October is ADHD Awareness Month, a period dedicated to educating the public about Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and its symptoms.
Why Awareness Matters
When people are educated about the condition, they’re more likely to recognize the signs and symptoms of ADHD in children. This makes it possible for children with ADHD to receive early interventions.
Early interventions can include support strategies like behavioral therapy, skills training, and accommodations, as well as medication if necessary. Research shows that early interventions can improve a child’s academic performance and reduce their chances of experiencing relationship difficulties, employment problems, and mental health issues later down the line.
The Incredible Years® offers a variety of early intervention programs for parents, teachers, and other professionals who work with young children. These evidence-based programs aim to equip adults with tools to promote social-emotional learning (SEL), academic skills, and positive behavior outcomes in children.
Now, let’s talk about the prevalence of ADHD among children and the importance of early interventions.
The Prevalence and Impact of ADHD
Based on data from 2016-2019, approximately 9.8% of children in the United States have ADHD. That’s about 6 million in total. If this figure seems high, you might be wondering if ADHD is overdiagnosed or whether the condition is becoming more common.
Indeed, ADHD prevalence has increased over the past few decades — but research suggests this is mostly because of increasing awareness. Thanks to parents, teachers, and clinicians becoming more aware of ADHD, children are more likely to find a diagnosis and get the help they need as soon as possible versus continuing to struggle through the difficulties of this condition.
A 2022 paper noted that ADHD may still be underdiagnosed in certain groups, especially in girls and children of color. Sadly, this means many children are facing the challenges of ADHD without adequate support.
Depending on a child’s unique symptoms, ADHD can directly affect their ability to:
- start and complete tasks
- organize their possessions
- manage their time
- control their impulses
- focus and concentrate
- follow instructions
Having ADHD isn’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, people with ADHD can have many unique strengths and positive traits. However, when left untreated, ADHD can cause negative consequences later in life.
Adults with ADHD are more likely to experience:
- substance use issues
- mental health issues like depression
- traffic accidents
- relationship problems
The good news? Early intervention can help protect against the negative impact of ADHD, helping children cope with challenges and grow into happy, successful, and healthy adults.
Why Early Intervention for ADHD Matters
Evidence-based early interventions can help children learn to manage their symptoms, foster positive social relationships, and improve their academic performance.
A 2020 study looked at 182 children with parents who participated in an early intervention program.
The children experienced the following benefits:
- improved early childhood functioning
- lower teacher-rated behavioral problems
- higher teacher-rated academic skills,
- lower child-report risks for risky behaviors and drug use
Although not the focus of this article, further research supports that ADHD medications can lower a child's risk of developing certain comorbid conditions.
ADHD treatment is not just about helping improve a child’s concentration and academic performance. It could also improve their relationship with peers, teachers, and family members, protect their mental health and self-image, and increase their chances of avoiding undesirable or risky behaviors. Even as early as preschool, research shows that targeted ADHD early interventions can positively impact both a child’s educational achievements and social functioning throughout their academic journey.
The Incredible Years offers early intervention programs for children, parents, and teachers. Our interventions aim to strengthen social, emotional, and academic skills. The programs focus on fostering social-emotional learning (SEL), which promotes emotional and social intelligence, enhances students' academic performance, and improves their overall well-being.
The Incredible Years® Approach to ADHD
Although our programs don’t solely focus on children with attention disorders, Incredible Years® primary motivation was to provide ADHD strategies that can be useful in early intervention.
According to research, our programs can be immensely helpful for young children with ADHD by significantly reducing symptoms of ADHD, including inattention and impulsivity. Our programs can also provide protective benefits and enable improved mental and behavioral health outcomes. The beneficial effects we've noted can be significantly magnified. This is because our teacher training, parent training, and child-focused programs are designed to interact and support one another. Each program enhances the effectiveness of the others, forming an interconnected system that provides comprehensive support for children and adolescents.
Several aspects of our programs are helpful for young children with ADHD, including our focus on:
- social skills interventions
- strategies that increase children’s attention
- emotional self-regulation skills
These programs teach parents and teachers useful skills for helping children with ADHD, such as:
- effective praise
- incentivizing children
- differential attention
- reinforcing positive behavior
A randomized control trial on the effectiveness of our programs for children with ADHD produced promising results. The trial looked at how our programs could be tailored to assist children aged 4 to 6 with the condition.
After a 20-week parent and child intervention, the Incredible Years® produced the following results:
- parents noticed an improvement in the child’s behavior, ADHD symptoms, and social skills
- parents reported engaging in positive parenting and discipline strategies
- teachers reported improved behavior
- independent observers noted better behavior, parenting, and social contact
- children had improved feelings, vocabulary, and problem-solving skills
What’s more, is that these changes seemed to last. When researchers followed up one year after the intervention was completed, most of these results were sustained — showing that our programs can produce long-lasting results.
In this trial, our programs were successfully tailored to meet the needs of children with ADHD as they included additional sessions for parents that focused on:
- addressing parent stress management
- building support networks
- collaborating effectively with teachers
The Incredible Years® ADHD strategy, shown to produce positive outcomes, teaches caregivers how to “coach” children’s academic, emotional, and social skills through specific, descriptive comments that draw positive attention to certain behaviors. These strategies motivate children to regulate their emotions, engage in positive social behavior, and remain persistent.
Learn more about our programs through the Incredible Years® Overview Fact Sheet.
The Critical Role of Parents, Teachers, and Community
The Incredible Years® focuses on a collaborative effort between parents and teachers.
Learning doesn’t just happen at home or school but in both spaces and the context of the broader community. As such, The Incredible Years® programs are designed to complement one another.
According to the randomized control trial mentioned above, the success of the Incredible Years® intervention demonstrates the importance of parent-teacher collaboration. The study also concluded that parent training should complement the programs given to children.
Through our programs, parents are educated and empowered to address the unique challenges posed by ADHD and other behavioral issues. They are encouraged to communicate and collaborate with teachers and childcare staff.
Our programs equip teachers with strategies to manage classroom dynamics effectively and provide an enriching learning experience for children with ADHD.
Conclusion: Incredible Years® and ADHD
ADHD Awareness Month is an opportunity to reflect, educate, and discuss the value of early intervention in managing ADHD. Time and time again, research has shown that early treatment makes a significant difference in improving the quality of life for people with the condition.
Incredible Years is dedicated to providing evidence-based programs designed to aid early interventions for children with ADHD, focusing on equipping parents, caregivers, and teachers with necessary strategies and support. Our unique approach is designed to address each child's individual needs and help them thrive. For more information about our programs and how they can help, visit our Programs page.