ADHD Informations, tips and tricks

Ritalin ?... No way!

You're back from meeting with your child's teacher. You knew that there were some difficulties ...a few yellow slips to sign, some remarks in his agenda ... but then to suggest that your child has a problem!?! And that we are talking about him taking medication?!?

Various reactions can occur: sadness, disbelief, frustration, anger or guilt. Regardless of these different feelings, as a parent, you have to verify if the problem exists and if so, what interventions need to be done to help your child deal with this miniature society that is school ... and to progress in life ... therefore to succeed in life!

Starting school in itself is a big transition for children. Being 5 or 6 years old does not mean that they necessarily have the maturity expected for this age! Some children need more time than others to adapt to school life. Some have learning difficulties (eg dyslexia). However, for many children (3 to 7% of children 5-12 years old), despite their good will and that of their parents, it will remain difficult for them because they have an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Within this diagnosis, which can be frightening, different manifestations happen. Some students will disturb the class because they are impulsive and MAY not be able to stop talking: it is strongest than them, even if they want to listen because we promised to reward them for listening, they can't help themselves! Others squirm in their seat and have difficulties remaining seated during class when they are supposed to. During recess, the school yard can be a place of friction with some children finding it difficult to abide by the rules of the game because of their impulsiveness, for example. Others are so quiet that we forget that they are there: they tend to space out therefore they don't disturb anyone... At first glance! But when it comes time to do work in class, we need to get their attention, because they won't begin to do the work on their own: we must always push them. For many, the distraction is a just there: they forgets their homework, but also their gameboy! They go to brush their teeth, but ,on the way, stop in front of the TV!

These two types can not succeed to their intellectual potential because they do not focus on what the teacher is saying. Therefore, they lose much of the taught material and accumulate academic set backs. Some very gifted children will succeed in catching up and for others, the fact that their parents revise at home with them the concepts taught in school, will suffice for a while. However, this can bring a long-term burden on the family and will reduce leisure time for the child in question.

Children with ADHD may become demoralized by realizing that their results do not correspond with their efforts. This is very disappointing if one has the potential to have A's but only gets C's! While others can be reasonably successful anyway, they are often reprimanded all the same: they will either develop low self-esteem or become more defiant, or simply won't like school. Regardless of the situation, such a child will develop a negative image of himself: "I am a nobody", "I am not good at anything", "what's to use in trying", "I am the little pest". Others will come up with strategies to avoid reprimands: will lie, use hypocrisy or just avoid any situation of conflict.

Cumulative academic set backs, failures, difficulty to maket or keep friends, the fact of being constantly reprimanded or even sometimes humiliated ... so many things that affect self-esteem and damage personal growth. In the long run, the need for validation and self-affirmation can lead a child to search such recognition in harmful situations for him: like drugs, alcohol, joining a street gang. Others simply drop out of eveything they had going. A few will isolate themselves and will just loath in even more self-esteem pity.

These facts seem alarmists to you! ? ! Of course, not all children with ADHD end up in such a negative way, especially if they receive the adequate academic and emotional support that they need. However, regardless of the support received, this disorder continues to manifest itself in adulthood.

It's a proven fact that a drug treatment reduces the difficulties experienced by these children and their families. This allows children full of potential to succeed better in school (to the extent of their potential), but also in their interpersonal relationships, which is the key to a better self-esteem.

Like any medical diagnosis, there is a natural grieving process that a child and his family need to go through. But when the parent's first and only goal is for his child to be happy, it is best to cope with the situation and to provide every possible opportunity for his child to achieve his dreams. We must stop believing the myths that we only treat a child to calm him, to please his teacher or his school, that his physician prescribed a medication to get rid of the problem. We must simply believe that we are all working together to enable the child to flourish in the most optimal manner. When we feel that the self-esteem of a child can be comprised and that the evaluation (school and/or psychological and/or medical) shows that the child has ADHD, a drug treatment is a must. Because, while other measures have already been put in place (placed in front of the classroom, help with homework, support orthopedagogic etc.), these are just not enough most of the time.

There are different types of medication. It is practically impossible to know in advance which medication will best suit the child's needs. There will be a transition period, each medication with its side effects more or less enjoyable. It is best to just take our time and set a common goal: that the child reaches personal success (be less reprimanded, improves his perfomance in his academics and extracurricular activities, be invited at friends' houses).

Since a child lives everyday with ADHD and that school is not his only learning environment, it is important to realize that he needs to take his medication all year long, week and weekend as well as during the summer months (unless there is a too great impact on his appetite, and only on medical recommandation).

So, dear parents, take some time to think about all this, forget the comments of everyone surrounding you, take a good look at your child and ask yourselves what is best for OUR CHILD, so he can grow up and become an adult who feels fine with himself and who has the necessary tools to go after HIS dreams!

Renée-Claude Duval
Paediatrician

Specialized help resources :

1.PANDA Association (parents aptes à négocier le déficit de l'attention avec ou sans hyperactivité)
Telephone : (450) 979-7788 or toll-free hotline 1 877 979-7788
www.associationpanda.qc.ca

2. LDAQ (Learning disabilities association of Quebec)
Telephone : (418) 626-5146 for the Quebec city region or (418) 836-0013
www.aqeta.qc.ca