Info on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common reason for referral of children who present for mental health treatment. Similarly, it represents one of the most common diagnostic issues seen in school-aged children. It is characterized by significant impairment in the area(s) of attention, impulse control, and activity level. Like many other medical conditions, minor issues in these areas are seen in many children and are not considered problematic. It is only when the symptoms of ADHD are significant and interfere with a child’s function in school, home, or social situations that a diagnosis of ADHD should be made. These symptoms may result in poor academic performance, serious risk taking behavior, significant disruptive behaviors,and cause frustration for the child, their family, and school personnel. Social skills and the development of friendships may be negatively impacted by the symptoms of ADHD.
Treatments including behavioral therapy and medication are usually effective in reducing the severity of the ADHD symptoms and improving the child’s success in school and at home. Behavioraltherapy is usually done with the child’s parents, teaching or improving their skills such as using effective commands, modeling appropriate behavior, and contingency management techniques such as positive re-enforcement (rewarding good behavior) and punishment (consequences for misbehavior). Working with a child (and parent) in individual or family therapy to help them understandand manage their symptoms of ADHD, teach them problem solving skills, effective strategies to handle their frustration, and improving social skills may be other therapeutic techniques utilized when the child is old enough and willing to participate in therapy. With the parent’s permission,the therapist may interact with the child’s teacher to develop effective behavioral strategies for the school day such as a daily report card.
Medications include stimulants such as Adderall XR, Concerta, Focalin XR and others which, wheneffective, improve a child’s ability to focus, remain on task, complete academic activities, and reduce disruptive behaviors. Strattera, Intuniv, and Kapvay are non-stimulant medications that may b eused for those children who do not respond to the stimulants, have side effects from them, or havea medical reason that requires they avoid stimulant use. Medications should be used under thesupervision of a physician who will monitor with the child and their parent that the medication is having the desired positive effect of reducing the symptoms and impairment from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder without causing problematic side effects.
If a parent believes their child may have ADHD, the initial step they should take is to have their child evaluated by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist or other qualified professional. They can determine if the child has ADHD or some other condition and what the recommended course of treatment would be for the child and family.
Gary Vallano, M.D.
Medical Director, Pace
Board Certified, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist