Pill Swallowing Tips for Kids with ADHD

Parenting Tips

A teen taking her medicine.
Swallowing a pill is a skill that older children and teens must master. Photo by Getty Images

Since many kids can't begin to swallow pills or capsules until they are about ten years old, it can sometimes be a difficult to get a child with ADHD to take their medicine.

Unless your child is taking Concerta, which can't be opened or split because of its special delivery method, there are likely things that will make it easier.

Tips to Get Kids with ADHD to Take Medicine

Talk to your pediatrician if your child has been taking his medicine for a while and is now refusing.

That is a separate issue from a newly diagnosed child who is simply having a hard time taking pills.

Tips that work for many parents of children with ADHD include that you:

  • ask your pediatrician to prescribe an ADHD medication that can be opened and sprinkled on applesauce, etc., such as Adderall XR, Focalin XR, Ritalin LA, and Metadate CD, etc. Vyvanse, a once day ADHD medicine can even be sprinkled in water.
  • consider getting a prescription for Quillivant XR, which is a long acting form of Ritalin that is available as a liquid that your child can just drink. ProCentra, a short acting  liquid form of Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine sulfate) is also available.
  • consider Daytrana, a Ritalin patch can be a good option for kids who can't swallow pills
  • see if your pharmacist has a 'recipe' to turn the pill or capsule into a liquid. Some people are already doing this with Strattera, but you will likely have go to a compounding pharmacy to get it done

    And of course, you could always teach your child to swallow pills, which is not always as difficult as it sounds.

    Learning to Swallow Pills

    To teach your child to swallow pills, it may help to:

    • have your child put the pill in his mouth and then drink a glass of water through a straw. With this method, many kids concentrate on the straw and don't think about the pill, so it goes down easily.
    • in addition to the pill, put a spoonful of applesauce, yogurt, or pudding in his mouth and then have him swallow it all together.
    • have him chew on a piece of bread or a cookie and then put the pill in his mouth just before he would swallow it
    • put the pill under your child's tongue and then have him drink a glass of water
    • have your child practice swallowing smaller things first, before moving on to a pill
    • put the pill on your child's tongue and then have him fill his mouth with water, so that his cheeks are full and puff out, and then have him swish it all around and then swallow it all

    Keep in mind that some kids are very resistant to swallowing pills and don't learn until they teens. Others get tired of all of the workarounds they have to do to take their ADHD medicines and learn to swallow pills fairly early.

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