These discussions have been driven from the perspective of a rapidly growing body of research on all aspects of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We all look forward to new advances and directions. Listed below are areas that will lead to even further advancement in our knowledge and success at helping to develop optimal outcomes.
- Diagnosis. The criteria for the diagnosis of ADHD are updated periodically by panels of experts. Researchers are currently studying the structure and functioning of the brain to better understand the characteristics of ADHD. In addition, genetic studies are being conducted that will help us understand the inherited nature of ADHD. These kinds of information may lead to advances in not only diagnostic process, but also contribute to a greater ability to target treatments for specific patients. Improved tools are needed to monitor the degree of the ADHD impairment.
- Treatment. The currently available treatments for ADHD are designed to manage the symptoms associated with this condition. While they are effective, they may have side effects that limit their use in some children, and they sometimes pose challenges over the long term. More research is needed that may lead to advances in medications that provide greater efficacy and limited side effects, and that better define the effectiveness and adverse effects of medications when they’re used in combinations, such as a stimulant along with other agents. More information also needs to be collected on the use of medication in different age groups. In addition, there is a need to also continue to study and refine behavioral treatments and coaching interventions. Further research is also needed on how to enhance adherence to treatment since all the current treatments are symptomatic and frequently need to be sustained over long periods in order to benefit from the interventions.Long-term effects of ADHD. Because ADHD can continue into adulthood in many cases, researchers are conducting studies to find out more about the long-term outcomes and consequences of the disorder and its treatment. One goal is to be able to identify those children with ADHD who have a high risk of poorer long-term outcomes, so that new and more intensive treatments can be developed for them.
- New measurement tools. Researchers are also attempting to gain a better understanding of ADHD by developing new measurement tools that will help measure improvement as well as better ways to assess problems in different areas of functioning at different ages and stages of development.
Knowledge Is Power
Clearly, the better informed you and your child, as an adolescent and adult, are about new ADHD-related research and about ADHD across the life span, the more likely it is that he will benefit from these increases in our understanding of future treatment innovations. As your child makes the transition to adulthood, he should remain allied with professionals familiar with the latest studies regarding ADHD and coexisting conditions. He should also be familiar with the names and Web site addresses of the major national ADHD support and advocacy groups, such as Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) and Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER), and encouraged to check in with them and other reliable sources regularly for updates on recent ADHD-related research, as well as new legislation and sources of support. Thanks to CHADD, PACER, and similar organizations, children and adults with ADHD are much better served in the community than they were scant decades ago. As an adult, your growing child could benefit enormously from adding his own time and energy to these advocacy efforts.
Knowledge is power for children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD, and the gold standard to which you and your child should apply any new information is whether it will improve his functioning and enhance his self-esteem, relationships, school and job performance, happiness, and health. As a self-aware, self-monitoring, and self-confident individual, he will be well equipped to take advantage of the advances in ADHD-related knowledge, treatment,and practical support that are sure to come his way. As we stated in the introduction to this book, we remain optimistic that by using the approaches described here, and by updating your knowledge periodically from reliable sources, you will remain on the cutting edge of the most proven effective paths to an optimum outcome for your child.