Before You Medicate: Get Educated about ADHD

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may be one of the most controversial and confusing disorders involving children. Talk to anyone and they probably have a strong opinion on ADHD, why it occurs and how it is treated. Many people think it’s underdiagnosed, others think it’s overdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. If your child has been recently diagnosed with ADHD, you may be conflicted or confused by all the information surrounding the disorder. However, it’s up to you to make the right decision based on your child’s needs. Remember, only you can truly decide what is best for your child and his or her health.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a common mental disorder that can last a lifetime. Individuals with ADHD may be impulsive, hyperactive, or have difficulty paying attention. Other issues, social and emotional, may stem or be related to ADHD. While many individuals are diagnosed as children, others are not diagnosed until they are teens or adults. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), about 5 percent of U.S. children have ADHD. Other studies argue that the number of children with ADHD is higher. Again, this has a lot to do with the argument of over or under diagnosing. Despite differing statistics, ADHD is a real disorder and is common throughout the nation.

Does My Child Have ADHD or Is He/She Just Being a Kid?

Initially, ADHD diagnoses can be frustrating for a parent. Since the symptoms of ADHD often mirror a “normal” child, it’s difficult to determine whether or not a child truly has ADHD. For example, some symptoms include the inability to stay focused or having a short attention span. Thinking back to your own childhood, how many times were you expected to sit quietly (and still), but couldn’t focus because you were bored? All children struggle with attention and focus sometimes, it’s unreasonable to expect children be attentive all the time.

However, when a child is consistently fidgety or can’t focus at all, affecting his/her social or academic life, ADHD may be the cause. You’re one of the only people who knows your child best. If you become increasingly concerned about his/her attention (or lack of) talk to your child’s teacher or care provider and see if they notice any changes. Talking with people you trust and who know your child can help you make a decision when you make an appointment with your child’s physician.

Before Medication

Once a child is diagnosed with ADHD, many doctors are quick to prescribe medication as treatment. If you’re on board with this and think it’s the best option, go ahead. However, there are many parents who want to cancel out other possibilities before committing to daily medication. If you disagree with the ADHD diagnosis, don’t ignore it, as you aren’t doing your child a favor. Some parents and caregivers have found success by eliminating sugary foods, monitoring distractions (such as electronics) and taking more time to create and stick to a routine. Talk therapy has also been a successful treatment for some, either alone or with medication.

Medication as an Option

If you see little change in your child once you have made changes within your home or routine, medication may be your only viable option. As with any prescribed medication, it’s important to know what your child will be taking, what changes you can expect, any side effects you should look out for, and also let your child’s teacher know that he/she is on medication. If your child seems to get worse or you see no change under the use of medication, talk with your doctor immediately.

ADHD can be a frustrating disorder to properly diagnose and it requires consistency and patience from parents. Once your child is accurately diagnosed, choose the treatment that will work for your child (not necessarily the one that your doctor pushes you to take).

Opportunities for Your Child: Programs for Children with Autism

Learning that your child has an autism spectrum disorder might unveil a lot of emotions, as well as a long list of questions. You may feel relieved that there is finally a diagnosed reason as to why your child interacts differently or why he or she seems to enjoy the repetitive nature of certain things. At the same time, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed or scared, not knowing what to do next. As a parent, your life’s goal is to provide as best as you can for your children, but it can be difficult to know what to do in new experiences, particularly surrounding their mental and physical health.

While autism is not uncommon, affecting 1 in 68 children, autism is as unique as your child. Although there may be similarities between other children who have autism, each diagnosis is different, requiring different levels of treatment for children and support for caregivers and parents.

Choose Treatment for Your Child

As soon as your child is diagnosed, it’s crucial to select the best treatment program for your child. Keep in mind that although treatment may be a lifelong commitment, as autism doesn’t simply go away, early detection and treatment can help your child live with autism much easier than children who don’t seek treatment. Receiving proper care, tailored to his or her needs, can increase your child’s ability to adapt to and learn new skills as well as minimize autism spectrum disorder symptoms.

Since a treatment program is the best option for your child, it is also important that you educate yourself on autism, in general, or your child’s specific disorder. Additionally, seeking out a support group for parents and caregivers of children with autism may be helpful, particularly through the most difficult times when things are hard to understand or handle. Other parents and caregivers can also offer advice and feedback on effective treatment programs for children with autism.

Treatment Options

Once your child has been assessed, you will need to choose an autism treatment program best suited for your child’s age and where he or she is on the autism spectrum. While there are several programs for children with autism available, keep in mind that not every program may be suitable for your child, as there is no general program that suits all children with autism. Do research, talk with experts, doctors, or other parents before selecting a program:

  • Young Children: Research has shown that young children, who are diagnosed with autism at an early age (rather than later), have greater success with social skills and other skills. Programs, such as the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), is a popular program for toddler and preschool aged children. The program also focuses heavily on parental involvement.
  • School Aged Children: By the time your child reaches school age, assuming he or she has already been diagnosed with autism, you may have several program options from specialized education within public schools or a school exclusively for children with autism. While there are numerous autism schools throughout the country, there may be none in your area or you may be faced with a financial challenge. Consider applying for an autism scholarship to relieve some of the financial stress.

Choosing a program for your child can be overwhelming, but by staying connected within the autism community and educating yourself, you can learn about the most suitable programs for your child.

And Then Came Baby…Adjusting to Life After Having a Newborn

baby sister

newborn-babyNo matter how many parenting books you read, how many classes you take, or how many articles you read online, nothing can completely prepare you for life after the arrival of your newborn. Whether it’s your first child or your fifth, the days, weeks, and first few months with your new baby can be joyful and challenging. While your number one priority is caring for your newborn, don’t forget to take care of yourself. A lot of information is geared to new mothers, and that’s important, but both new parents could use a little advice and encouragement.

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

You know the old saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead” ? When you’re a new parent you may as well say,“You can sleep when your child is grown and off to college.” Sound sleep is difficult to catch when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Between feedings and diaper changes, you spend more time awake than being asleep. You might feel delirious, emotional, and completely exhausted. You need sleep when you can get it as it’s important for your physical, mental, and emotional health and your baby will benefit.

Some of the best advice about sleeping, is to sleep when your baby sleeps. Babies sleep a lot, on average they sleep twice as much as an adult. While this seems like the perfect opportunity to “catch some z’s”, you may be baffled as to why you’re catching none. The best thing you can try to do is sleep when your baby sleeps. Skip the laundry or trying to catch up on other things. Your sleep is most important right now.

Don’t Worry About Perfection

Before your baby was born, you spent a great deal of time following a long list of “do’s and don’ts” on everything from nutrition to baby proofing to exercise. Now that your baby is here, relax. If you didn’t finish putting protective covers on your outlets or a lock on your toilet seat, you have a couple of months to do so. Don’t stress if you didn’t hang up the mobile near the crib (or even set up the crib yet), what matters most is living in the moment and not worrying about being a perfect parent. Some of the most well-adjusted and healthy adults were raised by parents who made a few harmless, non-life changing mistakes. Remember, even though you created life, you are still human. The only thing that needs to be perfect is your baby and he or she already is the definition of perfection.

Take Care of Yourself

You’re spending every moment thinking and doing things for your baby, even when he or she is fast asleep. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Along with sleeping, this is crucial to not only your health, but the well-being of your newborn. Taking care of yourself should not be considered “selfish”, but rather being a responsible and attentive parent.

  • Eat Well: If you had friends and family drop food off during the first few days after returning home from the hospital, you’ve got some great people looking out for you and your family. Choose foods that will give you nutrition and energy, but will also satisfy your appetite. Take turns cooking or indulge in take-out every now and then. Good nutrition is particularly important for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Light Exercise: A good way to bond with your baby and reconnect with your partner may be as simple as taking a short walk around the block. The fresh air can be welcoming and the light exercise can feel good and is good for your body. Remember, you’re body went through a major transition, give it some time to recover. Don’t forget to talk with your doctor about what you should or shouldn’t do.
  • Keep Your Feelings in Check: Feeling a bit depressed or overwhelmed after the birth of your newborn is completely normal. Many mothers experience postpartum depression and find that it goes away after a couple of weeks. Talk to your partner or your doctor about how you feel. Don’t ignore any of your feelings and seek help when you feel too overwhelmed to function or care for your baby. Having postpartum depression or feeling overwhelmed does not make you a bad parent.

Having a baby may feel like the best that ever happened in your life and it may also feel like the scariest thing. Take each day at a time and remember, you’re never alone. Give yourself some time to adjust and enjoy the moments you have with your newborn.