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Learn More About ADHD

Mother and father with young daughterLearning more about ADHD is the first step to an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment for individuals and families, as well as for the professionals who treat and support them. Here is what CDC is doing to learn more and raise awareness about ADHD.

CDC helps children with ADHD reach their full potential by working with partners to raise awareness of ADHD and improve knowledge of treatment options to support families, professionals, and the community.

What is ADHD and how is it diagnosed?

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Many children have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, a child may have ADHD when symptoms like having trouble paying attention, acting without thinking about what the result will be, or being overly active, continue over time and cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

Learn more about symptoms and diagnosis.

Treatment for ADHD

Although there isn’t a known cure for ADHD, it can be successfully managed. Some symptoms may improve as the child grows older. It is important to get an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment as early as possible. But not all children with ADHD are getting the right treatment, especially young children.

Treatment recommendations vary by age.

  • For children under 6, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends behavior therapy first before trying medication. The most effective approach for young children is parent training in behavior therapy.
  • For children 6 years of age and older, AAP recommends behavior therapy and medication as good options, preferably both together. Parent training has been shown to be effective up to age 12, particularly for children with disruptive behaviors.

Learn more about treatment options .

Checkmark in checkbox

Fill out the symptoms checklist and share it with the child’s doctor or download and print [768 KB].

What is CDC doing?

Raising awareness by educating the public
The first step to help children with ADHD is to increase knowledge and awareness of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, and ways to receive support. CDC works with the National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC), a program of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), to provide information on diagnosis, treatment, and living with ADHD for families, professionals, and the community. Learn more about the NRC’s information and resources.

Increasing knowledge of treatment options
Not all children receive the recommended treatment. For example, among young children, only about half receive any kind of psychological services, and 1 in 4 children receives only medication. A first step is to ensure that parents and providers know the recommendations and learn about parent training in behavior therapy.

CDC worked with the National Council for Behavioral Health to conduct expert webinars for parents, healthcare providers, and other clinical providers that explained AAP’s recommendation of behavior therapy first for young children, and what to look for when seeking behavior therapy. The webinars have been recorded and you can access them here. Continuing education credits for professionals are available.

Children with ADHD also need the right care in school, where being overly active, impulsive, and inattentive can make it difficult to learn. The NRC conducted a series of expert webinars for education professionals who work with young children with ADHD. The webinars have been recorded and you can access them here.

Information for States: Having the right resources to obtain the right care where children and families live with ADHD is important. States need to understand the impact of ADHD in their communities and learn more about potential barriers to treatment. Therefore, CDC is gathering data for states about rates of ADHD and treatment patterns, as well as information about policies that affect treatment. You can access information for states here.

  • Page last reviewed: November 16, 2016
  • Page last updated: November 16, 2016
  • Content source:
    • National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities; Division of Human Development and Disability; Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs