When supporting children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), involving the whole family may be the best course of action. A new study from Boston University School of Medicine finds that training and supporting parents to offer collaborative care to their children with ADHD can reduce hyperactivity and other ADHD-related symptoms. The results promote the idea that both parents and children need support when managing ADHD. The study could help clinicians design effective care plans for families of children with ADHD.
The researchers followed 156 children aged 6 to 12 years who were being evaluated for ADHD. The children were referred by primary care providers based on parent reports of inattentive or hyperactive behavior. Forty percent of the children were later diagnosed with ADHD.
The children were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Both groups received a form of collaborative care, which helped parents with making decisions about their children. The experimental group participated in enhanced collaborative care. For these families, trained care managers taught the parents healthy parenting skills so that they could participate in their children’s treatment, address their own mental health needs, and manage their children’s ADHD-related behaviors. The enhanced collaborative care approach directly addresses the most common challenges to successful treatment: the difficulty of sticking to a treatment plan for parents, mental health issues among parents, and co-occurring conditions in children with ADHD, like depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities.
One year later, researchers followed up with the families in the study. They found that all of the children receiving collaborative care exhibited improvements in hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and social skills. The children whose families participated in enhanced collaborative care and who were diagnosed with ADHD demonstrated significantly greater improvements than the other children. Children who were determined to not have ADHD and who received standard collaborative care did not improve significantly.
Study author Michael Silverstein, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University, explains that the enhanced collaborative care approach helps strengthen relationships between caregivers and patients. “If done right, it allows patients or their parents to reflect on their own health behaviors from an empowered, non-judged position and builds trust between the family and the care team.”
This research is published in the journal Pediatrics.
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