A landmark National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) multimodal treatment study has found that medication therapy alone, and medication and behavioral therapy together, resulted in the greatest improvement in children with of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
In addition, the combination treatment worked best in improving ADHD-associated oppositional behaviors and other areas of functioning, like interactions with parents.
Authors say that even the behavioral therapy can improve a child's behavior, social, and academic skills. It addresses specific behavior problems by structuring time at home, establishing predictability and routines, and increasing positive attention.
"When I first diagnose a child with ADHD, I tell the parents they need to learn behavior techniques, whether I'm prescribing medication or not," says Dr. Patricia Quinn, who has treated ADD patients in Washington, D.C., for more than 25 years.
Dr Quinn adds that a pill doesn't change behavior, but only decreases common ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and distractibility. "A child on medication might be disinclined to punch someone, because he's less impulsive, but he doesn't know what to do instead. Behavior therapy fills in the blanks, by giving a child positive alternative behaviors to use," she said.
The study was published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.