Successful treatment of
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begins
with an accurate diagnosis and understanding of a child's weaknesses and
strengths. Learning about ADHD will help you and your child's siblings better
understand how to help your child.
The American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines recommend medicine and/or behavior therapy to treat
children with ADHD.9
child's doctor may recommend that your child take a
stimulant medicine, such as amphetamine (for example,
Dexedrine, Adderall) or methylphenidate (for example, Ritalin, Concerta,
Metadate CD). These medicines improve symptoms in about 70% of children who
have the condition.1
Although it may
seem contradictory, stimulants usually decrease hyperactivity and impulsivity
and improve focus. Some parents worry about their children becoming addicted to
stimulants. Research has shown that these medicines, when taken correctly, do
not cause dependence. But parents should closely supervise the use of ADHD
medicines, because abuse by siblings, classmates, and adults has been
Parents are also often concerned about medicine side
effects, including loss of appetite, nervousness, tics or twitches, and
problems sleeping. Children should be closely monitored after they start
medicines, to assess whether they are receiving the correct dose. These side
effects usually decrease after a few weeks on the medicines, or the dosage can
be lowered to offset side effects. For more information, see:
- ADHD: Should My Child Take Medicine for ADHD?
Atomoxetine (Strattera) is a nonstimulant medicine
that may be prescribed if stimulant medicines are not effective or have
bothersome side effects. Strattera is not a controlled drug, which means
refills on prescriptions and telephone prescriptions are allowed.
The AAP guidelines also encourage
behavior therapy9. Through behavior therapy, parents
learn strategies, such as positive reinforcement, to improve a child's
behaviors. Children learn to develop problem solving, communication, and
self-advocacy skills. Behavior therapy is more helpful when used with medicine
than it is when used by itself.
Counseling may help children and
adults with ADHD recognize problem behaviors and learn ways to deal with them.
For both parents and children, counseling can be a place to air frustrations
and deal with stress.
Some children with ADHD also have other
conditions, such as
oppositional defiant disorder. Behavioral therapy can
help treat some of these conditions.
Elementary school teachers are often the first to recognize ADHD symptoms,
because in the classroom more demands are placed on children to sit still, pay
attention, listen, and follow class rules. Many times teachers recommend to
parents that a child be tested or see a doctor.
children with ADHD qualify for
educational services within the public schools. If
your child qualifies, you will meet with school personnel to identify goals and
establish an individualized education program (IEP). IEPs are based on the
evaluation of a child's disability and his or her specific needs. This usually
means your school will try to accommodate your child's extra needs, which may
be as minor as placing him or her at the front of the class or as involved as
providing classroom staff to assist your child.