Knowing if your child needs medication to manage ADHD centers on the severity, age and other interventions used to address it. It is important to remember that each child is unique and medication is not the best decision for every child.
A child’s brain is constantly developing, so ADHD medication can certainly be impactful. This is one of the reasons that working with a physician and/or qualified professional is imperative in this process. Regular examinations will ensure that you remain aware of any cognitive or physical changes in your child as they adjust to the medication.
Does ADHD Medication Work?
The potential benefits of ADHD medication for your child includes:
- Better ability to focus and be attentive, improving school performance and social interactions.
- Improved activity levels and reduced impulsivity, resulting in better physical health.
It is important to note that ADHD medication does not “cure” or treat the disorder itself; it simply helps manage symptoms and therefore assists in helping your child experience increased attention and focus.
As with all medications, there are potential risks associated with ADHD medication. Before your child begins taking any ADHD medication, you should be aware of the common side effects such as stomach pain, headache, nausea, decreased appetite, weight loss, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, mood swings. It is important for parents to read closely the warning labels on various ADHD medications. Keep track of any unusual behavior while trying out medication. For example, if your child experiences hives or difficulty breathing soon after taking a particular medication you would be well advised to seek urgent medical attention since this could very possibly indicate an allergic reaction to the medication.
These symptoms are usually mild, and may go away over time but it is important to inform your doctor of all concerns and questions.
What Is the Best Medication for ADHD?
There are many different types of ADHD medication, and the type your child needs will depend on their symptoms. It is important to work with a doctor to determine the best course of action for your child’s specific symptoms. However, there are some general tips that can be helpful in determining what kind of medication would be most effective.
There are two main categories: stimulant and non-stimulant medications. Stimulants have been found to work well for children who have both hyperactivity and attention difficulties, but they may not help as much if only one symptom is present. Non-stimulant medications usually do not cause any side effects such as an increase in heart rate or appetite suppression common with stimulants so they might be better suited if your child is experiencing both hyperactivity and attention difficulties.
ADHD Medication List for Child
Some common medications prescribed for ADHD in children are outlined in the table below from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and American Psychiatric Association:
Finding the Right ADHD Medication
One of the challenges of administering ADHD medication for children struggling with Attention Deficit Disorder is finding the right medication and the appropriate dosage. Oftentimes, ADHD may be experienced alongside anxiety or depression which makes the situation more complex. There is no exact science to this process, since every child is different in terms of mental condition, tolerance and developmental stage. You should work closely with your psychiatrist in order to find the appropriate dosage.
As a parent, you don’t want to put your child on a medication that makes your child feel unlike themselves or causes unbearable side effects. But at the same time you don’t want to prevent your child from gaining access to possible treatments that could help manage their ADHD symptoms. Finding the right balance will be difficult for parents and it’s something they’ll need guidance from their psychiatrist about.
This is where your role as a parent becomes that much more imperative. Pay close attention to behavioral changes while trying out different medications. Your observations as a parent can make a difference when determining the efficacy of a particular medication and how much it is helping with a specific attention deficit disorder. Include your child in the conversation as well and make sure they are careful to notice changes in themselves and relay them to you.
What Will People Think About My Child Being On Medication?
One of the things you may worry about is the stigma attached to ADHD medication and how this may impact the way family and friends see your child. However, this is one of the reasons having all the facts about these medications is so important.
If you feel it is appropriate, have a talk with your child about medication and explain how you and your doctor believe it could help them. Be as transparent as you are comfortable with when conversing with family and friends. However, don’t feel pressured to reveal any information that you or your child is not comfortable with just to appease the feelings of others.
How to Give Medication to Your Child
When speaking to your child about ADHD medication, be as up front as possible, given your child’s age and ability to understand what is happening. Explain why your child needs the medication and how it may help over time. Answer any questions they might have to the best of your ability, and ask their physician or psychiatrist to do the same.
The more informed your child is about their mental condition, the more they can advocate for themselves.
It is always best to be transparent with your child’s school as well, as some ADHD medications can have side effects. If your child’s school is aware that they’ve started a new medication, those educators with which your child interacts most often can note any sudden behavioral changes that might provide clues that the medication is or isn’t working.
How to Know If ADHD Medication Is Working
One of the most common ways to know if a medication is working is through the signs of behavioral changes in your child. ADHD medication is most likely working if your child is:
- Completing tasks without being reminded
- Repeating a task only when they have been asked to do so
- Creating less distractions in the classroom for their classmates
- Not forgetting assigned tasks
- Engaging in conversations with classmates without off-task behavior
- Asking questions and participating more during lessons
- Participating more in class projects
- Completing homework each night (or at least most nights)
- Following classroom rules
- Managing conflicts with classmates or teachers without arguing
- Responding well to classroom discipline
- Tolerating changes in routine
It may take some time to notice changes, as many ADHD medications can take upwards of six weeks to work properly. Therefore, it may take some time to see the results. This doesn’t mean the medication isn’t working. Rather, it means that you may need to be patient and note behavioral changes as they occur over time.
Medication Combined with Therapy for Treatment
ADHD medications for children struggling with mental disorders are typically most effective when used in conjunction with therapy. After all, while medication can help to balance out the brain chemistry that can contribute to the mental disorder, therapy helps with accepting and managing the symptoms.
Often, children benefit from regular therapeutic interventions that not only help them to learn more about the mental disorder with which they may be struggling, but also, in learning how to live with it. Moreover, therapy can help children to develop healthy coping mechanisms, especially as they navigate the sometimes complex process of trial and error in trying to find the best possible medication for their condition.
Risks of Stopping ADHD Medication
One of the biggest mistakes a parent can make is allowing their child to stop taking ADHD medication when their symptoms start to improve. This can cause a major setback and mitigates consistency in terms of treatment.
Parent’s should always consider the course of treatment for which they have been prescribed when taking ADHD medication. If you are interested in having your child cease a specific medication, work closely with your child’s pediatrician or psychiatrist to do so in a way that is safe.
Should My Child Take ADHD Medication?
In conclusion, the decision to take ADHD medication is not one that should be taken lightly. When asking yourself if your child needs medication, there are many factors to consider. Although many psychiatrists are quick to prescribe medication, it may not be the only or the best fit solution for your child. If you do decide to try medication, be sure to work closely with your doctor and be mindful of the effects it might have on your family life. Though ADHD medication has been shown to increase focus, concentration, and impulse control in many children, that doesn’t mean that your child will not experience any side effects. Finding the right medication, figuring out dosage, and adjusting based on the changes you see in your child can be a long road. If you and your doctor decide that medication is right for your child, then you will want to closely monitor the effects it has. Make sure you communicate with your child and ask them what their experience is being on the medication. After all, they are the ones who will be directly affected by it and can provide you with valuable information in order to make the safest decision.