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Rewards Might Work Like Medication for Kids with ADHD

Posted by Dr. Robert Myers, PhD

Interestingly, a new study conducted at Nottingham University in the UK found that immediate rewards in the form of points in a video game had a similar effect on brain activity in kids with ADHD as stimulant medication does.  Based on EEG results, the team found that both the rewards and the child’s usual dose of stimulant medication resulted in the normalization of brain regions and improved task completion, though the medication yielded a slightly higher effect.

The researchers at Nottingham University stated that it may be difficult for parents and teachers to provide tangible rewards immediately.

However, other research shows that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder actually respond as well or better to social reinforcement than they do to tangible reinforcers like points, tokens or money.  This means that a smile or a brief word of encouragement may achieve significant benefits for a child with ADD or ADHD.

For some families, instituting some simple changes  in your parenting approach could reduce or eliminate the need for medication for some children. Positive words, a smile or encouragement can be given to your child immediately and may work to effectively improve the behavior of your child with ADHD or ADD.

Years of research and current professional guidelines indicate that behavioral interventions should be tried first before medication except for children with severe symptoms.


About Dr. Robert Myers, PhD

Dr Robert Myers is a child psychologist with more than 25 years of experience working with children and adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities and is the creator of the Total Focus Program®. Dr Myers is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at UC Irvine School of Medicine. "Dr Bob" has provided practical information for parents as a radio talk show host and as editor of Child Development Institute's website,, which reaches 3 million parents each year. Dr. Myers earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

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