“How do I know if ADHD meds are right for my child with an ADHD diagnosis?"
by Nicole Robbins MSN PMHNP-BC, PsychBCSave Save
When I diagnose a child with ADHD I see a range of responses from parents and children. Parents’ responses often include relief at understanding their child’s struggle, confusion, worry as to how to help their child, and sometimes guilt that they may have misinterpreted their child’s behavior. Children are often relieved when I explain why things may have been difficult, and that my job is to help them be the super awesome kid that I know they are. Children respond when I explain to their parents that they may have tried their best and have stopped trying because it hurts too much to try and fail. My job is to foster hope in parents and their children; we can work together to help their child to be the best they can be.
The information below is to help you make informed decisions when deciding whether medication is the right option for your child.
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a diagnostic label given to children who struggle with inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. It is considered a developmental disorder and symptoms must be present prior to age twelve. ADHD is classified as primarily hyperactive/impulsive type, primarily inattentive type, or combined type. One child’s struggle with ADHD symptoms may be very different from another’s.
You may want to seek an ADHD evaluation if:
Your child’s teacher, principal, or school counselor suggest it may be helpful for your child. Teachers can often identify a child who may need to be evaluated for ADHD. They work with your child in the most structured environment and ask them to concentrate and focus for longer periods of time than may occur at home.
Your child is frustrated with themselves or their behavior. If your child has voiced concerns about being “bad” or “stupid,” a psychiatric evaluation may provide insight. Depression, anxiety, and trauma can mimic ADHD and it is important to have a professional who is well-versed in these conditions to determine next steps. Counseling can help in improving self-esteem and decreasing anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms along with possible medication.
You know your child is intelligent but they are increasingly struggling with their school work and begin avoiding homework, forgetting their school books or assignments, or procrastinating on school work.
When your child’s symptoms prevent them from reaching their potential, it may be time to consider treatment with medication. Each symptom set includes treatment goals.
Untreated ADHD can have a profound impact on a child’s self-esteem. Children see they are corrected more often than their classmates. They want to do well in school and when their best efforts don’t allow them to keep up they may feel “stupid” or that there is something wrong with them. Impulsive and hyperactive children are sometimes avoided because they can be frustrating to be around, have difficulty waiting their turn, and may struggle to interact appropriately with others and pick up on social cues. It is easier for parents and teachers to miss predominately inattentive type ADHD. These children tend to blend in although they may begin to struggle academically as school work becomes increasingly difficult. Untreated ADHD may lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It can be difficult for parents to consider medication for their child. Parents often voice concern related to potential for addiction and abuse. It is important to educate older children and teenagers about abuse potential of medications and possible consequences of taking medication other than how it is prescribed. Studies have shown that those untreated for ADHD have a higher incidence of drug and alcohol abuse.
Your child may be a wealth of information as to whether a medication is working. Mood and self-esteem dramatically improve when children begin to succeed in school. Homework is no longer a two hour ordeal to complete ten minutes of work, they remember to bring assignments home and turn them in, and are no longer getting in trouble several times a day at school. However, your child shouldn’t appear emotionless or feel like they are not themselves. If you feel your child is not acting like themselves on the medication or if your child’s mood is worse as the medication is wearing off, make your prescriber aware.
If you are wondering about ADHD, I encourage you to consider sitting down with your primary care physician, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner to learn about treatment options available and to have questions answered. Our goal as providers is not to force you to treat your child with medication. We enjoy being a resource to you and your family and we may be able to suggest other beneficial services or discuss possible school accommodations.