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Online help for parents of preschoolers with ADHD symptoms

author:University of Auckland

A University of Auckland trial involving families of pre-school children with ADHD symptoms is the first in the world to demonstrate that children’s symptoms and parents’ stress can be improved with an online intervention.

Study authors Dr Nike Franke and Dr Louise Keown of the Faculty of Education and Social Work say the findings support international clinical guidelines which advocate that families of preschool children with signs of ADHD be supported by an evidence-based parenting programme before medication is prescribed.

The study, published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, involved 53 New Zealand families with a child aged three or four with extreme levels of hyperactivity/inattentiveness. The families enrolled in Triple P Online, a self-directed, interactive positive parenting programme delivered via the Internet. Parents had access to the programme for 16 weeks plus two phone consultations to help parents tailor the strategies they learnt to their family situation.

“Coping at home with pre-schoolers who show these extreme behaviours can be very challenging and stressful for parents to deal with” said Dr Franke. “They can also have difficulties in social situations with their peers, and parents can feel embarrassed, ashamed and blame themselves”.

Dr Franke said one of the overarching issues that came out of the programme was how relieved parents felt at knowing that other parents managed to overcome similar issues.


“Many reported that after seeing parents in the programme video clips working things out, they felt capable they could do the same,’’ she said.

After taking part in the programme parents reported significantly lower levels of stress and depression and greater parenting satisfaction.

Many parents reported feeling more confident in their parenting skills and that their child’s behaviour was much easier to manage.

“These results highlight the potential benefits of an online parenting programme as an early intervention for preschool ADHD and for parents of these children” said Dr Keown.

“The reality is, there are barriers to providing face-to-face parenting programmes to help parents manage preschool ADHD symptoms, particularly in smaller communities around New Zealand, and not all parents want to ask for help,” she said. “An effective online programme means parents can get help in their own homes easily and anonymously which is what many parents want.

“ADHD behaviors are associated with long-term problems such as difficult relationships with parents, teachers and peers, and poor academic performance, so it is best to intervene as early as possible.”

Triple P Online is part of the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program system of programmes developed by co-author and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Queensland, Professor Matt Sanders.


University of Auckland September 2016 2012