This question seems to be at the forefront of the ADHD debate. Parents are torn between possibly medicating a young child- predisposing them to a lifelong sentence of dependency vs. allowing the child to navigate through life with their natural wiring which potentially yields potential lifelong judgement , rejection and negation by others as well as intrapersonal battles of insecurity and confidence issues. In trying to answer this question, other variables complicate the matter including consideration of side effects, sibling and parental conflict, issues of self-medicating and so on
While there is no right or wrong answer. Parents of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD should acquaint themselves with research surrounding ADHD. In addition, there are some key questions they can ask themselves to arrive at a conclusion they can live with.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
How extensive are your child’s symptoms and can she/she manage day to day activities without the use of medication?
For certain children, symptoms may not necessarily be severe enough to warrant medication. Additionally, symptoms that present may be mitigated with resources, tools and training. At school, children with ADHD may have an IEP plan that includes apps, gadgets, activities, charts that help the child deal with issues of focus and attention. When parents and teachers faithfully reinforce and structure a child’s day to day activities, prognosis is fair and child may be able to thrive without the use of medication. For example, a child who struggles with focus may benefit from working in an area where distractions are minimized. A child with organization issues could benefit from reminders on his phone/ ipad that tell the child how and what to do in particular situations. There are some children though diagnosed with mild to moderate ADHD- may be able to function without medical intervention. Furthermore, when a child’s symptoms are centered on being highly temperamental or highly deregulated, counselling can be beneficial in helping child develop social and emotional skills and intelligence.
However, when a child is diagnosed with Severe ADHD, the alternatives might not seem so promising. Where neurological deficits render the child somewhat powerless over their focus, attention or emotions, medication helps to balance them, and thus works in conjunction with the development of these skills and supports. It is up to the parents to gauge where on the spectrum they believe the child lies and what is realistic and possible for them with their diagnosis.
Can other precipitating factors account of behaviors and limitations besides the ADHD?
A child may be diagnosed with ADHD but symptoms could be exacerbated by situational factors such as home life, physical illness, learning disorders and other co-morbidities. When a child is stressed due to loss, conflict at home, intrapersonal stressors such as low self-esteem, negative thinking, their behaviours and attitudes may mimic ADHD or simply magnify or intensity ADHD symptoms. It is important to rule out that a child who is struggling with inattention, inflexible thinking, control issues, emotional dysregulation, aggression and other indicators of ADHD is not also a candidate for other types of conditions. For a child to meet the threshold for ADHD, the following must apply,
- Inattention: must be present for at least 6 months and must be inappropriate for the developmental stage of the child
- Child makes careless mistakes, and fails to pay attention to detail
- Can’t seem to pay close attention to anything for too long
- Seems not to listen when spoken to
- Has a hard time following through on instructions or directions.
- Struggles to organize himself, tasks, personal belongings
- Struggles with mental fortitude and putting out effort to tasks or responsibilities that require mental strength
- Loses things often and seems to be careless with things and items
- Is often distracted easily when expected to focus
- Forgets easily
The above symptoms must be present but be careful not to assume ADHD because there are other conditions that can mimic ADHD such as:
- Bipolar disorder.
- Childhood stress
- Low blood sugar.
- Sensory processing disorders.
- Sleep disorders.
- Hearing problems.
- Kids being kids.
- Brain Injuries
Once a parent can rule out the above conditions, it is important to then take your child to a qualified professional to conduct a formal assessment before any formal diagnosis is made
Are parents being objective in considering what is good for the child?
We find all too often that parents can be biased for or against medication for their own personal reasons and history which can be detrimental to the child’s wellbeing. At times, parents have their own experiences about medication and project that onto the child’s situation. We believe that for parents to be fair and thoughtful about the medication debate, they must start at a position of “NO JUDGEMENT”. Once, they do their due diligence and consider the pros and cons, then a decision can be made. When parents are too quick to push medication or become close-minded to the point that they won’t even consider medication – then the child’s wellbeing is at stake.
Information is power. When parents can equip themselves with sound knowledge on ADHD, they will be much more empowered to make an informed decision. When decisions are made based on the neighbour’s experience, what they heard on a talk show, a random article they read on Google, this is not considered wise counsel. There are leading researchers that can be trusted to present the true facts and efficacy of certain medications and interventions. The intake and application of medication in generally a practice of trial and error and there will some level of experimentation. Parents must expect this.
Parents need to be sincere and stay objective in the debate. Ultimately, your child’s life is at stake. It has been proven that children who have ADHD have a higher chance of self-medicating as they hit their teen years. If as a result of a parent’s bias, a child also embraces the notion that medication is bad, in times of need, they will not seek it because of this judgement. It is extremely important that parents present an objective and genuine attitude about medicine opting on the side of caution but seeking only the wellbeing of the child.
WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR FAMILY?
These are only a few of the questions parents can ask. They are many more and each family should consider questions that are suitable for their own unique situations. There are no answers without questions .From our perspective; medication is good if it works for your child and Not good if It doesn’t work for your child.
For more info of ADHD and finding out if medication is right for your child, call Positive Kids to speak with a clinical expert.
What we do!
Positive Kids offers social emotional training and executive functioning coaching to families with children diagnosed with ADHD. There are clearly tools and strategies that work and others that don’t work. If you would like to explore services with Positive Kids, please call us at 866-503-7454.