Specializing in ADHD, Anxiety Disorders and Depression for Teens and Adults

Treating ADHD

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AD/HD in children often requires a comprehensive approach to treatment called “multimodal” and includes:

  • Parent and child education about diagnosis and treatment
  • Specific behavior management techniques
  • Medication
  • Appropriate school programming and supports

Treatment should be tailored to the unique needs of each child and family. Research from the landmark NIMH Multimodal Treatment Study of AD/HD is very encouraging. Children who received carefully monitored medication, alone or in combination with behavioral treatment, showed significant improvement in their behavior at home and school plus better relationships with their classmates and family than did children receiving lower quality care. Psychostimulants are the most widely used class of medication for the management of AD/HD related symptoms. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of children with AD/HD respond positively to psychostimulant medications. Significant academic improvement is shown by students who take these medications: increases in attention and concentration, compliance and effort on tasks, as well as amount and accuracy of schoolwork, plus decreased activity levels, impulsivity, negative behaviors in social interactions and physical and verbal hostility. A new, nonstimulant medication—atomoxetine--appears to have similar effects as the stimulants.

Other medications that may decrease impulsivity, hyperactivity and aggression include some antidepressants and antihypertensives. However, each family must weigh the pros and cons of taking medication.

Behavioral interventions are also a major component of treatment for children who have AD/HD. Important strategies include being consistent and using positive reinforcement, and teaching problem-solving, communication, and self-advocacy skills. Children, especially teenagers, should be actively involved as respected members of the school planning and treatment teams.

School success may require a variety of classroom accommodations and behavioral interventions. Most children with AD/HD can be taught in the regular classroom with minor adjustments to the environment. Some children may require special education services if an educational need is indicated. These services may be provided within the regular education classroom or may require a special placement outside of the regular classroom that meets the child’s unique learning needs.

Adults with AD/HD may benefit from learning to structure their environment. In addition, medications effective for childhood AD/HD are also helpful for adults who have AD/HD. While little research has been done on interventions for adults, diagnosis and treatment are still important.


Although the symptoms of AD/HD—inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity—are present to some extent in most children, when these symptoms are developmentally extreme, pervasive and persistent a diagnosis of AD/HD is warranted. This diagnostic category is associated with significant impairment in family relations, peer interactions, school achievement, and risk for accidental injury, which are domains of crucial importance for healthy and successful development. Because AD/HD can become a lifelong disorder, careful diagnosis and treatment are essential.