Should We Use Medication to Treat Our Child's ADD/ADHD?

Might your child benefit from medication for ADD/ADHD?

boy taking pills with water
MakiEni's photo/Moment Open/Getty Images

Your child with ADD has done well without medication for several years. Now, though, she's having a tougher time. Is it time to consider medication?

Why ADD May Become More Problematic for Older Children

It is not uncommon for ADD children who are highly intelligent to develop their own coping strategies to compensate for deficiencies in certain areas during their earlier school years. Often times as the child reaches high school levels, demands, work load, expectations, and responsibilities become more taxing, while supervision, structure and monitoring at school decreases.

As a result, ADD symptoms may be more evident.

Depression can commonly occur with ADD, as well. Sometimes the frustrations, social difficulties, and feelings that may result from struggles associated with ADD bring on the depressed feelings. Sometimes the depression exists independently.

Before Trying Medication

If you are hesitant about trying medication, the first thing to do is to make sure behavioral and organizational strategies and supports are being implemented at home and at school. If your child's issues relate mainly to school, simple accommodations in the classroom can help.

Accommodations may include short breaks throughout the day, preferential seating up front near the teacher or away from distractions, permission to take tests or complete work in a quiet area, visual cues and reminders, color coded folders, step by step instructions that are short and simple, immediate feedback, extra time on tests and assignments, etc.

If your child needs a little extra help, you may need to have a 504 plan in place that specifies appropriate modifications and services. If your child does not have a 504 plan, consider talking with school personnel about getting this plan in place. Minor changes to her classroom environment may really help.

Sleep deficiencies can also cause increased problems with mental focus, so take some time to review other issues that may be exacerbating symptoms.

When and How to Try Medication

The question to consider when wondering about medication is “would the quality of my child’s life be better if she is on medication?” In other words, would it help your child to feel better if she could gain better control over her ADD symptoms? Would relationships improve? Would self-esteem issues improve? Would feelings of depression decrease?

Stimulant medication has been used to treat ADD for over 50 years. It is effective and safe when used as prescribed. The use of medication is a personal issue and your family must sort out together what approach feels most comfortable. Find a doctor in your area who specializes in the treatment of ADD and talk with him or her. Ask the doctor questions about the medications. Share your concerns. Do some research online. Continue to educate yourself all you can about ADD so you can make the most informed decision.

If you do make the decision and your child starts taking medication, remember it is only a trial. She may stop taking them at any time if things just don’t feel right or if side effects result or if significant improvement is not seen.

Related Reading

ADHD Medications

Strategies for School Success

Behavioral Modifications and Interventions

Girls and ADHD

Continue Reading