By R. Scott Benson, MD
Won't he just outgrow it? This is the wish of every parent – that a little time, a little more love, or discipline, or happy thoughts will solve what might be a serious problem. And I hear this question often from parents of pre-schoolers who are having behavior problems in pre-K programs or daycare settings.
Archives of General Psychiatry reports the results of a long term study of children who were diagnosed with ADHD between the ages of 4 and 6 years old. There was a control group of children without ADHD. As adolescents the children with the early diagnosis of ADHD had higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, there were no suicides in this study. Benjamin Lahey, Ph.D., the study director is a professor of health studies and psychiatry at the University of Chicago. He said the study “reinforces our belief that parents of young children with ADHD should pay close attention to their child’s behavior and its consequences and seek treatment to prevent possible long-term problems.”
So the better question is “What treatment is recommended for pre-schoolers?” And we have good science to help answer that question. Carefully managed studies have shown that pre-school children and their families should have at least 12 weeks of behavior management training as a first level of care. And this is not just any behavior management. At a conference in Florida, Dr. Regina Bussing recommended that families should consider a number of behavior training programs – the Positive Parenting Program, The Incredible Years, and Parent Child Interaction Therapy. These are intense programs that are very different from a few words of advice from a well-meaning pediatrician or the do-it-yourself manuals that are so prevalent in the bookstores.
Let us know of other successful behavior training programs in your community, and we will post those links here.