Treatment Options for Toddlers with ADHD

Treatment Options for Toddlers with ADHDEarly Intervention Services

The Department of Human Services (at the local county health department) has a division entitled Early Intervention Services. They Early Intervention (EI) staff can help children with a variety of different needs from birth through the day before their third birthday.

So, if a one or two-year-old is struggling with social-emotional deficits, as with ADHD, the child can be evaluated by the EI staff at no cost to the family. If the child qualifies for services, the family pays on a sliding scale based on family size and income. The services also are provided in the home for the convenience of the family. The EI service provider will work through different modalities of play, art, music, etc. to facilitate the social-emotional growth of the child. 

Can Toddlers Participate in Counseling?

Even if a child between the ages two to six-years old has excellently developed language skills, a young child is still not able to comprehend the full nature of traditional talk therapy, due to its abstract nature. Therefore, other modes of interpersonal therapy are recommended for this age range to help the child to begin to self-regulate. 

Interpersonal Modes of Therapy

I recommend the following therapies with children ages three to six. These treatment modalities can still be used in conjunction with talk therapy once the child turns seven. The therapies are Dance-Movement Therapy, Play Therapy, Music Therapy, Art Therapy, and Animal-Assisted Therapy.

The different interpersonal modes of therapy all work on self-awareness, self-management skills, interpersonal/social skills, and decision-making skills. All of these areas are in need of improvement in children with ADHD.


Because there is only one FDA approved stimulant medication for ADHD in children age three and above, it is not recommended that mediation is the first intervention tried, except in extreme cases, and medication is then to be used in conjunction with therapeutic services. Medication does not teach skills but it may help a child be able to begin to use skills.

Holistic Approaches

More research is being done on nature and emotional regulation that shows that two hours a day of green space can improve ADHD symptoms. There is also research being done on balance-based activities (yoga, martial arts, gymnastics) because these activities appear to improve timing in the brain, which can increase focus and decrease impulsivity. There is some research on chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy as both of these techniques attempt to work on the biology of ADHD.

Cardiovascular exercise can be beneficial for ADHD because it brings blood and glucose to the frontal lobe to also increase focus and decrease impulsivity. Of course other healthy habits like getting enough sleep each night and eating healthy foods to fuel neurotransmitter health can also both help improve mental health symptoms.

Published on: June 18, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Donna Mac

Donna is the author of Toddlers & ADHD: Relief for Parents, A Guide for Clinicians and Teachers . She has a background in early childhood developmental psychology and has worked professionally with ADHD as a teacher, as a nature-based summer camp director, and currently as a licensed clinical therapist.

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