Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition in
which there is developmentally inappropriate attention, hyperactivity and/or
impulsive behaviour. These difficulties
are so pervasive and persistent as to significantly interfere with a child’s
daily life. In the third article of a three-part
series on the condition, the Learning Assessment & Neurocare Centre discusses
the critical issue of medication.
Medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
frequently suggested as part of a multi-modal management plan in a child with
significant ADHD. This is based on a
wide range of international data that shows clear improvement in core symptoms
and complications when ADHD is effectively managed as part of an overall
treatment plan. In addition there is
very strong evidence that the basis of most children’s ADHD is an underlying
neurobiological or brain chemistry difference.
The use of medication should be seen as providing a window of
opportunity to put a floor into the situation and stabilise it so that
educational, behavioural and other strategies can be more effective.
Side effects of ADHD medication
The media has
tended to grossly over-emphasise the side effects of these medications and only
rarely point out the reasons why medication is considered in an individual
child. It is therefore critical that
parents place side effects in perspective, look at the relatively low incidence
of short term side effects with these medications, the paucity of evidence of
long term side effects, and the fact that at least 90% of children with
significant ADHD can be effectively helped with the use of medication.
Long-term medication for children with Attention
Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
It is also
important to recognise that ADHD is rarely a static condition, its difficulties
frequently persist and often magnify with time.
The decision to medicate is never one that is taken lightly and should
always be done after a comprehensive assessment to assess if the child has
The child may well
benefit from medication for several years.
Whilst some children outgrow the need for medication and their symptoms
improve with time, in the majority clinical experience shows that medication is
generally helpful on an ongoing basis throughout school years, especially until
the child has passed GCSEs.
Depending on other
environmental supports then available, the child’s intelligence, the adolescent
may outgrow the need for medication, however, in others the need for medication
persists into adulthood. It is always
important at that stage to try to encourage your child to become good at topics
that interest them as many children with ADHD are able to over-focus in such
Monitoring progress of treatment for ADHD
combination of treatment is eventually decided on, in conjunction with the
parent it is crucial that the child’s progress is monitored. This will involve monitoring of their own
views on their progress, as well as the view of their teachers and
parents. However, remember that all
children with ADHD – and no doubt your own child – have very marked strengths,
as well as the difficulties of their ADHD.
It is important
that the effective management of your child’s ADHD effectively addresses these
difficulties, whilst enabling his/her very real strengths to show through.
Also remember that ADHD is frequently genetic and that quite often one
or other, or both, parents might have ADHD.
An awareness of this sometimes does not happen until the child is
diagnosed, but it can be very useful, both in helping the parent’s life, and
that of the family as a whole.