Having a child with ADHD can be very overwhelming for parents. With so much information on the internet out there, how can you make sure you give your child the best care? Read on to read some parenting tips for children with ADHD.
Are you sure your child really has ADHD?
One study carried at the Michigan State University revealed that 20% -or 1 in 5 children are misdiagnosed as having ADHD. More and more research suggests that ADHD is overdiagnosed. There is no blood test or other objective investigations that can confirm 100% the diagnosis of ADHD. Yet, three out of four American children are under therapy, and ADHD drugs have several side effects.
- Therefore the first step is to get the right diagnosis. If your child’s symptoms do not improve with the medication, even after the doctor adjusted the dose, or tried another drug, it is best to have the diagnosis re-evaluated. It is worth considering a second opinion. Medical doctors like pediatricians, neurologists and psychiatrists have different training than psychologists, yet all of them can evaluate and diagnose ADHD. Conditions that mimic ADHD include anxiety, learning disabilities from various reasons, post traumatic stress disorder and more.
- Sometimes there is not a true medical condition. A child may be more inattentive or unable to focus simply because is 5 years old, while other children in the class are 6 years of age. There is a big difference between how a 5 year old and a 6 year old behaves. Some research points out that the youngest children in kindergarten were 60% more likely to receive the diagnosis of ADHD compared with older children in the same grade. The youngest children in the class are also more likely to get prescribed ADHD medication, as well. Foods like artificial colors, preservatives, sugary foods and excess use of technology can increase irritability, inattention and lack of focus. Although foods and media may increase the risk of symptoms suggestive for ADHD, there is no evidence that they actually cause this condition.
Any other comorbidities that may worsen ADHD and interfere with daily life?
If the ADHD was confirmed, the next step for parents is to know if there are any other conditions that can affect the child. ADHD is often associated with the oppositional defiant disorder or ODD. This condition, rather than ADHD, may be responsible for temper tantrums and acting out. Conduct disorder is also seen more frequently in those with ADHD, leading to aggressive behavior. Various learning disabilities like dyslexia, as well as mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, are also more commonly found in individuals with ADHD. Identifying these conditions help you better understand your child’s behavior and emotions and treating these conditions can further help improve the quality of life of your child.
Do you and/or your partner have ADHD?
If your child has ADHD, there are 41%-51% chances that the ADHD was inherited from the mother or father, respectively, according to one research study. This means that it is even more challenging for the parent with ADHD to handle the child’s symptoms.
If this is the case, the parent with ADHD also needs the correct diagnosis, and treatment – including behavior training classes, and quality time to rest and recharge. Ideally, the partner without ADHD should handle certain tasks like helping with homework and other related activities which may be more stressful or require great time management.
Parenting tips for children ADHD
- While understanding the symptoms of ADHD plays a key role in managing this condition, it is even more important to understand your child’s unique emotions and feelings. Take some time to really understand your child’s perspective. What are the emotions involved when they experience hyperactivity, or lack of attention.
- Beyond ADHD medication. While prescription drugs- particularly stimulants are considered the mainstay of ADHD treatment, there are add-on therapies that can help: behavior therapy and other forms of psychotherapy, social skills training. The American Pediatric Association recommends a combination of drugs and therapy.
- When the on-size-fits all approach isn’t working, look for an individualized treatment plan. There are seven subtypes of ADHD, based on brain scans evaluated by neurologist Dr.Amen: the classic ADD( called ADHD, with classical hyperactive behavior), inattentive ADD, overfocused ADD; temporal lobe ADD (associated with learning and memory issues, mood swings , aggression, temper outbursts), limbic ADD(associated with depression), ring of fire ADD (associated with hypersensitivity to noise, sounds, and emotional stimuli), and anxious ADD (associated with anxiety). Why is it worth considering an individualized plan ? For example the “ring of fire ADD”can be mistaken for bipolar, and worsens with stimulant meds. Individualized lifestyle changes including a healthy diet to address possible food sensitivities and allergies (which are more common than ever in all children), good sleep hygiene, and regular exercise. Stress management techniques, like deep breathing can have a significant impact on improving the symptoms, as well.
- Be supportive, praise your child and offer rewards when a task is completed. Since children with ADHD can get easily bored, it is important to include variety in day to day activities- from changing the exercise routine, to the bedroom decorations or the meals.
- Keep up to date with the latest research, to find if there is any new therapy that can help. Connect with other parents via support groups like ADDA virtual peer support groups. Facebook, Reddit, or ADDitude magazine’s forum .