printer-friendly version   Printer-Friendly Version  

Defining the Goals of ADHD Treatment

Knowing that your child's behavioral problems or poor schoolwork are due to ADHD does not necessarily make the next step any more obvious for you and your family.  While it might seem as though stimulant medications are the answer to your problems, it cannot address the possible causes of ADHD nor will they necessarily bring about the changes your child needs.  Before you, your child, and your health care provider decide on the right treatment plan, you need to think about which symptoms are most troubling for your child and which ones can take a back seat. Only then can your doctor come up with a realistic treatment plan that will work for your child's unique circumstances.

The first thing you need to do is to focus on your child's difficulties in school, at home, and in other places. In other words, look at the bigger picture and view your child's symptoms in the context of these different environments rather than just treating the ADHD alone.  This approach will mean taking into account your family dynamics, your child's personality, other conditions that were identified during the evaluation, your available resources, and so on.  

As soon as you have created the bigger picture of your child's symptoms, ADHD, and environment, the next step is to identify three to six general goals or expectations you have for the treatment.  Such goals might include the following:

  • Less disruptive behavior at school
  • Better academic performance, especially in terms of completion and accuracy
  • Higher self-esteem 
  • Improved social skills and relationships
  • Turning ADHD symptoms into strengths or useful skills
  • Safer behavior, e.g. looking both ways before crossing the street

Discuss these goals with your child and doctor.  Once you've agreed upon the general expectations, you can start thinking about the specific criteria that will help you know if your child is meeting the treatment's goals.  For instance, if the general goal is "less disruptive behavior at school," the specific criteria could be:

  • Demonstrates better self-restraint (gets into fights fewer than two times a week)
  • Complies with most of the teacher's requests
  • Accepts negative feedback (does not get into arguments after feedback)

Notice how this second list is far more specific than the first one.  Once these specific targets have been defined, you can arrange them according to their priority so you can avoid trying to accomplish too many things at once.  Those at the top of the list should be the behaviors that cause the most trouble at home, at school, or with friends, or those that most impede your child's development.  Your child's teacher might be able to help you formulate this list, because he or she observes your child daily in a group of same-aged students.

Whatever your expectations are, make sure that they are attainable according to your child's abilities.  Your child's doctor should be able to tell you which goals are realistic or which results can be obtained from which treatments. Try not to put too much pressure on your child, especially at the start.  For instance, expecting your child to get all A's on the next report card might be an unrealistic expectation; however, changes from D's to C's and B's are within your child's reach. Always be supportive and encouraging to boost your child's confidence and inspire greater success as the treatment progresses.