The Decision of Treating ADHD
There’s good news about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); this common condition is manageable, and taking action can make a world of difference.
The question is: what does “taking action” mean? Often, coming to this conclusion can be very specific to a child and to his or her behaviors and needs.
Dr. Ronald Kent, M.D., of Hattiesburg Clinic, has worked with ADHD children for 28 years.
“If treated, ADHD should not hinder any student from accomplishing their goals in life,” Dr. Kent said. “If untreated, it can cause many problems that can hinder achievement of those goals.”
While taking the pharmaceutical route for ADHD management is widespread, Dr. Kent believes the proper path should be individualized and weighed, as one would do with any other medical condition affecting quality of life.
“Treatment with any medication for any disorder should always be a well-thought-out decision, and ADHD is no different,” Dr. Kent explained. “If a student is having significant problems, every aspect of treatment should be considered. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a three-fold treatment plan for ADHD: behavioral management, educational interventions and medical management. When this plan is followed, almost all students with ADHD will have significant improvement.”
“We have many tried and true medications and therapies that have been proven to be beneficial,” Dr. Kent assured.
Some parents are wary of starting kids on a regimen of medicine that might continue for years. The decision isn’t always clear-cut.
Carol Milton, RN, is a retired school nurse who at some point has worked at all public schools in the Hancock County system. Today, she still fills in as needed at various schools. In her personal opinion, the pharmaceutical route is taken in too many cases.
“Throughout my career in school nursing, I saw an increase in the use of ADHD meds in younger children,” Milton said. “Personally, I felt that sometimes meds were used to control normal active behavior. There is so much pressure on both students and teachers to perform to national and state standards, that active personalities are not welcome in the classroom.”
Milton was clear that some children definitely need to be prescribed medications; her comments weren’t intended to imply they don’t serve a role.
“There is definitely a need for the meds in some students, and I saw improvement in the students’ self-esteem when they were able to concentrate and learn,” Milton observed.
She gave a few hints — as a school nurse — for improving performance in kids with ADHD.
“Better communication between parents and teachers would contribute to positive behavior in class,” she said. “It seems in society today, the teacher needs support from parents and must agree to work with their child rather than just giving meds. Many of these children are also medicated after they get home, ‘to get through homework.’ I guess you can tell I am not a big supporter of meds unless absolutely necessary.”
While the debate continues, medical professionals such as Milton and Dr. Kent are in agreement that a variety of interventions can make a difference. Research continues.
“Researchers are investigating the use of electronics to enhance attention,” Dr. Kent said.
He also added that the state of Mississippi has implemented a “Move to Learn” program, designed to encourage kids with ADHD — and kids without it, as well — to vent extra energy and hone focus. Dr. Kent said Mississippi’s Move to Learn program “has been shown to help students at all levels be successful in school.”
This doesn’t mean all highly active kids have ADHD. There is more to the diagnosis, and it is best to have a professional evaluation done either through the school or through a physician such as Dr. Kent.
“Unless it is an extreme behavior problem, it is best to wait until kindergarten to begin an evaluation for ADHD,” Dr. Kent cautioned. “In those extreme situations, a family should seek a good counselor to guide them.”
In summary, experts say the best thing a parent can do for a child is to not ignore problems. However the problem is remedied, dealing directly with a lack of attention at school can make a world of difference.
Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, book and magazine editor, and mom. Her essays and reporting have appeared in over 75 publications. She is managing editor of Parents & Kids–South Mississippi and Parents & Kids–Mississippi Delta.