Most children with ADHD who receive behavioral intervention do not need medication, according to a new study by researchers at Florida International University’s Center for Children and Families.
Researchers evaluated 127 unmedicated children with ADHD, ages 5 to 13, during the school year, following their participation in the center’s Summer Treatment Program, a comprehensive summer camp program for children with ADHD and related behavioral, emotional and learning challenges.
Children were assigned randomly after the end of the program to receive low or high behavioral intervention, or no behavioral intervention, and were evaluated by teachers and parents each week to determine if medication was needed.
Researchers found that the children who received continued behavioral intervention after the end of the Summer Treatment Program were about half as likely as those who did not receive intervention to initiate medication use each week at school or at home, and used lower doses when medicated at school.
Behavioral interventions included a Daily Report Card — a tool that helps manage the behavior and academic performance of students. Other classroom interventions included school-based rewards, response-cost systems, point systems, escalating-deescalating time out procedures, and additional individualized behavioral interventions.
“These results add to a growing literature of research suggesting that the use of low-intensity behavioral intervention as a first-line treatment for children with ADHD reduces or eliminates the need for medication,” said Erika Coles, lead author and clinical director at the Center for Children and Families.
Researchers also found that treatment costs did not significantly differ, regardless of whether the child was receiving behavioral therapy or medication.
In the study, parents of children who received low or high behavioral intervention met with a clinician at the beginning of the school year to establish a Daily Report Card. Parents also had the option of receiving additional support through monthly parenting group sessions and one-on-one consultations if they faced difficult parenting situations at home.
The teachers of the children receiving intervention also had support to implement the Daily Report Card and received additional consultations to establish classroom interventions.
“Parents and teachers play a key role in how well a child responds to the behavioral intervention,” Coles said. “It’s crucial for them to learn effective strategies that will benefit the child long-term because medication alone does not provide any long-term benefits.”
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.The Center for Children and Families is a Preeminent Program at Florida International University comprised of a nationally recognized team of researchers and service providers committed to improving the lives of children and families struggling with mental health problems.
The CCF is a one-stop care facility that provides effective, low-cost treatments to more than 3,000 families each year through clinical services and research programs. With a team of more than 30 of the nation’s best researchers and experts, the assistance of federal funding and university partnerships, the CCF continues to make discoveries about the cause, process, effects and treatment of child and adolescent mental health disorders.
Since its establishment in 2010, the CCF has secured more than $133 million in external funding for research from sources like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Institution of Education Sciences (IES), the National Science Foundation (NSF), The Children’s Trust and the State of Florida, among others.
The CCF also provides training and education to hundreds of students, and continuing education opportunities in evidence-based approaches to thousands of psychologists, mental health professionals and educators nationwide.
For more information about FIU, visit www.fiu.edu.