ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Before 1994, this same condition was referred to as ADD, or attention deficit disorder. ADHD is the more commonly used term since the name change. However, doctors still use the term ADD when referring to a condition that does not involve hyperactivity. Both conditions involve your child’s not being able to sit still and pay attention, acting impulsively and sometimes getting into trouble.
Types of Treatment
Treatments for ADD and ADHD include medication, behavioral therapy, eating nutritious foods, getting enough exercise and sleep and giving your child organization and a routine. The only controversial treatment involves the medication. Medicating your child comes with risks and side effects, makes your child into something he isn’t and does not cure ADHD or ADD.
About Stimulant Medication
Typically, stimulants, such as Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine, are the most common ADD and ADHD medicines. They work by increasing dopamine levels, which increase pleasure, motivation and attention and reduce hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Side effects with stimulants include feeling restless, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, depression, headaches and loss of appetite. Your child’s personality may change, and she may become withdrawn, lethargic and less talkative.
Stimulants and Safety
Giving stimulants to children has numerous safety considerations. Scientists do not yet know the long-term effects on a child’s developing brain when given stimulants. Stimulants raise heart rate and blood pressure, so the American Heart Association recommends the child have a cardiac evaluation before stimulants are begun. Some children exhibit psychiatric problems, especially if there is a family history of depression, suicide or bipolar disorder. Stimulants are subject to abuse among teenagers who want extra energy or who want to lose weight. Some children who have a prescription share their pills with other kids.
Before you make the decision on whether to medicate your child, Jerome Schultz, Ph.D., an ADHD expert in Massachusetts, told Helpguide.org that parents should determine if non-medication approaches work first, such as self-calming techniques, deep breathing and yoga. Also, determine whether your child has been exposed to toxic chemicals, has a learning disability or an anxiety disorder because those conditions might be confused with ADD or ADHD. Whether you decide to give your child medication for his ADD or ADHD, it is a decision that should be made by you and your child. School administrators should not bully or pressure you to give your child medication.
Whether you give your child medication or not, you can help your child in other ways. Make sure your child gets regular exercise because that is one of the most effective ways to reduce symptoms, according to Helpguide.org. Physical activity also boosts dopamine levels, which help your child focus. Diet does not cause ADD or ADHD, but it can affect a person’s mood and energy levels. Your child should get omega-3 fatty acids that you can find in salmon, walnuts, scallops, cauliflower, tuna, kale and collard greens. Your child should also get enough zinc, iron and magnesium.
Your child needs a routine, such as a regular bedtime and wake time, a time for homework and a time for chores. A positive attitude can work wonders. Praise your child when she does something right. Avoid fighting and yelling. Rather, wait for the situation to calm down when you can talk rationally.