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ADHD: An Update on Diagnosis and Treatment for Kids

Diagnosing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is sometimes controversial. But for children with the condition, treatment options are working.

Jeremiah's Progress

The Ryanses decided that medication was the best course, and Jeremiah's doctor recommended Strattera. "Jeremiah was put on medication on a Wednesday," Mimi recalls. "On Friday we got a note from the teacher asking for a conference. She wanted to know what we were doing at home, because she saw such a great change."

Jeremiah, now 5, is doing well, his parents report, although it took effort on everyone's part to achieve this success. "Jeremiah is much more patient and able to maintain his composure," says his mother.

Easier to accept than the medication regimen, at least for Mimi, was the behavior modification, which Jeremiah continues to learn during his frequent visits to a social worker. Also, every six weeks, they visit a psychiatrist to assess how well the medication is working.

Mimi recalls how it was before the treatment -- and after. "When you have a child with ADHD, his peers really don't like him," she says. But since Jeremiah has followed the medication and behavior modification plan, he has "settled down."

Success has come in stages, and every day isn't perfect. "Yes, he's a typical little boy, running, jumping, and losing control, but the aggression has almost come to a complete halt." Occasionally he misses his medication -- usually because he falls asleep and Mimi doesn't wake him up to give it to him -- and the effect is noticeable. "He's all over the place" when this happens, she says.

But the rites and joys of childhood that other families take for granted are now within Jeremiah's reach. For instance? "He's gotten invited to a couple of birthday parties this year," his mother says, and "he's had a great time."

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • How do I distinguish between normal childish behavior, however unruly, and ADHD?
  • What kind of parentingparenting techniques should I apply before considering medication?
  • What should I tell my child's teachers?
  • How long will my child have to take medication?
  • Will my child always have ADHD?

Signs of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD typically occur in early childhood. Health professionals look for specific symptoms and categorize them by type of ADHD. Before a diagnosis can be made, children must exhibit multiple symptoms within a category for six months or more before age 7.

ADHD of the Inattentive Type

  • Doesn't pay attention to details; makes careless mistakes
  • Can't pay attention
  • Doesn't seem to listen
  • Struggles with instructions
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks
  • Avoids tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Misplaces things
  • Is distracted easily
  • Is forgetful

ADHD of the Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

  • Is aggressive
  • Fidgets or squirms
  • Can't stay seated
  • Runs or climbs a lot
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Talks excessively
  • Is often "on the go"
  • Blurts out answers
  • Has difficulty standing in line or waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupts others often

ADHD of the Combined Type

  • Has symptoms of both
Reviewed on May 04, 2008

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