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- Should I medicate my child if they have been diagnosed with ADHD?
Choosing medication for a child with ADHD is a difficult and controversial decision. It seems that even people who have no experience with ADHD have an opinion on ADHD medication and strategies. The reality is some children will show marked improvement with medication and some will not.
Age, genetics, and severity are important factors to take into consideration when deciding on whether or not to medicate your child. As a parent or caregiver, you will need to work with your child’s health care provider and therapists to see if medication is an appropriate option for your child.
Medication shouldn’t be the first approach to ADHD in kids
Not every ADHD medicine is approved for use in young children. For this reason, behavior therapy is often the first approach to treatment in toddlers suspected of having ADHD or ADD. These therapies involve changes in behavior by parents and teachers and techniques include praising good behavior, ignoring bad behavior, and using time-outs. Structure and routine are emphasized as very important for young children with ADHD or ADD. If the behavior persists into childhood, then medication may need to be considered.
Together with coaching and therapy, medication can sometimes make a dramatic difference in a child with ADHD or ADD. You should always be sure to work with a medical professional who understands the issues around taking medication to you and has plenty of experience in dealing with these medications. There are a variety of stimulant medications that prove highly effective in treating the symptoms of ADHD and ADD.
Be cautious and conservative
The question of whether to medicate your child with ADHD is an in-depth conversation to have with your healthcare provider. As a mom with an autistic son and who has had to advocate for him against doctors who were too quick to say, “medicate him” because he was “all over the place.” I know how hard it can be to get some health professionals to listen.
For my son, it was more searching for a way to adapt to an unfamiliar, noisy, and chaotic environment than having ADHD. In other words, it was more about his SPD (sensory processing disorder) than about ADHD. Put simply, use caution and wisdom when talking to a mental health professional about medicating. Many of them are too quick to, as they say, “go there.”
If it turns out that your child does need to be medicated, educate yourself well about the side effects, both immediate and after long term use, and be very conservative as to the dosage. The dosage strength should be just enough for it to be effective–nothing more, nothing less. I would be conservative in the use of ANY medications.
It’s your decision
As with any condition as the parent, you are always left to make the tough choices, and whatever you do, someone somewhere will have their own opinion. There are lots of alternative medicine for ADHD and therapies out there promising the world, and I am sure they work for some, but for me, if it wasn’t backed by clinical research I wouldn’t touch it.
I remember, clearly grappling with the decision to medicate or not with our son’s doctor, when he very bluntly asked me what I would do if he had diabetes. Of course, I would, so why would I not medicate for any other condition? Medication is not forever, or for everyone. If any medicine for kids with ADHD doesn’t work for your child there is nothing to stop you from making a considered decision to remove it from your treatment plan. You are in control and so very capable of making the right decision for your child.
Choosing the right medicine for ADHD can be a challenge
Are you struggling with whether or not to medicate your child for ADHD? I have been in that position, and there is no easy answer for any child. Your pediatrician may be able to get your child started on trials of milder medications, but stronger medications need to be discussed with and prescribed by someone who specializes in these types of medication for children, such as a child psychiatrist.
From there, medication involves a bit of trial and error to find the right one, although genetic testing can give you a starting point as to what medications might work best.
I found one of my children had adverse reactions to ADHD medicine for kids and did far better without them, while my other child seems to thrive with his. As your child grows and changes, their meds will be changed as well. Monthly appointments to discuss these tightly regulated medications will help you and your child receive the best combination of medications to help them with their needs.