This clinical practice guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for the treatment of children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This guideline, the second in a set of policies on this condition, is intended for use by clinicians working in primary care settings. The initiation of treatment requires the accurate establishment of a diagnosis of ADHD; the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical practice guideline on diagnosis of children with ADHD1 provides direction in appropriately diagnosing this disorder.

The AAP Committee on Quality Improvement selected a subcommittee composed of primary care and developmental-behavioral pediatricians and other experts in the fields of neurology, psychology, child psychiatry, education, family practice, and epidemiology. The subcommittee partnered with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Evidence-based Practice Center at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, to develop the evidence base of literature on this topic.2 The resulting systematic review, along with other major studies in this area, was used to formulate recommendations for treatment of children with ADHD. The subcommittee also reviewed the multimodal treatment study of children with ADHD3 and the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment report (CCOHTA).4 Subcommittee decisions were made by consensus where definitive evidence was not available. The subcommittee report underwent extensive review by sections and committees of the AAP as well as by numerous external organizations before approval from the AAP Board of Directors.

The guideline contains the following recommendations for the treatment of a child diagnosed with ADHD:

  • Primary care clinicians should establish a treatment program that recognizes ADHD as a chronic condition.

  • The treating clinician, parents, and child, in collaboration with school personnel, should specify appropriate target outcomes to guide management.

  • The clinician should recommend stimulant medication and/or behavior therapy as appropriate to improve target outcomes in children with ADHD.

  • When the selected management for a child with ADHD has not met target outcomes, clinicians should evaluate the original diagnosis, use of all appropriate treatments, adherence to the treatment plan, and presence of coexisting conditions.

  • The clinician should periodically provide a systematic follow-up for the child with ADHD. Monitoring should be directed to target outcomes and adverse effects, with information gathered from parents, teachers, and the child.

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