“It was a shock, even after all the interviews, evaluations, and reports, when Andy was diagnosed with ADHD,” writes a parent about her experience with her 8-year-old son. “On the one hand, I was so relieved to have an explanation for Andy’s behavior. On the other, I was concerned that now the teachers and kids at school would ‘label’ him in negative ways. I was also worried about whether medications might be prescribed for him. I wondered, too, how Andy would respond to the diagnosis—would he lose even more self-confidence now that he knew he had a disorder?”
If your child has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you have probably asked similar questions and experienced some of the same concerns. You may also face a variety of responses to plans for your child’s treatment—and much conflicting advice—from friends, relatives, educators, your partner, and even your child. Friends who have not been educated about ADHD may insist that your child’s behavior is just the result of a discipline or parenting problem. You may feel that teachers who have witnessed the positive effect of stimulant medication in many children with ADHD are pushing you to put your child on the same type of medication. Your spouse or partner may believe that an alternative treatment is the answer, while your child insists that he does not have a problem at all—that others’ concerns about him are “their problem.”
Such opinions and concerns are understandable given how much inaccurate information about ADHD has been spread through the media, the Internet, and other channels, and it is important that it be addressed. On this site, you will find the responses to many of the questions that you and others are likely to have regarding treatment for your child. You will learn
Which types and combinations of treatment programs have been shown to be most effective for ADHD.
How you, your child, his teachers, his pediatrician, and other members of his “treatment team” can work together to identify specific problem areas—“targets”—that will become the focus of treatment efforts
How the treatment team can then create a management plan to address these target areas
How ongoing observation and follow-up meetings of the treatment team can be used to monitor your child’s progress and adjust aspects of his treatment when necessary to better address his ongoing needs
How to help your child understand the treatment plan and become a member of the treatment team at each stage of his development
What Should I Tell Them?
As you move from an ADHD diagnosis toward the creation of a treatment plan, you are likely to face a number of questions and remarks from friends, relatives, teachers, and others. Following are some responses that may help you and your child through awkward situations and answer some of your own questions.
“I have had several students with ADHD in my classes in the past. I recommend that your child be put on medication as soon as possible.”
Response: “My child’s pediatrician tells me that the most effective treatment plans, which may or may not include medication, need to be designed through a team approach by her, my child, us, and you, his teacher. Your feedback and observations are essential as we start the treatment process. If we make the decision to use medication as a part of the overall treatment plan, your observations and comments will be critical to monitoring and refining it.”
“Everyone knows that ADHD is just a teacher’s excuse to have kids “medicated” so they stayvquiet and the classroom is easier to manage.”
Response: “ADHD is a recognized disorder, it is widespread and it is treatable. Medication is just one of the ways that children can be helped to display fewer behavioral challenges and have more self-control from the teacher’s perspective—but equally important is its ability to help children attend to daily tasks and thus function better.”
“I don’t care what the doctor says. There is no way you should give your child drugs.”
Response: “First of all, the use of the word ‘drugs’ may not be the most appropriate choice when talking about medications for ADHD. It can be fraught with misunderstanding and negative implications, leading some parents to think their child is better off without taking anything. But in fact, stimulant medications for ADHD have been shown to make an enormous positive difference in the lives of many children. Some experts compare medication for ADHD as equivalent to prescribing inhalers for children with asthma—they regulate the child’s system enough to allow him to carry on a normal life. Before making up our minds about treatment, we will talk to experts in the field, look at the research, read to inform ourselves, talk to other families whose children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and discuss our child’s situation with him and with his doctors.”
“He just seems depressed to me. How do you know it’s ADHD and not some other problem?”
Response: “It’s true that a number of other conditions (for example, anxiety disorder and depression disorder) can mimic some ADHD symptoms, but the evaluation my child just completed was designed to eliminate or identify most of them. Some children may have depression or anxiety disorders along with ADHD. Some of the rarer coexisting conditions, such as bipolar disorder, may start out looking identical to ADHD and only evolve into the specific disorder at an older age. That’s why we’ll continue to monitor and review his symptoms throughout childhood to make sure the diagnosis and treatment are still correct, timely, and appropriate.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s other people who have a problem. My behavior is fine—they just can’t handle it!”
Response: “I can see how hard it is on you when you feel like your teacher is always singling you out and picking on you, and when we always seem to be arguing about following rules at home. Now that we are finished with your evaluation, we can start learning more ways to turn these things around and make a happier situation at home and school.”