Could Your Child Have ADHD?
Treatment: Controlling the Symptoms and Making Lifestyle Changes
There is no cure for ADHD, but medications can help control symptoms. Stimulants, which help increase a child's attention span, are the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD. These stimulants include Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall (mixed salts of a single-entity amphetamine product), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) and Cylert (pemoline). [Note: As of March 2005, the manufacturer of Cylert, Abbot Laboratories, discontinued this drug due to declining sales.] Other types of medications may be used, depending upon the child's needs: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly half of all children with ADHD also suffer from conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders.
Because medications do not help a child with learning or social situations, behavioral interventions -- helping the child learn social skills, helping parents with discipline (see "What parents can do") -- are also used in the treatment of ADHD. If the ADHD is extreme, family therapy may be recommended.
Why Is ADHD So Controversial?
ADHD has been, and remains, a controversial condition. Most debatable is the use of stimulant medication and its side effects, such as decreased appetite, weight loss and temporary slowing of growth. Although parents worry that the use of stimulants may lead to later drug abuse, this is actually more myth than reality. And new evidence from the Multimodality Treatment of ADHD study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, suggests that stimulants do remain beneficial over the long term. Some experts have questioned the validity of the disorder itself, as there is no diagnostic test. As a result, the approach to the management of ADHD by the health-care profession has not been standardized.
Despite the obstacles facing a child with ADHD, there are proven ways to maximize a child's effectiveness in school and other social settings. The most important thing is that all the adults in a child's life -- parents, teachers, doctors -- work together to address problems and help the child to help himself.
What Parents Can Do
To help a child with ADHD, follow these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
1. Put your child on a daily schedule; structure helps keep a child calm.
2. Minimize time spent in overly stimulating environments, such as shopping centers.
3. Reward your child for good behavior. Kids with ADHD get plenty of attention as a result of their negative behavior; it's important to balance this with an equal amount of praise.
4. If your child does become disruptive, do not resort to physical punishment. Instead, remove your child from the situation, distract her with some other activity or have her spend some quiet time alone.