My doctor is suggesting medication for my kid’s ADHD. What should I keep in mind?
Kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can benefit greatly from a combination of stimulant medication and behavioural strategies, like getting one-on-one attention, working in a non-distracting room and taking frequent breaks. I liken ADHD medication to a morning coffee or tea. Before my first mug of green tea, I’m distracted; I hear birds chirping outside, cars zooming down the street and my kids’ requests—all without being able to focus on anything. Once the tea has had an effect, my brain just works more efficiently, and I can prioritize, multi-task and accomplish so much more. This is what ADHD medicine does: It has the ability to clear your child’s mind of the clutter, to allow real focus and energy to be dedicated to the task at hand.
Along with behavioural strategies, kids who are properly medicated for ADHD perform better academically in school; have better social development, better employment and future marriages; are less likely to become involved with drugs and alcohol; and have a smaller risk of car accidents. Who wouldn’t want this? My suggestion is to start at a low dose and reassess with your doctor on a weekly or biweekly basis to ensure it’s working—adjusting the dosage as necessary and watching for side effects like decreased appetite, difficulty falling asleep and tics. Side effects can be mitigated by taking the best medication for your child, early in the day and at the correct dosage. There are many medicines on the market, and your doctor can figure out which one is best for your child. This can be a bit of trial and error, but it can be done! The medicines only work for 24 hours, so it’s possible for your child to take breaks on weekends and vacations. My experience is that most families, and kids, chose to continue the medication throughout the year once they see the great value in it.
Dina Kulik is a paediatrician and emergency room doctor in Toronto and mom to three boys, who are five, three and 17 months. Send her your kids’ health questions at firstname.lastname@example.org