Another part of the treatment program often involves the prescribed use of certain medications. Parents sometimes worry about their children having to rely on medication. But it's more important to realize that these can help the ADHD child function at his best, and will consequently help him avoid even greater problems.
Parents should expect to receive detailed information about any prescribed medication from their health professional, including the possible side-effects. This information should then be shared with everyone entrusted with the child's care. Let's now look at the most common of ADHD medication.
The most commonly prescribed ADHD medication is Methylphenidate. This medication is in fact a stimulant, which interestingly in ADHD children often has the reverse effect of calming them down.
Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, is commonly taken in pill form. It takes effect quickly, and lasts three to four hours. The child's prescribed dosage needs to be administered by an informed adult, two or three times a day, depending on the child's age - usually in the morning before school, and at lunchtime. Methylphenidate is now also available in a single dose, long acting forms. Dextroamphetamine is another medication used to treat ADHD.
Before medication therapy begins, the diagnosis should be well established, and individualized behaviour and educations plans should be in place. In the absence of these other forms of treatment, drug therapy alone is ineffective.
What about "drug holidays"?
In the past, children being treated for ADHD were sometimes given an extended break from taking medication - usually during the summer months when not in school - to minimize potential side effects. But today, most physicians suggest that current ADHD medication therapy can be safely followed year-round, and can continue to be very helpful outside of school as well. The benefits offered by modern ADHD medications as part of a greater treatment plan, usually outweigh the minimized potential for adverse side effects.
What about alternative treatments?
Alternative treatments for the child's ADHD may be suggested to you, but it's important to realize there is no significant scientific evidence that any are effective. Some of these controversial treatments include: biofeedback, mega-vitamin and mineral supplements, anti-motion sickness medication, and optometric exercises. Again, none of these approaches have ever been scientifically proven to have any significant effect on ADHD, so they should probably not be relied on.
The need for on-going monitoring
Whatever treatment strategies are undertaken, the child's condition needs to be regularly monitored by a health professional. It is especially important to check for side-effects; confirm the on-going effectiveness of the program; and if necessary, make adjustments to the treatment plan.