“I have a 4-year-old son, and he was just diagnosed with ADHD,” a mother told the National Resource Center on ADHD. “My son can’t sit still, doesn't listen, interrupts, and can’t focus in preschool or home. When I ask him a question – before I’m done with the question – he blurts out something completely irrelevant to what I asked, like he never heard me speaking to him. How do I help him?”
Behavioral treatment is the first line of intervention for this little boy and other preschool children like him, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The CDC agrees and has launched its ADHD Winnable Battle Initiative to better inform parents and ADHD healthcare providers about the “clinical best practices” for the treatment of children under 6 who are diagnosed with ADHD
Recent studies show 1 in 2 preschool children with ADHD do not receive the recommended behavioral treatment – and 1 in 4 preschoolers diagnosed with ADHD are treated with only medication. The CDC wants to increase the number of preschoolers with ADHD receiving behavioral therapy (parent training) and decrease the number of children who receive medication management as the only form of treatment. Medication is recommended if the behavior interventions do not provide significant improvement in the child’s symptoms and there is moderate to severe impairment in a child’s functioning.
What does this mean for the parent of a preschooler with ADHD? The CDC is working to raise awareness among parents and providers about the benefits of behavioral therapy. The number of qualified behavioral treatment providers working with preschoolers needs to increase and parents, health care plans, and providers need to prioritize behavioral treatment. Pediatricians are encouraged to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and prescribe behavioral management, including learning about behavioral management and parent training programs available in their communities. On a larger scale, health care plans for children should provide incentives for primary care clinicians to refer children for behavioral treatment.
For more information on young children with ADHD, read our information sheet Preschoolers and ADHD.