Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental disorder affecting both children and adults. Researchers estimate that 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD.
Below, you’ll find information on the different types of ADHD and new information on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) as a possible treatment for the disorder.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. While children are typically diagnosed at a young age (when they display symptoms in the classroom), it also may be diagnosed in adulthood as well.
Children with ADHD may display the following common symptoms:
– Inattention– Trouble paying attention or staying focused on a task
– Impulsivity– The inability to control impulsive behaviors and therefore acting hastily without giving thought to the consequences
– Hyperactivity– Excessive physical movement and the inability to sit still
Other symptoms include forgetfulness, talking too much, and difficulty getting along with others.
Not everyone who has ADHD will display all of these symptoms.
3 Types of ADHD
There are three main types of ADHD, and a different dominant trait characterizes each.
- Inattention – Those who have a predominantly inattentive presentation often have a hard time organizing their time, finishing tasks, keeping their attention on one thing at a time, paying attention to detail, and following instructions. Their inability to focus may cause them to be so easily distracted that they may have difficulty following conversations and even forget details of their daily routines.
- Hyperactivity and Impulsivity – In some people, ADHD manifests itself in fidgeting, squirming, and a general inability to sit still. Impulsivity can mean anything from interrupting people often or speaking at inappropriate times to being unable to wait their turn.
- Combined – Most people with ADHD have a combination of these two types. However, ADHD can change over time. So, a child might be hyperactive and impulsive but learn to control it as an adult while still suffering from the inability to focus.
What is ABA therapy?
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a treatment used for children on the autism spectrum. It helps them develop cognitive, social, language, and daily living skills. ABA also helps reduce problematic behaviors.
This approach is personalized and is designed to help counselors and loved ones understand how a child’s behavior is affected by their environment and the circumstances under which they learn new skills. Ideally, it helps increase communication by improving language skills, improves attention and focus, and uses positive reinforcement to encourage positive behavioral change.
Is ABA therapy effective for children with ADHD?
The CDC lists behavioral therapy as a helpful option to reduce problematic behaviors in children with ADHD as well as those with autism. Research indicates that a combination of medication and ABA therapy is the best course of action for most children. Still, some young children may be too young for medication. Parents who practice ABA techniques can help manage problem behaviors early on in these cases.
ABA therapy has a long history and has changed dramatically over time. Most notably, it no longer encourages punishment for poor behavior and focuses primarily on rewarding and encouraging good habits. While the therapy doesn’t “cure” autism or ADHD, it does help people with the conditions live their best and most independent lives.
What ABA techniques can help those with ADHD?
ABA therapy is designed to bring about meaningful change in an individual’s actions by looking at behavior as a 3-step ABC process: the antecedent (a cue or instruction), the behavior, and the consequence. ABA therapy techniques generally focus on one or more of these moments and how they influence the others.
There are many ABA techniques a parent or therapist can use to encourage more functional behaviors in children with ADHD. These include:
· Differential Reinforcement of Behaviors
This strategy is designed to reinforce good behavior by rewarding positive interactions. While punishment was once used to discourage negative actions, nowadays, the therapist or parent simply withholds positive reinforcement.
· Discrete Trial Training (DTT)/Task Analysis
This method involves breaking down complex lessons into simple “discrete” components. It uses tangible rewards to show the positive consequences of good behavior.
· Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
The child initiates this play-based therapy. It targets the “pivotal” areas of a child’s development in an attempt to improve social skills, communication, behavior, and learning.
Motivation strategies are neutral in PRT training – that is, they relate directly to the behavior exhibited by the child. For example, if a child makes a meaningful request for something (such as a toy), the therapist or parent provides it. No unrelated treats or toys are used to motivate good behavior.
· Self-Management Training
This method is often used with older children and adults. It involves creating a plan that they can follow through on in order to manage their own behavior. In order to teach self-regulation skills, the therapist provides them with ways of rewarding themselves (including positive self-talk) when they’re proud of their behavior. It also teaches people to become aware of their own negative behaviors.
These therapies work well for ADHD patients because they are designed to help with regulating one’s behavior. Children with ADHD have trouble with impulse control. They are often disruptive, not understanding how others interpret their behavior.
ABA therapy helps give them a sense of socially responsible ways to act. However, it cannot change their brain chemistry.
While children who receive ABA therapy for ADHD often use less medication later in life, it’s important to remember that the condition is not one of self-control. It is the result of a significant difference in brain chemistry and cannot simply be “trained out” of someone.
However, learning good behavior is the first step. The more a child practices and is rewarded for it, the more the positive actions may become their reflex.
If you are interested in learning more about ABA techniques to treat a child with ADHD, it’s important to find a professionally trained and licensed counselor with direct training in these methods.