Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the outlook for most children who receive treatment for ADHD is encouraging.
While there is no specific cure for ADHD, but there are many treatment options available.
Each child's ADHD treatment plan must be tailored to meet his or her individual needs, starting with target outcomes for behavior.
In most cases, ADHD treatment should include:
A long-term management plan with
Education about ADHD
Teamwork among doctors, parents, teachers, caregivers, other health care professionals, and the child
Parent training in behavior management
Individual and family counseling
Treatment for ADHD uses the same principles that are used to treat other chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes. Long-term planning is needed because these conditions are not cured. Families must manage them on an ongoing basis. In the case of ADHD, schools and other caregivers must also be involved in managing the condition.
Step 1: Set target outcomes for your child's behavior
At the beginning of treatment, your pediatrician should help you set around 3 target outcomes (goals) for your child's behavior. These target outcomes will guide the treatment plan. Your child's target outcomes should focus on helping her function as well as possible at home, at school, and in your community. You need to identify what behaviors are most preventing your child from success.
Examples of target outcomes for children with ADHD:
Improved relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, and friends (e.g., fewer arguments with brothers or sisters or being invited more frequently to friends' houses or parties)
Better schoolwork (e.g., completing class work or homework assignments)
More independence in self-care or homework (e.g., getting ready for school in the morning without supervision)
Improved self-esteem (e.g., increase in feeling that she can get her work done)
Fewer disruptive behaviors (e.g., decrease in the number of times she refuses to obey rules)
Safer behavior in the community (e.g., when crossing streets)
The target outcomes should be:
Something your child will be able to do
Behaviors that you can observe and count (e.g., with rating scales)
Your child's treatment plan will be set up to help her achieve these goals.
What if my child does not reach his or her target outcomes?
Most school-age children with ADHD respond well when their treatment plan includes both medication and behavior therapy.
If your child is not achieving his or her goals, your pediatrician will assess the following factors:
Were the target outcomes realistic?
Is more information needed about the child's behavior?
Is the diagnosis correct?
Is another condition hindering treatment?
Is the treatment plan being followed?
Has the treatment failed?
While treatment for ADHD should improve your child's behavior, it may not completely eliminate the symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Children who are being treated successfully may still have trouble with their friends or schoolwork.
However, if your child clearly is not meeting his specific target outcomes, your pediatrician will need to reassess the treatment plan.
Will there be a cure for ADHD soon?
While there are no signs of a cure at this time, research is ongoing to learn more about the role of the brain in ADHD and the best ways to treat the disorder. Additional research is looking at the long-term outcomes for people with ADHD.
Will my child outgrow ADHD?
ADHD continues into adulthood in most cases. However, by developing their strengths, structuring their environments, and using medication when needed, adults with ADHD can lead very productive lives. In some careers, having a high-energy behavior pattern can be an asset.