CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Centers for Disease Control Vital Signs report shows more young children ages two to five-years-old who are diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could benefit from psychological services, including behavioral therapy.
The therapy would take place before any medicine was prescribed to treat the disorder.
The latest CDC data from 2011 shows South Carolina ranks the fifth highest in the U.S. in number of children with ADHD.
The report states the therapy treatment can be more beneficial than medication in some cases.
"The evidence was very strong, especially for pre-school children, that they receive behavioral therapy as first-line treatment," said Dr. Angela LaRosa, MD, with MUSC's Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics Department.
"I think that in today's society medication is a business," said Lubov Byrum, a mother. "Medications do have their place and they are important, but I would like to see behavioral therapies, spending more time with the kids, trying something else before we jump to medication."
Dr. LaRosa believes the therapy is a great treatment, but there aren't enough resources in the Lowcountry or the state.
"We do have, I would say, a handful of providers in our local area, so the Tri-County," LaRosa said. "But if you're living in a more resource poor area you might not be able to get that behavioral therapy."
The report looks at healthcare claims data from at least five-million young children (ages two to five years of age) each year insured by Medicaid (2008-2011) and about one-million young children insured each year through employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) (2008-2014).
Researchers found in both groups, just over 75% of young children diagnosed with ADHD received medication for the disorder. Only 54% of young children with Medicaid and 45% of young children with ESI (2011) received any form of psychological services annually.
The report states the percentage of children with ADHD receiving psychological services has not increased over time.
LaRosa believes there needs to be more resources for patients.
The therapy consists of three guidelines which are done in the doctor's office and at home.
The skills may include:
Positive communication: When parents give children their full attention and reflect on their words back to them, your child knows you are listening and car about what he has to say.
Positive reinforcement: Praise your child when she does something right. The more parents praise behavior, the more likely it is the child will behave the same way again.
Structure and discipline: Children do better when their world is predictable. Set up routines and daily schedules to help the child know what to expect each day. Respond to the child's behavior the same way every time to help him/her learn more quickly.
"It's a time commitment, but I talk to my parents all the time, it's an investment," LaRosa said. "It's a down-payment. If you take this time, and put in eight to twelve weeks, then you'll have a lifetime of hopefully, improved behavior and less issues for your child."
LaRosa noted in some cases therapy alone may not solve the problem. Joint treatment with medication and therapy can help control the disorder.
In most cases children are diagnosed with ADHD during their early school years, around ages six or seven.
The CDC states about two-million of the more than six-million children with the disorder were diagnosed before age six.
The national group said these children tend to have more severe symptoms and can benefit from early treatment.
"Parents of young children with ADHD may need support, and behavior therapy is an important first step," said Anne Schuchat, MD (RADM, USPHS), Principal Deputy Director, CDC. "It has been shown to be as effective as medicine, but without the risk of side effects. We are still learning about the potential unintended effects of long-term use of ADHD medicine on young children."
Nationally, three in every four kids with ADHD receives medicine for treatment.
Right now seven-percent of South Carolina children between the ages of four and 17, with the disorder, are taking medication.