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).

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