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Next steps after a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD

It can be overwhelming when your child is diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But making small changes to your household and to your family life can help your child overcome obstacles.

Pediatrician Stephen Lauer, MD, PhD, specializes in helping children and families in this situation. “First, people have to realize this is a lifetime diagnosis, not one that will be short-lived or go away in time,” he said. “It’s about how a child’s brain works. Families need to be ready to make long-term adjustments to give their child a better chance of succeeding overall in life."

He suggests three strategies families can adopt.

Bring more organization and structure to your home.

Establish predetermined, clearly labeled areas to keep toys, clothes and other belongings. Incorporate more routines and schedules for daily activities such as bedtimes and mealtimes. Be sure to let your child know when and why a routine might vary.

Use a reward system to help reach immediate goals.

Positive reinforcement has a much stronger effect on children with ADD or ADHD than other disciplinary efforts. Encourage children to meet levels of expectations with praise and privileges. Goals should be short-term, so children receive recognition for doing well today, instead of having to wait for approval. Do not use candy or money as a reward.

Engage while completing tasks.

Providing general oversight and gentle reminders are the best ways to keep a child focused and directed toward completion of chores or homework. You might lead your child through the steps involved in completing the task, teaching how to mentally process the chore.

"Behavioral changes are the necessary component in treating the condition," explained Dr. Lauer. "We find these types of changes and modifications help a child’s normal developmental processes.”

In addition to behavioral changes, it is possible a child may require medication to overcome symptoms. Work with your physician to establish a plan of action tailored specifically to the condition of your child.