You received a diagnosis of ADHD for your child. Hopefully that clarifies some of the questions you had! But where do you go from here?
Whether a diagnosis feels helpful or daunting, it does give you some options. You can now make an informed decision of what will be best for your child. Consider each one and discuss them with your child’s pediatrician or mental health therapist. More than one option may be right for your child.
Having a diagnosis will give you the ability to advocate for your child’s needs at school. Check out my blog on school strategies for more details on this option.
Many pediatricians recommend medication to help manage the symptoms of ADHD. Doctors most commonly prescribe psychostimulants, but other options exist. Medication is an effective treatment for many children and often improves focus, peer relations (ex. by reducing aggression), compliance with teacher instructions and work completion.
Weigh the pros and cons of medication and find a medication that works best for your child. Not all children respond to the same medications. Side effects also need to be considered and closely monitored when trying a medication. Some common side effects include insomnia and lack of appetite.
Many parents worry that the use of psychostimulants in children will increase the risk of substance abuse in adolescents. However, the majority of studies have found no increase in risk. Some studies have actually found that prescription of medication for ADHD reduces likelihood of substance abuse in the future. This may be because those who are properly medicated are less likely to self-medicate. Stimulants can be over used, either to get high or in attempts to improve intelligence, and their use may need to be closely monitored. They may not be recommended for adolescents who already struggle with drug abuse.
Medication is very effective for immediate improvement but behavioral treatment and mental health treatment should also be considered for more long term impact. For more information, check out FIU’s Center for Children and Families information sheet.
Though generally less effective than medication, some children may still benefit from supplements. Evidence suggests that some children with ADHD have lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain development. For this reason, Omega supplements may help alleviate symptoms. It is unlikely that a supplement will reduce symptoms entirely, but it may be helpful for children with mild ADHD symptoms or for maintaining lower doses of medication for children with moderate or severe ADHD.
Omega-3 supplements are not considered a primary treatment for ADHD, due to lack of efficacy and the need for more research. However, it may be useful as an adjunct treatment.
Neurofeedback aims to develop the capacity of the brain to self-regulate at the cortical level. Theoretically, individuals with ADHD have an under-aroused brain with insufficient communication between neurons. Neurofeedback utilizes EEG technology to help train the brain to increase certain brain waves while decreasing waves that are excessively active in ADHD.
There is growing evidence of the effective use of neurofeedback for ADHD. It has not been found to be as widely effective as medication but may be helpful for those who do not respond well to medication or are hoping to maintain lower doses.
Mental Health Therapy
Due to the stress of living with ADHD, children often feel more anxious, depressed or angry. They need to learn how to cope with these feelings and also develop new strategies that work with their brain. Mental health therapy has a very good track record for helping reduce the negative impact of ADHD through behavioral and emotional strategies.
Behavioral interventions help children, their teachers and parents identify strategies that will help compensate for the symptoms of ADHD. This may include regular check-ins, organizational strategies and reward systems. Emotional strategies help children overcome anxiety, anger and sadness.
Mental health therapy does not reduce the prevalence of inattention or hyperactivity, but instead helps kids and parents cope with them more effectively. Therapy provides long-term skills and most research indicates that the combination of mental health therapy and medication as the most effective treatment for ADHD.
Here for you!
If you are interested in a consultation to see if therapy would be a good fit for your child, give us a call today. If you are not sure if you child has ADHD, contact us to discuss psychological testing.