Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms may continue into adulthood.
According to the 2010-2011 National Survey of Children’s Health, about 194,000 preschoolers (2 to 5 years of age) had a diagnosis of ADHD.
Children may or may not outgrow the symptoms. Three-year-olds who have symptoms of ADHD are much more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD by age 13.
Preschoolers with ADHD are more likely to have problems in daycare or school, including problems with learning, relationships with peers, and an increased risk of injuries, and it is important to address any difficulties your toddler may have as early as possible.
Parental behavior training programs are the recommended treatment for preschoolers with ADHD. These programs help educate parents about ADHD and certain behavioral techniques so they are better able to manage their child’s behavior.
Parent training, rather than therapy for the child, is recommended at this stage of a child’s development because therapy for children at this age is often play therapy, which is not very effective for ADHD. Parent training helps parents, teachers, and other caregivers modify the child’s environment to help them be successful and improve behavior. Parent training is most effective during the preschool years for children with ADHD.
Effective parent training programs:
- Help parents develop a positive relationship with their child
- Teach parents about child development
- Help parents manage negative behaviors and increase positive behaviors with positive discipline
Training programs that meet these criteria include:
- Positive Parenting Program (Triple P)
- Incredible Years Parenting Program
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)
It is also recommended that preschoolers with ADHD get into a structured school setting. Parents often need the break, and the children need to learn socialization and get experience meeting expectations of a structured setting before starting kindergarten.