How can I help my child with ADHD?

Parents who have a child diagnosed with ADHD often have questions and concerns about treatment options. We believe that children with ADHD are most effectively treated with a combination of approaches to help your child achieve her best potential. Treatment can include: behavior therapy, parent/caregiver training, school adjustments and medication.

Behavior therapy

Help your child with ADHD to be happy and more successful by:

  • Creating routines. Do things in the same order at around the same time every day if possible (e.g. get dressed, eat breakfast and brush teeth every day before school).
  • Limiting choices. Presenting a young child with ADHD with too many options can be overwhelming.
  • Getting organized. Have a place for everything and help your child get in the habit of picking up so things are easier to find.
  • Avoiding distractions. This is especially needed during homework or transition times (e.g. turn off the TV or radio during homework or when you’re getting ready to leave the house).
  • Giving short, concise directions. Don’t ramble on to your child with ADHD or she will not be able to follow your directions well.
  • Using positive discipline. Incentives and reward systems help encourage your child. Avoid hitting your child. Instead, do short time-outs or remove privileges when necessary.
  • Helping your child find her passion. Developing a special talent (e.g. music, sports, art, cooking) will give your child something to focus on and feel great about.
  • Celebrating every success. All children deserve praise when they do well. But children with ADHD must overcome additional challenges and they deserve special recognition for their good work.

Our behavioral health team can assist with cognitive behavioral therapy to help children with ADHD learn new skills for self-control, organization, and coping with the anxiety and self-doubt that may accompany ADHD.


Medication can be an important part of the treatment plan for children with ADHD. Especially younger children may struggle to grasp the behavioral training you’re providing until the neurochemical imbalance in their brain is managed with medication.

Up to 80 percent of children with ADHD will respond favorably (and quickly) to appropriate medication. Within a week, parents and teachers will often notice a significant difference in behavior.

ADHD medications fall into two categories: stimulants and non-stimulants. Stimulant medications are widely viewed as the first choice by experts in the field of treatment children with ADHD. It’s important to understand that stimulants have potential side effects, which can include decreased appetite, sleep problems, high blood pressure, personality changes (“flat” or “aggressive”), or nervous tics.

The FDA has found there to be a slightly higher risk of stroke, arrhythmia, and/or sudden death in people with pre-existing heart problems who take stimulants for ADHD. In 2007, the FDA issued “black box warnings”– the strongest warnings the FDA requires, short of pulling the medications from distribution – for certain stimulants commonly prescribed for ADHD. Please talk with us about the FDA black box warning label and potential side effects before starting your child on stimulant medications.

What you should know about stimulants:

  • Many drugs that stimulate the nerve cells in the brain have proven effective in the treatment of ADHD.
  • Most experts consider them the first line of therapy.
  • They are available in liquid, sprinkle, capsule, pill and patch form.
  • Short-acting stimulants can help for a few hours, while long-acting, slow-release forms last an entire day.
  • Only your pediatrician or a psychiatrist can prescribe these drugs in Oregon.
  • Considered valuable street drugs, stimulants can give someone without ADHD a “high,” so they must be kept safe, counted if necessary, and dispensed by a responsible adult.

What you should know about non-stimulants:

Non-stimulant drugs can be used to treat ADHD. Talk to us about these drugs and their effects.


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Parenting a child with ADHD

At Eugene Pediatrics in Eugene, child psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Olson often diagnoses and treats children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD—a condition that makes it difficult for young brains to focus.