The 4 Most Effective, Non-Medical Treatments for ADHD

October 16, 2021

To treat ADHD symptoms, the therapist should primarily be working with the parents.

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After receiving your child’s diagnosis of ADHD, it can be an overwhelming task trying to find the best treatment option to help both your child and family. Many of you do a quick google search or join a Facebook group and attempt to sift through the never-ending recommendations. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to more confusion and overwhelm. There are so many factors involved in getting help for your child, including options for in-person therapies where you live, cost, time involvement, and effectiveness of the treatments.

Today, we are discussing one of the most effective, non-medical treatment interventions for ADHD—behavior therapy!

Behavior therapy is the only non-medical treatment for ADHD with a large base of scientific evidence. Because of this, it is recommended that behavior therapies begin as soon as a child receives an ADHD diagnosis. Behavioral therapies also do not produce the unwanted side effects that occur with medication that are a concern for most parents.

As a psychologist, if I am unsure of an ADHD diagnosis or if a child is still considered too young for a diagnosis (4 years of age), I will also recommend behavior therapies. The American Academic of Pediatrics also recommends that behavioral therapies be the first line of treatment for children under the age of 6. From our experiences working with parents, we know many parents prefer to start with social and behavioral treatment first before moving to medication.

So let’s dive into four behavior treatments that offer strong support in helping children with ADHD and their families.

1) Parent Behavior Training

 We know that behavior therapies are effective, but what are they? One of the primary forms of behavioral therapy is parent behavior training (*Hint, hint* this is the type of training that we offer in our online parenting course, Creating Calm!!).

Parents are taught how to reinforce positive behavior, create structure, use consistent behavioral techniques, and build positive parent-child interactions.

Parent trainings may take place in university settings or in the community by a psychologist/therapist/counselor. These sessions are typically 1-2 hours weekly for 8-12 weeks. A recent study found that in-person and online parent training are both effective interventions for children with ADHD. Some therapists might also have training in some of the interventions listed above. For instance, Mallory has training in the Incredible Years and often used strategies from several of these programs when working with families in therapy.

Keep in mind that talk or play therapy, where a therapist is only working with your child, is not an effective treatment to address ADHD symptoms. To treat ADHD symptoms, the therapist should primarily be working with parents to teach skills. Talk or play therapy may be recommended for treating co-occurring diagnoses of anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.

2) Classroom-Based Behavior Interventions

Behavioral interventions at school are also effective. This includes a professional consulting with teachers to provide classroom behavioral supports, including frequent reinforcement of positive behaviors and clear expectations for behavior.

Daily behavior report cards have also been used to allow frequent communication on the child’s behavior at school, so that parents can provide rewards  at home for success during the school day. Accommodations are also put into place to help children be more successful. This might include allowing the child to stand during work, frequent movement breaks during the day, extra time on assignments, or a quiet place to complete tests or independent work.

A more intense form of behavior support in the schools is called a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). We recommend that you request this type of assessment for your child if your child has significant behaviors at school that are impeding their social and academic progress. These might include hitting or fights with peers or school staff, yelling or verbal aggression, frequent defiance or work refusal, or significant inattention that is limiting their ability to complete schoolwork/homework.

In this type of an assessment, a psychologist or behavior specialist will observe your child across multiple days and times to identify patterns or situations that trigger the behaviors and consequences to behaviors. This information is then used to create an individualized positive behavior support plan that is unique to your child’s needs. If you are curious about this type of an assessment and how to develop a behavior support plan, we teach all about this in our online course.

3) Behavioral Peer Interventions

Behavioral peer interventions are typically completed in summer camps or recreational settings where children have opportunities to play with other children. In some research, parents are trained to deliver behavioral interventions to their children and to act as social coaches. This type of training also resulted in improvement in children’s behavior in other settings outside of just the recreational settings where children were coached.  

4) Organization Skills Training

Lastly, organizational training has also been shown to be an effective treatment for children with ADHD. A hallmark of children with ADHD is challenges in executive functioning.  Thus, children with ADHD benefit from interventions targeting how to organize school materials, track and monitor assignments, and plan homework.

Academic tutors or teachers, speech language pathologists, psychologists, and counselors are all professionals who may be able to offer organizational or executive functioning skills training.

These types of interventions are sometimes included in a child’s IEP or 504 plan. For instance, some children might have a period out of their day where they work with a special education teacher on tracking assignments, organization, and study skills and habits.

Ready to learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about the research behind the various interventions for children with ADHD, including medications, neurofeedback, diet, and more, click here to grab a copy of our FREE ADHD Treatment guide. 

For the six keys to raising a happy + independent child with ADHD, you want our FREE ADHD Parenting Guide.

And if you are ready to dive deep, learn new tools, and help your child with ADHD thrive, check out our online parenting course, Creating Calm.

Have an amazing week!

Lori, Katie, and Mallory

Disclaimer: The contents of this site are opinions of The Childhood Collective PLLC partners unless otherwise noted. The information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any type of medical condition and is not intended as personalized medical/psychological advice. Any decision you make regarding you and your family’s health and medical treatments should be made with a qualified healthcare provider.

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  1. The Childhood Collective says:

    Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing this encouragement! It means the world to us❤️

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