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Can Mindfulness Be Used to Help Treat Children With ADHD?

September 11, 2018

In this occasional feature, members of the Psych Congress Steering Committee answer questions asked by audience members at Psych Congress meetings.

QUESTION: How do you recommend implementing mindfulness in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? How do you track progress and encourage adherence?

ANSWER: There have been several well controlled studies that use mindfulness interventions in with children with ADHD, and their parents and teachers, and have shown excellent outcomes across symptoms and functional impairment. 

In these studies, specific mindfulness strategies such as body scans, breath work and noting care of the body and mind are taught. Combined with psychoeducational approaches tailored to the needs of children with ADHD, the strategies have demonstrated improvements in children and their caregivers. Participants in these studies have found that using mindfulness interventions helps children to notice their experiences, not become easily overwhelmed by emotions when they surface, and avoid responding without attention.

Tracking progress with incorporating mindfulness, as with any intervention for children with ADHD, can happen by both parties agreeing upon the goals of treatment and collecting objective information about the symptoms of concern (or limitations upon functioning) at baseline and after incorporating these interventions. It is helpful to engage the child in this process, using language familiar to the child, such as “how are you doing with noticing when you feel like blurting out answers at school and that you can wait until you first are called upon by your teacher?”.

Incorporating mindfulness interventions into treatment has also resulted in enhanced adherence to treatment, in both parents and children.

— Julie Carbray, PhD, FPMHNP, PMHCNS, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Nursing and Administrative Director, Pediatric Mood Disorder Program, University of Illinois at Chicago​


Miller CJ, Brooker B. Mindfulness programming for parents and teachers of children with ADHD. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2017;28:108-115.


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