Young children with ADHD can benefit from behavior therapy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announces

The CDC is urging health care providers to refer parents of children with ADHD for behavior therapy before prescribing medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging health care providers to refer parents of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for behavior therapy before prescribing medicine. According to the CDC’s latest Vital Signs report, about 75 percent of young children being treated for ADHD receive medicine, and only about half receive any form of psychological services.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report, launched in 2010, addresses a single, important public health topic each month. This month’s edition presents the CDC’s latest call to action encouraging healthcare providers to refer parents of young children who are ages 2-5 years with ADHD for training in behavior therapy before prescribing medicine to treat the disorder. Through behavior therapy, parents can learn skills to help their children to function better in school and home and in relationships. Developing these useful skills can have lasting benefits.

According to a CDC statement, the report looks at healthcare claims data from at least 5 million young children (2-5 years of age) each year insured by Medicaid (2008-11) and about one million young children insured each year through employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) (2008-14). In both groups, over 75 percent of young children diagnosed with ADHD received medicine. Only 54 percent of young children with Medicaid and 45 percent of young children with ESI (2011) received any form of psychological services annually, which might have included parent training in behavior therapy. The percentage of children with ADHD receiving psychological services has not increased over time.

CDC is calling on doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who treat young children with ADHD to support parents by explaining the benefits of behavior therapy and referring parents for this training. The Vital Signs report recommends that health care providers:

  • Follow clinical guidelines (American Academy of Pediatrics (PDF, 635KB), American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (PDF, 2.84MB)) for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in young children.
  • Discuss with parents the benefits of behavior therapy and why they should get training.
  • Identify parent training providers in the area and refer parents of young children with ADHD for training in behavior therapy first, before prescribing medicine.

The Vital Signs report on ADHD and an educational infographic for parents and health care providers for download and use are available on the CDC website.

Additional information and resources on ADHD are available on the American Psychological Association website.