Early Diagnosis

The earlier children are diagnosed with AD/HD, the better the outcome for them in every respect, but this only happens if a correct treatment plan is followed religiously from the time of diagnosis. A child's brain is more elastic when s/he is very young and studies have shown that it is possible to still mold it if interventions are put in place as early as possible.

Although the main DSM-IV-R diagnostic criteria for an AD/HD diagnosis is the presence of the key symptoms before the age of 7, it is rare that a child is diagnosed with this condition before this age. The reason for this is that it is difficult to be sure whether a child's AD-HD-like behaviour is, in fact, just normal behaviour for that age or a symptom of AD/HD. However, if a child is "at risk" for this condition, certain assumptions can be made at a very early age and appropriate interventions put in place accordingly, which could change the outcome for these children dramatically.

More efforts are being made in Australia, the US and the UK to identify such children at pre-school or kindergarten age and in some places, early enrichment programmes have been developed with this in mind.

The effectiveness of some of these programmes has been studied in recent years and the results are quite promising. It is no wonder therefore that Early Intervention is a popular theme today.

A Selection of Early Intervention Studies

  • Balancing Work and Family: A Controlled Evaluation of the Triple-P Positive Parenting Programme as a Work Site Intervention

    Martin, Alicia J; Sanders, Matthew R
    Child and Adolescent Mental Health v.8 no.4 Nov 2003: 161-169, tables

    Behavioural family intervention has been shown to be effective with children exhibiting behavioural and emotional problems. The authors point out, however, that little work has been done to examine the relationship between parents' ability to manage work responsibilities and home responsibilities. In this study, 42 parents reporting difficulties managing work and home responsibilities and their children's behavioural problems were assigned either to a work place group parenting program based on the Triple-P Positive Parenting Program, or to a control group. Those parents participating in the work place Triple P group showed improvements in managing home and work responsibilities and in reported levels of work stress and parental distress; these improvements were maintained at a four months follow up.

  • Community Interventions for Vulnerable Children and Families: Participation and Power

    Katz, Ilan
    Communities, Children and Families Australia v.3 no.1 Dec 2007: 19-33

    Early intervention programs for vulnerable children are increasingly focused on developing holistic and comprehensive interventions that engage with the community or neighbourhood as well as individual children and families. This article discusses some of the policy and practice issues relating to community interventions for children, focusing on the challenges of participation and empowerment of parents and children. Participation and empowerment in the development and management of programs has become a fundamental component, not only as an objective in its own right but also because 'ownership' of the intervention by the community is said to create higher quality services and enhance children's outcomes. However, many tensions and challenges relating to participation remain, including representation, conflicts of interest, accessing hard to reach families and interaction with mainstream services. Another issue is the interface between community interventions and statutory child protection services, which tend to focus on the risk to the child and seldom take into account the community context. Despite these challenges, evidence is beginning to emerge of the effectiveness of participation as a component of child protection strategies. (Journal abstract, edited)

  • Early Intervention for Pre-Schoolers with Behaviour Problems: Preliminary Findings for the Exploring Together Preschool Programme

    Reid, Kate; Littlefield, Lyn; Hammond, Sabine W Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health (AeJAMH) v.7 no.1 Mar 2008: 15p. Online (PDF 139 KB) There is increasing recognition of the need for early intervention into behavioural problems in preschool aged children (3-6 years) to prevent long-term adverse outcomes. This paper reports on the 'Exploring Together Preschool Program' (ETPP), an innovative, developmental theory based, early intervention program, aimed at preschoolers referred with behaviour problems who are at risk of developing ongoing mental health problems. ETPP is a multifaceted group program comprising parent behaviour management training, parent-child interaction therapy, and children's social problem-solving training. Seven groups comprising 37 preschoolers and one of their parents referred from clinical and community settings participated in the 10-week program. Results indicate that children's behaviour problems reduced clinically and significantly from pre- to post-program whilst social skills improved significantly. Parenting practices and parents' satisfaction with their role also improved significantly. Improvements were mostly maintained at 6-month follow-up. Developmental theory suggests that these changes will help prevent behaviour problems from developing into long-term, enduring mental health problems. The study provides preliminary evidence that ETPP is a theoretically and developmentally sound, comprehensive intervention for Australian families with preschool aged children who show early signs of mental health problems. (Journal abstract)

  • Evaluation of the Family Intervention Service for Children Presenting with Characteristics Associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

    Rogers, Helen; Cann, Warren; Cameron, Daisy; Littlefield, Lyn; Lagioia, Vince
    Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health (AeJAMH) v.2 no.3 Nov 2003: 10p, figures, Online only (PDF 62 KB)

    The Victorian Parenting Centre Family Intervention Service (FIS) conducts brief group and individual parent training programs (Triple P) intended as preventative interventions for families of children at risk of developing emotional and behavioural problems. This paper reports on an evaluation of a Triple P intervention specifically with children exhibiting ADHD characteristics. Pre and post intervention parental self report data were analysed for 83 children aged 2 to 15 years. Following the FIS intervention there was a reduction in problem behaviour scores of children perceived to have a high frequency of behaviours typical of ADHD. Mothers also reported reduced depression, anxiety and stress, increased feelings of satisfaction and competency in parenting, less negative parenting behaviour, and reduction in parental conflict. Furthermore, they expressed a high level of satisfaction with the program. These evaluation findings are consistent with those of controlled investigations of the impact of behavioural family intervention on problematic behaviours of children with ADHD. (Journal abstract)

  • Learning, Enjoying, Growing, Support Model: An Innovative Collaborative Approach to the Prevention of Conduct Disorder in Preschoolers in Hard-to-Reach Rural Families

    Hourihan, Fleur; Hoban, Deb Australian Journal of Rural Health v.12 no.6 Dec 2004: 269-276 The Learning, Enjoying, Growing, Support (LEGS) model was developed to provide a framework for enhancing parents' social support, fostering positive parenting practices and enhancing child development. This paper reports the development, implementation and evaluation of this innovative model which was piloted in four rural communities within the Mid Western Area Health Service, New South Wales. The pilot targeted rural families with preschool aged children at risk of conduct disorder, and involved a total of 33 families referred to the program through community services where they were established clients. The model comprised a parenting program, a children's social skills program and a transition to school component. Group programs were run simultaneously over 5-10 weeks. The positive impact of the model on parenting skills and child behaviour is promising, and communities are continuing to run the programs. (Extracts from Bibliography of Early Intervention Programmes from the Australian Family & Society Abstracts’ database and Other Resource in their Libraries.).


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