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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Involving Fathers in the Treatment of Children with ADHD

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 31st 2007

At the University of Buffalo Graduate School of Education an important discovery has been made about the importance of integrating fathers into the treatment of children with ADHD. For many years the Graduate School of Education at the university has been using sports as a way to help children with emotional and behavioral problems associated with ADHD learns how to cooperate with peers. Fathers would bring their children to the soccer and soft ball fields to watch their children play. One of the assistant professors who runs the program, Fabiano, noticed that, other than bringing the children to the sports fields, would play no further role in the treatment process for the children and would not even attend the parenting group.

An experiment was performed that resulted in dramatic and encouraging results for these children and their parents. Families in the program were divided into two groups. One group continued in the program as usual and with no changes. Children received the usual treatment modalities and played sports while mostly mothers attended the parenting groups. In the second or experimental group a new technique as added referred to as COACHES or Coaching Our Acting-Out Children: Heightening Essential Skills. The purpose of COACHES is to integrate fathers into the treatment of their children and improve their relationships with one another.

The experiment resulted in dramatic positive results with children and their fathers becoming deeply involved not only in the sports part of the program but in helping their children with homework and with how to resolve problems at school and elsewhere. In addition, the fathers found an enormous amount of support among one another and formed a very helpful community.

Just one very nice example of how children and fathers were helped through COACHES was the following:

As all parents of children with this disorder have experienced is that the children become extremely frustrated with their failures on the sports field and commonly go storming off. More often than not the children refuse to engage in any further sports activities. Ultimately, both children and parents drop out of the total program. Parents who are not part of any program experience the same thing on the sports fields because their children cannot tolerate frustration.

Thanks to the COACHES program the children felt relaxed on the field and did not storm off if they made an error. In addition, their fathers are there to advise, help and encourage in ways that were very positive. There was no sense of competition. Instead, kids and fathers had a lot of fun.

Why is this important?

Involvement in sports activities improve studying and learning skills for children. This is especially so for kids with ADHD. In other words, there are enormous gains for everyone in this type of setting:

1. Fathers became directly involved with their children

2. Fathers discovered that they were not isolated but interacted with other dads with the same issues

3. Children grew in their ability to tolerate frustration

4. Children learned social and coping skills that helped them in school and at home

If you have a child with ADHD seek help now. The sooner you get the children that help the sooner they will improve and the sooner your life as a parent will improve.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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