrates that non-medicinal strategies can be used to address behavioural and academic issues before they become more problematic at infant school.

Some paediatricians have questioned whether it is possible to accurately identify children with ADHD at such an early age, given the similarity between ADHD symptoms and normal behaviours in young children. However, this study suggests that with careful assessment, affected children can be accurately identified and helped by appropriate behavioural interventions.

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First published in 2007

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