How to Treat ADHD with Medication


Educational strategies are always important for children with ADHD, but if they prove insufficient then other strategies, such as medication, might need to be tried. Before the child is started on medication, changes to his diet might be considered. Although these dietary changes have generally been found to be ineffective in improving concentration and impulsiveness, there is a small group of children with ADHD who are particularly sensitive to diet and it may be worth discussing this with the parents.

It is important to recognize that although the decision to treat medically is a joint one between parents and child in conjunction with their specialist, this will invariably have been done after much soul searching. Parents will have had to reach the best decision in the interests of their child. Being part of that decision as a teacher, with an informed, up-to-date, approach to the management of ADHD, and an understanding that medication may have an essential role to play is likely to be beneficial.

It is therefore very helpful for teachers to develop a monitoring toolkit, using a mix of formal and informal measures, and employ these early in their relationship with the pupil. Many physicians will provide schools with a feedback form. It is also worth keeping notes, watching the child’s concentration at different times of the day, and establishing a ‘baseline’ for the pupil’s performance and behaviour and how these vary on a daily basis. Each pupil will have times of the day when their performance is better or worse, and if you are aware of this you can significantly help to maximize their achievements.

Research has shown that children with ADHD have differences in their brain chemistry so that their neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers in their brain – are not working properly. This means that thought processes are not transmitted efficiently. The use of medication aims to correct this chemical deficiency and allow concentration and impulse control to work in a more consistent manner.

Try to learn about the various medications that can be used. The development of long-acting preparations has made the management of children with ADHD much easier and more effective during the school day, as a lunchtime dose is often not necessary. They can last for varying periods of time, from 3-4 hours to 10-12 hours. It is therefore very useful for you to understand the duration and action of these preparations, and to find out which one the child is taking.

Be aware of the possible side effects. While there is no evidence of long-term side effects, about 20% of children have experienced some transient short-term side effects including:

  • appetite suppression
  • sleep difficulties
  • blunting of personality.

These can usually be improved or ceased with specialist guidance and careful fine-tuning of dosage.

Make a note of the differences you observe in the child on medication. Observe side effects where evident, but also look for the positives. It may be difficult to decide which issues are part of the child’s normal personality and which might be related to medication. If in doubt, or if you are concerned about any side effects, discuss them with the child’s parents.

Remember that children with ADHD often respond differently to medication types and dosage. It is a normal part of the treatment process for there to be changes of dose and/or medication. It should be emphasized that this is determined by the clinical judgment of the specialist and the symptoms and associated difficulties of the individual child.

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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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