Focusing on ADHD treatment options

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Education Matters continues the series on special education. This week focuses on treatment options for ADHD. Parents and guardian should be aware that their child’s teacher or guidance counselor will often be the first to raise concerns a student is ADHD. However, ADHD is a neurological condition that requires a diagnosis from a physician. While your child’s school may suspect ADHD, only a medical doctor is equipped to conduct the proper assessments, make a diagnosis, and determine which, if any medications to prescribe.

The following information is offered to give parents an overview of treatments and other remediation options that are available to help your child reach his or her full academic potential. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) is the primary source of information for this article.

Once a child has been diagnosed with ADHD parents are faced figuring out what to do next. It is important to remember that while ADHD can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed. There are many treatment options, so parents and doctors should work closely with everyone involved in the child’s treatment— teachers, coaches, therapists, and other family members. Taking advantage of all the resources available will help you guide your child towards success.

Remember, you are your child’s strongest advocate! In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Good treatment plans will include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed along the way.

Treatment for ADHD falls into three categories: behavioral therapy, medications and parental support therapy.

Research shows that behavioral therapy is an important part of treatment for children with ADHD. ADHD affects not only a child’s ability to pay attention or sit still at school, it also affects relationships with family and how well they do in their classes. Behavioral therapy is the option that can help reduce these problems for children and should be started as soon as a diagnosis is made. Following are examples that might help with your child’s behavioral therapy:

•Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up time to bedtime.

•Get organized: schoolbags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so your child will be less likely to lose them.

•Avoid distractions. Turn off the TV, radio, and computer, especially when your child is doing homework.

•Limit choices. Offer a choice between two things (this outfit, meal, toy, etc., or that one) so that your child isn’t overwhelmed and overstimulated.

•Change your interactions with your child. Instead of long-winded explanations and cajoling, use clear, brief directions to remind your child of responsibilities.

•Use goals and rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then reward your child’s efforts. Be sure the goals are realistic—baby steps are important!

•Discipline effectively. Instead of yelling or spanking, use timeouts or

removal of privileges as consequences for inappropriate behavior.

•Help your child discover a talent. All kids need to experience success to feel good about themselves. Finding out what your child does well— whether it’s sports, art, or music— can boost social skills and self-esteem.

Medication can help a child with ADHD in their everyday life and may be a valuable part of a child’s treatment. Medication is one option that may help better control some of the behavior problems that have led to trouble in the past with family, friends and at school. Several different types of medications may be used to treat ADHD:

•Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used treatments. Between 70-80 percent of children with ADHD respond positively to these medications.

•Non-stimulants were approved for treating ADHD in 2003. This medication seems to have fewer side effects than stimulants and can last up to 24 hours.

Medications can affect children differently, where one child may respond well to one medication, but not another. When determining the best treatment, the doctor might try different medications and doses, so it is important to work with your child’s doctor to find the medication that works best for your child.

Parent education and support are important parts of the treatment plan for a child with ADHD. Children with ADHD might not respond as well as other children to the usual parenting practices, so some experts recommend additional parent education.

This approach has been successful in teaching parents how to help their children become better organized, develop problem-solving skills, and cope with their ADHD symptoms. Parent education can be conducted in groups or with individual families and is offered by therapists or in special classes. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations on local support groups.

Jayne Matthews Hopson writes about education matters because on the educated are free.