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Counseling for Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

An estimated 6.4 million American children ages 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Currently 6.1 percent of all American children are being treated for ADHD with medication. One in five American children who has been diagnosed with ADHD is not receiving medicine or mental health counseling for their disorder.

It can be a difficult condition to diagnose. Children with untreated ADHD are sometimes mislabeled as troublemakers or problem children. Males are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females. The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 seven years old. Symptoms of ADHD typically first appear between the ages of 3 and 6. ADHD isn’t just a childhood disorder. Today, about 4 percent of American adults over the age of 18 deal with ADHD on a daily basis.

child with ADHD

How Do I Know If My Child Is Dealing with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

The CDC indicates inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity as the key behaviors of ADHD. Some people with ADHD only have problems with one of the behaviors, while others have both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Most children have the combined type of ADHD.

In preschool, the most common ADHD symptom is hyperactivity-impulsivity. As a child reaches elementary school, the symptom of inattention may become more prominent and cause the child to struggle academically.

Boys & ADHD

According to the NIMH, boys and girls can display very different ADHD symptoms, and boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with the attention disorder. Boys tend to display externalized symptoms that most people think of when they think of ADHD behavior, for example:

  • impulsivity or “acting out”
  • hyperactivity, such as running and hitting
  • lack of focus, including attentiveness
  • physical aggression

Girls & ADHD

ADHD in girls is often easy to overlook because it is not “typical” ADHD behavior. The symptoms aren’t as obvious as they are in boys. They can include:

  • being withdrawn
  • low self-esteem and anxiety
  • impairment in attention that may lead to difficulty with academic achievement
  • inattentiveness or a tendency to “daydream”
  • verbal aggression: teasing, taunting, or name-calling

Diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed clinician such as a pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with expertise in ADHD. For a person to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity must be chronic or long-lasting, impair the child’s functioning, and cause the person to fall behind normal development for his or her age.

How Can Counseling Help?

Behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that aims to help a person change his or her behavior. It teaches a person how to monitor his or her own behavior, and give oneself praise or rewards for acting in a desired way, such as controlling anger or thinking before acting. Therapists may also teach children social skills, such as how to wait their turn, share toys, ask for help, or respond to teasing. Learning to read facial expressions and the tone of voice in others, and how to respond appropriately can also be a part of social skills training.

Family therapy can help family members find better ways to handle disruptive behaviors, to encourage behavior changes, and improve interactions with the child.

Children with ADHD need guidance and understanding from their parents, families, and teachers to reach their full potential and to succeed. For school-age children, frustration, blame, and anger may have built up within a family before a child is diagnosed. Mental health professionals can educate parents about ADHD and how it affects a family. They will also help the child and his or her parents develop new skills, attitudes, and ways of relating to each other.


Parents and teachers can help kids with ADHD stay organized and follow directions with tools such as:

  • Keep a routine and a schedule. Keep the same routine every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. Include times for homework, outdoor play, and indoor activities. Keep the schedule on the refrigerator or on a bulletin board in the kitchen. Write changes on the schedule as far in advance as possible.
  • Organize everyday items. Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. This includes clothing, backpacks, and toys.
  • Use homework and notebook organizers. Use organizers for school materials and supplies. Stress to your child the importance of writing down assignments and bringing home the necessary books.
  • Be clear and consistent. Children with ADHD need consistent rules they can understand and follow.
  • Give praise or rewards when rules are followed. Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism. Look for good behavior and praise it!

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