Through our clinical research experiences and extensive collaborations with schools, we have learned that psychosocial interventions from a cognitive-behavioral perspective, like group social skills training and multiple family groups, are effective tools in remediating maladaptive behaviors which impair academic and social functioning. We also know that when parents participate in treatment simultaneous to a child’s treatment, gains are better generalized across settings. Bushman (2008) found that children whose parents completed an intervention combining problem-solving based social skills training in combination with complementary parent training showed greater improvement than those whose parents only went through a directive parent training course.
While psychosocial interventions do not render the ‘large’ immediate effect size that is found in pharmacological interventions, we now know that the gains of early psychosocial interventions are better maintained across time than those of medication alone. Furthermore, we know that gains from these non-pharmacological interventions are not attained until at least 12 weeks of daily intervention and that generalization is optimized after 14 months of intervention. A meta-analysis of the research over the past decade on social skills intervention indicated that the largest challenge remaining for the intervention is ensuring adequate length of intervention for an effect (Gresham, Van, & Cook, 2006). Results suggest that initial effects are attained with a minimum of 60 hours of intervention. Less is known about the duration of intervention required to best promote generalization of these gains across other settings.
The MTA study found that when administered properly, intense behavioral treatments significantly reduced impairment from the symptoms of ADHD that interfere with school and home functioning and to deny such children an appropriate diagnosis and high quality treatments cannot be defended on ethical, scientific, or pragmatic grounds (Jensen et. al., 2001). Furthermore, in a large study of children treated with medical interventions for ADHD, results indicate that while medication reduces symptoms of ADHD, there was no evidence of reduced social or occupational impairment for these children (Epstein, 2011). The UC Irvine Child Development School was the model for the school-based behavioral intervention component of the MTA study and continues today to bring intense, high quality behavioral solutions for children with ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.