For little children with ADHD, more than a pill is best
Among the littlest people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder--ADHD--nearly half get no more help dealing with their distractedness, impulsiveness and hyperactivity than that provided by prescription medication, says a new government report.
That’s despite the fact that for these patients--children ages 2 to 5 diagnosed with ADHD--behavior therapy can help children develop self-control, organizational skills and coping mechanisms, tools that would help them over the long run.
More than 6 million American kids--about 11%--have been diagnosed with ADHD, and a third of those kids, generally those most severely affected by the disorder, got a diagnosis before they even entered first grade. For kids this young, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that psychological services be tried first before medications are prescribed.
That pattern of over-reliance on medication alone has changed little over recent decades, even as rates of pediatric ADHD diagnoses have soared. A 2015 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reported a 43% jump in ADHD diagnoses among American schoolchildren in a recent eight-year stretch alone. Among girls, the hike in diagnoses was even steeper.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Tuesday that the benefits of behavior therapy “can last for years.”
And that should include a discussion about behavior therapy as a first step, Schuchat added. In addition to psychological services aimed directly at helping the child, services that help train parents to deal with and mold a child’s behavior can be highly effective in managing a child’s ADHD symptoms.
Schuchat’s comments came against the backdrop of a CDC report that tracked the healthcare claims data of at least 5 million children from the age of 2 to 5. It found that children on Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for low-income families and the disabled, are more likely than children who are privately insured to receive psychological services if they are diagnosed with ADHD. Among young kids on Medicaid with ADHD, 54% received such services. Among those who are privately insured, just 45% did.
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