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Helping Your Child With ADHD

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Posted by on Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 13:24
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Helping Your Child with ADHD

One of the most important things you can do as a parent of a child with ADHD is get an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate ADHD treatment plan. As you have learned, all children may show indications of emotional over responsiveness, inattention, and over activity from time to time.

However, it is the persistence of the symptoms over time and in many situations that is important in the diagnosis of ADHD. Furthermore, it is important for us to rule out or consider a number of issues that may cause a child to be overactive, to act impulsively, and to be distractible before making a diagnosis of ADHD.

How Effective Is Treatment of ADHD?

Over 75 percent of children with ADHD can be helped with medication. We wish we could say it is 100 percent as it is with current treatment programs for PKU. ADHD is the most common childhood mental disorder, so the fact that as many as 75 percent of children with ADHD can show a positive response to ADHD treatment (medication and behavior management) is important.

That figure is in the same range as treatment success for depression, the most common adult mental disorder. It is our belief that most children with ADHD can live successful, productive lives with appropriate diagnosis and a broad based ADHD treatment plan.

Why Medication at All in the Treatment of ADHD?

ADHD, or hyperactivity, is a disorder that can be caused by many conditions. Regardless of the ultimate cause, ADHD is thought to be associated with a disturbance in the functioning of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are natural body chemicals that transfer information from one brain cell to another.

Neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are now thought to be present at different levels in the brains of individuals who have hyperactivity as compared to others who have normal abilities to show sustained attention and stay alert. People with ADHD seem to have a decreased supply of these transmitters in areas of the brain that control attention and self control.

Medications to treat hyperactivity appear to increase arousal and alertness of the brain by increasing the supply of chemical neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters help information move from one brain cell to another.

Many parents ask why would anyone give a stimulant to children who are already overactive and impulsive? When we use the word stimulant as applied to medications such as Ritalin, Cylert, and Dexedrine, we mean that they stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine, to help the brain work better.

The word stimulant when applied to these medications is not meant to imply that they stimulate children to make them more active. For a long time most people thought that hyperactive children had a paradoxical or opposite reaction to stimulants. We know that by stimulating neurotransmitters in the brain these medications help an overactive child become less active. People with hyperactivity have the same reaction to stimulants that “normal” people do; however, the improvements for people with ADHD are indeed more dramatic than they are for “normal” people.

Ritalin alone is not a magic pill. It cannot cure a child with ADHD like penicillin can cure an ear infection. Medications are usually not sufficient in themselves to solve the many problems associated with hyperactivity. However, stimulant medications can be an important part of a treatment program and should be used with behavioral management therapy and any other remedial educational programs needed.

The main ADHD treatment effects of the stimulants (Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Cylert) are as follows:

1.    Improve attention span
2.    Reduce impulsive behavior
3.    Reduce disruptive behavior
4.    Increase compliant behavior

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