PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — It’s probably one of the most controversial topics surrounding ADHD in children — medication.
The A.D.D Resource Center reported 6.1 percent of American children are being treated for ADHD with medication.
After confirming my son had the disorder, I had a big decision to make — to medicate or not to medicate.
Therapy was an option, but I knew there was no way, my 4-year-old would sit in a therapy session when he couldn’t stay seated during mealtime. Additionally, his pediatrician told us that he couldn’t go on a stimulant until he was five.
John Claunch, 43 of Lynn Haven, said when he was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, he was put on medication.
“I guess they had started putting me on Ritalin at about five years old,” Claunch said. “We tried all different kinds of therapies and things to try to help me just maintain focus.”
Rita Olek, ADHD mom of four, said her 7-year-old twins take daily stimulants.
“They are medicated but we don’t do the time-release medication. We do one that they take twice a day,” Olik said. “And then another one in the late afternoon just to get them through their homework. 3:14″Mornings are very difficult because they have not had any medication yet,” Olek said.
I resisted giving my son medication for a while but after he had a few rough weeks at school (I worried he might get kicked out), I changed my mind. He went from finishing zero assignments in class to all of them, and he went three straight months without getting into trouble.
“If there were days when I didn’t take my medication, I definitely was a lot more active and not as focused,” Claunch said.
When ADHD medication is concerned, there are a few options available, but most parents opt for one of two: Adderall or Ritalin — both stimulants.
Dr. Christopher Sarampote, Program Officer at the National Institute for Mental Health, said these stimulants work because they affect dopamine within the brain.
“What we think is that kids with ADHD, there are actually deficits in dopamine within their brain,” Saramote said. “Dopamine is one of the Nero transmitters that helps us kind of exert that inventory control. They help us control behavior. If you have less of that active in the brain, you’re gonna be less able to kind of control. With ADHD medications, they boost that level of dopamine,” Saramote said.
My son is extremely impulsive and rarely thinks before acting. His medication has helped him control this symptom, but it’s not been a cure-all. We still spend a large part of the day working through his impulses.
At this age, you just always have to stay on top of them,” Olek said. “Mentally it wears you out.”
Sarampote said every child should be evaluated as an individual and that medication isn’t for everyone. Also, it’s important to stay in constant contact with your child’s school.
16’10 “Parents a lot of times have to be advocates for their kids,” Sarampote said. “It takes work to make sure everyone is on the same page — the school, the teacher.”
My son’s school is great and has worked with us every step of the way. Now that he’s in first grade, he’s on a specific behavior plan that they’ve tailor-made for him. So far, it’s working.
“Making sure that you work with a school phycologist, that you are talking to your pediatrician to make sure that children are getting the proper treatment,” Sarampote said.
Olek said her oldest child, age 26 no longer needs medication to cope.
Claunch said he got off Ritalin when he turned 14 and started self-medicating.
I really started drinking coffee, which is also a stimulant just like Ritalin and I found that started helping me focus a little bit better,” Claunch said. “And now as an adult, I still have a lot of attention issues, I mean you can talk to my wife and she can tell you.”
“People can control symptoms, whether through accommodations or medication or other approaches, but children should also be learning to self-advocate,” Sarampote said.
At first, I used my son’s diagnosis as an excuse for the trouble he was getting into. But I quickly realized, I was only enabling him.
“So I think it’s constantly teaching kids along the way that’s really important,” Sarampote said.
What about diet? There is a lot of dispute surrounding food and ADHD.
“I know that when they eat a lot of sugar or drink a lot of sodas and stuff that of course, they are going to be very hyper at that point,” Olek said. “We try to eat as healthy as we can.”
Sarampote said diet alone doesn’t cause ADHD and it can’t be used as a treatment method. But a healthy diet is still important and he said that sleep is also a key factor.
“When you’re tired, you’ll be more cranky, less likely to kind of inhibit your behavior and you can be a lot inattentive and unfocused when you are tired,” Sarampote said. 22:24 “And sleep can be really tough with kids with ADHD, getting them on regular schedules.
My son has never been a good sleeper, and he seems to get into trouble more when he’s really tired. Therefore, we’ve tried our best to keep him on a strict sleep schedule.
Ultimately, a parent knows their child best and as parents, we all must make the choices we think are best. For some, that might mean medication, for others, that might mean counseling, and for most, that probably means giving lots of hugs.
Come back tomorrow for the final installment of News 13’s coverage of ADHD awareness month: Strengths and misunderstanding the disorder.