Federal health experts have now said that the best treatment for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is therapy, but not for the kids. The therapy, they said, would help parents learn how to help their children. This new theory suggests that if parents learn the skills they need to support their kids, drugs for the disorder may be averted or delayed.
According to Maggie Fox of NBC News, the CDC says:
"It's similarly effective as medication but it doesn't have the longer-term side effects," Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director, told NBC News.
Millions of medical records were analyzed, and they revealed that roughly one-third of the 6 million US young people with ADHD were diagnosed before they were six years-old, said the CDC.
Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics tells doctors that parents should be advised to attempt training in behavioral therapy before they take the drug route for their young ones, approximately 75% of diagnosed children under the age of five were being given drugs.
Parents with the youngest children diagnosed with ADHD can be trained in the best ways to promote positive behavior, to quiet negative behaviors, to increase communication, and to strengthen the parent-child relationship.
Schuchat said this recommendation is not based on the belief that parents are responsible for their children's ADHD.
But getting the training for parents can be difficult. First, there is a dearth of professionals who can provide these services to moms and dads. Secondly, health insurance will often not pay for the training.
This concern is a result of new data showing a distressing disconnect between recommended practices for treating US children and what is actually going on in pediatrician's offices. The CDC says less than half of parents who have kids with ADHD are accessing behavior therapy training, reports Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post.
The most-often prescribed medications for treating youths with ADHD are stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin. Many people believe they help children do better in school. Some teenagers and college students abuse the drugs to get an "academic edge."
But not enough studies have been done on the long-term effects of these medications. And side effects include loss of appetite, irritability, sleep issues, and disturbances in growth patterns.
Schuchat emphasized to CBS News how important behavioral therapy training for parents can be:
"ADHD is a difficult condition for children and families. It's a biological disorder, and we know parents are trying to do the right thing for their kids, but what our report suggests is that many children who can benefit from behavior therapy are not receiving it," Schuchat said.
The doctor explained further that other barriers to parents receiving training could include time constraints for some families and limited referrals, reports Mary Brophy Marcus of CBS News.
Health's Steven Reinberg adds that Schuchat reported that research has shown the benefits of behavior therapy can continue for years. Behavior therapy classes are given in eight or more sessions.
During the sessions, parents are taught how to provide structure for children who have difficulties with concentrating, remaining focused, organizing themselves, and planning ahead. The results, like self-control, self-esteem, and improved behavior, can help kids do a better job in school.
"Parents aren't the cause of their child's ADHD, but they can play an important role in treatment," Schuchat said.