Is Medication Appropriate For Your ADHD Child

Are you concerned with your child's behavior? Has he or she been acting in an unusual manner that worries you or has someone observing your child at play passed a comment that left you wondering? Has your pediatrician suggested to you that your child might have ADHD? What exactly is ADHD? How can it be helped? Let's start by looking at a few options available to you and your child. The cause of Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD) is still a mystery. There are many theories about the etiology of this puzzling disorder, including heredity and brain abnormalities visible on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, but no definitive conclusions exist.

Medical science does know that ADHD has no connection to a child's dietary habits. ADHD is not caused - or cured- by nutrition and diets. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association defines the primary symptoms of ADHD. These include lack of attention, inability to listen and follow directions, forgetfulness, unorganized, impulsive behavior, fidgeting and restless body movements, excessive talking and/or noise making, being constantly "in motion," and frequent interruption of others. Many parents would say that this describes every two-year-old on the planet! Perhaps there is merit in the "Terrible Twos" theory, and the behavior will eventually resolve itself within a year or two with careful and consistent parenting.

However, ADHD is a real, legitimate disorder that does affect both children and adults in some cases; it cannot simply be dismissed as temporary unruliness. The diagnosis is correctly made when it's clear that the child is socially and intellectually impaired due to these symptoms. If you suspect your child has ADHD, consult a pediatrician and a child development specialist to confirm the diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, you'll need to examine your choices regarding treatment for your child. Children as young as age two are being medicated with the "traditional" ADHD drugs, Ritalin, Cylert, and Dexedrine. These are powerful stimulant drugs with troublesome side effects such as insomnia, stomach pain, increased blood pressure, sensitivity to sunlight, and irritability. Concerned parents wonder why stimulants are given to children who are already wired and wound-up! Medical research indicates that in children and adults with ADHD, stimulants help the afflicted person to focus and concentrate. The latest medication available for treatment of ADHD in children and adults is Strattera.

Unlike Ritalin, this medication is not a stimulant and will therefore not have any of the stimulant-related side effects of other ADHD medications currently in use. Strattera is quickly becoming the medication of choice for ADHD, but although this drug has been proven with adults, there is still a lot of study needed to prove effectiveness in children under the age of six. Your options come down to two choices: traditional stimulant drugs or the "off label" (not FDA approved) Strattera, both of which require you closely watch your child for adverse effects. A third option would be to keep your child on traditional medicine until they reach age six before attempting Strattera.

Many parents these days are choosing yet a fourth option, one that does not require drugs. If you decide not to go with medication to treat ADHD, there are behavioral methods of controlling your child's disorder and behavior. If your child is severely impaired, both socially and intellectually, this path may be a difficult choice, but keep in mind it is possible. In the end, the choice is yours.

Take all of your options into account, know the facts, and then act in the best interests of your child.

Graham Johns runs and writes regularly for Family Life where you can read many more articles on ADHD. Also go to Well Spoken Audio for a range of informative and entertaining audio books on family life.

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