ADHD - Monitoring Your Children to Ensure a Bright Future

Sep 20, 2017

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Fall is here and the leaves are starting to turn color. Kids have traded in their swim trunks, bikes, and late night bon-fires for pencils, erasers, binders and getting up early for school. It can also be a very nervous time for parents; as homework projects are sent home and a child's learning abilities begin to be tested. Some parents may receive a note of concern from a teacher or notice their child has difficulty focusing their homework. As these are issues you cannot afford to ignore and because your child's future is at stake, it is a good time to talk about a common learning disability ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is said to appear in anywhere from one in twenty to one in ten Canadian children, making it the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in this age group. Rates of ADHD continue to climb steadily, now to the point where one or two students in every classroom likely have it. Contrary to common belief, symptoms of ADHD persist into adulthood in almost two thirds of those diagnosed during their childhood years.

ADHD is a brain condition that makes it difficult for children to control behavior. This may be more common when your child must focus, so the transition from playing in the back yard to math class may not be easy or enjoyable. For a child it may feel like their brains are on fast forward and they are unable to press pause or to slow things down. About three times more boys than girls are diagnosed. The three groups of behavior symptoms in ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Inattention describes excessive daydreaming, not listening, distraction from work or play and organization. Hyperactivity is better described by constant motion or it is as if the person is driven by a constant motor. Impulsivity symptoms include speaking out of turn, not being able to wait for others and acting without thinking first.

Everyone's child will have some of these symptoms from time to time. Symptoms similar to those of ADHD may be present because of changing sleep patterns and the routine of school. Your child may just be reacting to stress in their life, may be bored or may be going through a difficult stage in life. On the other hand, some parents may not recognize these symptoms and it is the teacher or pediatrician to first bring the matter to light. If your child shows regular symptoms for more than six months, discuss the behaviors with a doctor.

Mental health professionals will all agree it is important to catch ADHD early and treat diagnosed individuals promptly. Since there is no single test for diagnosis, it can be challenging. Treatment may, but does not always involve medication. ADHD patients must be given tools to help them cope with ADHD and medication is just one of those tools. Your child cannot afford to fall behind in reading, math and other skills, so it is important to deal with attention issues as soon as they arise. Behavioral therapy can be extremely successful. A therapist can help a child and the parent with management strategies and education on the condition.

Some important lifestyle changes include creating a daily routine with your child which includes play, homework and chores. Try to be more organized, keeping everyday items in the same place. Work on managing distractions by turning off electronic devices when a child must focus on a task. More evidence is also showing we must limit screen time for children over two years to less than two hours per day. Children under two should not be exposed to screen time at all. It is also important to simplify your child's tasks by breaking them down into simplified steps. Finally, your child needs to exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced diet.

If medical treatment has been recommended and you are still concerned about giving medication consider these facts. Untreated ADHD increases your child's risk of repeating a grade by up to three times and actually increases their risk of being incarcerated.

Stimulant medications are proven to be a safe and effective treatment option. Thus in combination with behavior therapy, they are a first line treatment recommendation for most children. A Stimulant works by altering chemicals in the brain to induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical function. An example would be enhanced alertness. Stimulants help put things into focus for someone with ADHD, but that is it. Contrary to popular belief they do not make a child perform better. These medications do not get an assignment finished in class or homework done in the evenings. That work must still be done by the child with a support system from the parents and teacher. The same is for teens and adults; stimulants are only a tool to enable better performance, they do not do it for you.

The stimulant class contains commonly known drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta and Biphentin. My advice to parents is to make sure they have an accurate diagnosis before considering medication use. Stimulants medications have shown to improve behavior, attention and self-control.

It is important to select a medication which is effective beyond the end of the school day. Optimal treatment will allow the patient to engage in appropriate behavior and interact with others throughout the full day. It used to be common to stop medications during weekends, holidays or the summer months. This is no longer recommended as ADHD is a lifelong condition.

Ultimately, parents must weigh the pros and cons of including medication in the treatment plan for ADHD. The more educated you are about the medication process, the better prepared you will be to make this decision. If your child's teacher notices an ongoing problem, you should consult a doctor for further examination. The key with ADHD is to recognize the problem first and then work toward a solution. You do not want your child missing out on learning and growing their personality during the most important times of their lives.


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