Should My Child Use Medications For ADHD Management? Are There Any Other ADHD Treatments That Work?
Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD.
Part of you is relieved.
Finally you have an answer to why he is so hyper and unable to sit still.
Part of you is distraught.
You have started reading everything you can find about ADHD treatments
and ADHD Management.
You have concerns about the effects of ADHD medications.
You are not sure what to do.
As mentioned in the in the other articles in this series, “What Is ADHD And What Are Causes Of ADHD In Children” and “What Can Be Done To Help Decrease Behavior Problems Due To ADHD In Children,” Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is an example of a medical condition that influences children’s behavior. You can still use all the tools taught in The Parents Toolshop, but need to have realistic expectations about how long it might take to see progress.
Consult with a trained professional about specific ADHD treatments and strategies to use. You will find most are compatible tools to add to the Universal Blueprint®. If any recommendations go against some of the basic principles of The Parent’s Toolshop®, discuss your concerns with the trained professional who can explain whether there is a valid reason for using that approach. Many children are labeled ADHD without proper diagnosis and quickly put on ADHD medications to “fix” them.
No one approach can “cure” ADHD and ADHD treatments must be long-term. Therefore, effective ADHD management plans should address all the possible factors that influence ADHD. The best ADHD management plan uses the first four interventions at the same time and may or may not include the last (ADHD medications).
A. Parent education is the most important part of ADHD management. The Parent’s Toolshop® includes every parenting skill that ADHD experts recommend. Most of the strategies are adaptable to school and other settings. If a child does not have true ADHD, just problem behavior that mimics it, it is important for parents to spend time teaching children important behavioral skills.
- ADHD children have a high degree of variability—they are consistently inconsistent.These children do have good days—and it can be their undoing—because the adults around them may expect them to have good days every day.
- Teach children organizational techniques, such as making lists, using self-reminders, using a planning calendar, and making desk, drawer, or closet organizers. These skills are also important to teach children who do not have ADHD, but have similar behavior problems.
B. Consistent behavior management. Parents, educators, and others who work with ADHD children should not feel inadequate for having difficulty managing ADHD children. They must repeat them-selves often to make progress or just keep situations from getting worse.
- ADHD children have a hard time being self-motivated toward long-term goals. They have difficulty paying attention or sticking with tasks unless the tasks provide instant gratification, or are novel, stimulating, and fun. This is why they have no difficulty playing video games for long stretches of time. Use positive, creative teaching methods that will maintain their interest. Teach children how to remind themselves to stay on track and find their own way to get the job done. (It is important to consider whether excessive TV viewing and video games have conditioned the child to only pay attention to stimulating events.)
- ADHD children respond well to external rewards, but also get quickly addicted to them.Provide frequent, positive feedback, such as nods, descriptive encouragement, smiles, pats, and high-fives. Only add external motivators if the internal rewards are long-term. If you use external rewards (such as extra privileges, games, computer time, or free time), always comment on the long-term, internal rewards of a task or behavior and teach children how to set up self-rewards. This reduces children’s dependency on rewards and praise from others. If a professional recommends using ADHD behavior charts, learn how to use them in a way that will prevent common problems with external motivators and rewards.
- Use effective reprimands that are immediate, brief, unemotional, and consistent. Reprimands are ineffective when they are delayed, long-winded, harsh, critical, or emotional. Selectively ignore attention-seeking, minor behavior that is not aggressive or disruptive.
C. Effective classroom environment. There are many small changes teachers can make in the school environment that greatly benefits ADHD children. Many of these changes will help every child’s ability to concentrate. For example, face children away from windows and stand in one location when speaking, so all the children can see and hear the instructions. Unfortunately, we can’t list all the ideas in this resource. Parents and educators should at least know about the following factors and incorporate them in their teaching style.
- ADHD children often participate in special programs, such as tutoring and reading groups, that take place during school hours away from the classroom. While they learn important skills in these programs, they also lose the extra time they need to complete schoolwork, absorb and process information, or simply get a mental break. They may get farther behind in their work and have difficulty adjusting to the transitions.
D. Psychological Treatment. Locate a psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist who is knowledgeable and experienced in treating ADHD. They can address the following special issues of ADHD:
- Treat ADHD depression and anxiety.
- Explain how the mind/brain works and doesn’t work.
- Teach anger control, social, self-motivation, self-reminding, and relaxation techniques.
- Build self-esteem, since ADHD children are often discouraged
- Provide marital and family therapy. ADHD affects the whole family (the ripple effect). ADHD children should not be labeled “problem children” or blamed for other family problems.
E. What ADHD treatments are available?
- Medication is only one type of treatment and should only be used as a last resort. Some ADHD medications have negative side-effects and most are considered “controlled substances.” Some employers (the military for example) will not hire adults who used these “drugs” in childhood. Given these risks, parents must seriously consider whether medication is really necessary. Above all, never use medication alone or as a replacement for any of the other treatments.
F. Can ADHD medications cure it?
- Medication will not fix ADHD; it only manages it. Medication for ADHD works like eye-glasses on vision problems; glasses don’t fix the eyes, they simply help people see better. Poor vision and ADHD are both lifelong problems. As children mature and master self-regulating skills, they can often reduce or eliminate the need for medication.
This article gives an overview of some ADHD treatments. Again, please consult with a trained professional to plan the treatment that is right for your child.
If you want more information about ADHD in children and practical skills you can teach your children to improve problem areas such as: ADD children’s difficulty in paying attention, ADHD children managing their hyperactivity, and how you can teach ADD/ADHD children to be less impulsive, listen to my interview with David Zidar, an ADHD specialist, on the “Parents Tool Talk® Radio” episode entitled, “Helping Kids Live With ADHD.”
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Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE is the author of the award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop and president of Parent’s Toolshop® Consulting, where she oversees an international network of Toolshop® trainers. She has 30 years experience as a top-rated speaker and parenting expert to the media worldwide, including serving as the Co-Producer and Parenting Expert for the Emmy-nominated Ident-a-Kid television series. Currently, she hosts the Parents Tool Talk radio show and is a parenting expert columnist for Chic Mom magazine. She has produced almost 100 multimedia resources, which are available at her award-winning website, www.ParentsToolshop.com.
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