Problems with ADHD
Kids experience a lot of problems with ADHD…some inadvertently caused by their parents. Now, don’t get me wrong…these are well-meaning parents. These are the ones who come into my office and immediately let me know in no uncertain terms, “I’m not putting my kid on drugs.” Well, that’s actually OK—because I don’t prescribe medication. But what I will do is thoroughly evaluate a child to determine if he, in fact, has ADHD. And, if he does…then, the parents and I need to talk.
As a child psychologist, it’s my job to make the best recommendations I can. Then, it’s the parents’ job to decide to follow them or not. I treat all my patients (“my kids,” as I call them) like my own and therefore the recommendations I make are the ones I would follow if this was my own child.
And, what I have found in over 25 years of working with kids is that medication has had the most positive effect in helping kids who have problems with ADHD. The improvement in their attention, focus and behavior can be astounding. I even work with parents who delay following their physician’s advice finally “give in,” and then wonder why they waited so long. Medication for children who are truly and accurately diagnosed with ADHD can help alleviate the problems with ADHD.
It’s just like being told your child has diabetes and needs insulin. Would you argue with that? No! Why? Because it can be measured. You can take a blood test and see exactly what the insulin level is and then compare that to what it should be.
Then why are parents still so resistant? For several reasons that I totally understand and respect. First off, ADHD isn’t always understood for what it is…a chemical imbalance. The reason kids have problems with ADHD, including difficulty paying attention, sitting still, etc. is because they are not producing the right amount of chemicals in their brains that allow their bodies to manage those tasks properly. So, once it’s understood that ADHD is a biochemical condition, why not balance out their child’s chemicals?
Secondly, one of the problems with ADHD is that there is no blood test, chemical test or actual test of any kind! We only have observation, behavioral reports and tests of attention, processing and so on. It would be much easier if we could stick a needle in a child’s brain and pull out the neurotransmitter reading for attention, focus and staying still. But because we can’t do that, it’s more difficult for parents to agree to supplement a chemical deficit that we can only speculate about.
And, because diagnosing ADHD is not an exact science, parents are more inclined to seek alternative treatments before considering the one that has been proven to be the most effective. So, they look for a diet, a natural supplement or even a can of Coke or coffee to avoid using medication. Or, parents look to creating a more suitable environment free of distractions and providing longer time limits to accommodate the inattention.
And, if their child has so many problems with ADHD that they finally agree to using medication, then, there are:
• Desires to limit the amount of medication (”Do we really have to up the dose? He’s doing 60% better already!)
• Limits when their child can have the medication (“Let’s take him off on weekends, holidays and vacations.”)
• Goals to shorten the duration their child will need to be on medication (“He won’t have to be on it his whole life, will he?”)
Here’s an analogy to help put problems with ADHD into perspective:
You find out your child needs glasses. There is no blood test and the eye tests are all subjective (based on the report of the child.) But, you might decide that you really don’t want to have to put glasses on your child’s face, so you look for other alternatives. I guess we could sit your child really close to the board, give him LARGE PRINT books and have someone walk with her to navigate her around her surroundings. Or, we could put glasses on her face.
Finally deciding to get her glasses, would you:
• Restrict when your child could wear her glasses? (“Well, maybe she only needs to wear them in school and we’ll give her a break when she’s home.”)
• Limit how strong the correction in the lenses is? (“Does her prescription have to be that strong? Maybe she could get by with less correction.”)
• Want to know when she’ll outgrow her need for glasses or what she can do to not have to wear them anymore?
Of course not!
And, the amazing thing about glasses is that once the prescription is right—your child’s sight improves immediately! AND better yet—the glasses don’t change your child’s personality at all. They just help her see better—by correcting her visual deficiency.
The idea of refusing your child glasses or restricting the visual correction in any way seems absolutely ludicrous. And, having seen how much medication can help the problems with ADHD, I see these two scenarios of equal merit.
Just like with glasses, when an ADHD child is prescribed the right medication and the right dose, his attention, focus and performance can improve immediately! AND better yet—the medication doesn’t change his personality at all. It just helps him self-regulate better—by correcting his biochemical deficiency.
Enjoy your kids!
What do you think about this analogy? Do you have a child having problems with ADHD? What interventions do you use?