There has been a decades long debate whether medication or behavioral therapy is the best long-term treatment for children with ADHD. So an article written by Alan Schwarz in the New York Times caught my eye. He reports that the original findings of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With A.D.H.D were taken to mean that medication was hands down the best option.
Now, some of the authors of this study are worried that these findings were skewed because they tested primarily for reducing the hyperactivity and lack of focus, which medication is designed to remedy quickly. How children perform in school and on a social level was not addressed in the study.
He reports that one of the study researchers, Stephen Hinshaw, a psychologist at U.C. Berkeley said, “My belief based on the science is that symptom reduction is a good thing, but adding skill-building is a better thing. If you don’t provide skills-based training, you’re doing the kid a disservice. I wish we had had a fairer test.”
Medication can treat the symptoms of hyperactivity and improve the ability to concentrate. This makes a person more receptive to learning new behaviors. But life-long improvement in interpersonal relationships must include learning, through therapy, social skills among which is empathy. Kids with ADHD are not just impulsive and distractible they also often ignore the feelings of others.
Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling and practical support are all needed to improve the child’s self-esteem and ability to cope with the frustrations of daily life. Some children release this frustration by acting contrary, starting fights or destroying property. Some turn the frustration into body ailments, like the stomachache before school. Still others hide how badly they feel.
Over time a therapist can help people with ADHD identify and build on their strengths and learn to cope with daily stresses in a constructive way. If you live near Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA, and would like assistance for your child, please contact my office and set up an appointment.
You can read more about Parenting a Child with ADD/ADHD on my website.