Today’s column by Valerie Strauss “If you can pay attention, you do not have ADHD”–and 9 other misconceptions about the disorder” was a great read. Ms. Strauss highlights the Top 10 Myths of ADHD by Dr. Ned Hallowell, a child and adult psychiatrist. This list is a good for families of newly diagnosed children or in situations where parents are concerned about the possibility of ADHD and have yet to get confirmation.
I have been in the position of talking to parents, to grandparents, to schools about what ADHD is and what it is not. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about the diagnosis and treatment options.
Let’s get that out of the way now. “Treatment” does not necessarily imply medication. However, I know many parents cannot stop thoughts of: “if this is ADHD, then it must mean they will want to medicate my child…” First, as a behavioral pediatrician, I want to say that having the diagnosis of ADHD does not automatically mean your child will need to be on medication. In fact, the first line “treatment” for ADHD is parent training and education.
RELATED: Treatment & Target Outcomes for Children with ADHD (from healthychildren.org)
Yes, sometimes medications are used in the treatment but educational supports, behavioral therapy and parent training or also part of the plan. These components can be started at any time, may be combined with other treatments. Sometimes treatments are dropped and added on again at later times.
These decisions are made with the family and the team (for example: doctors, teachers, therapists)–and always with the goal of asking, “What else is needed to ensure that the child is learning and doing what he/she needs to be doing every day and doing it as well as can be?”
If you are a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent who is worried that your child may have ADHD, make sure you come prepared to ask questions at each and every appointment. It can be challenging and hard to remember who is doing what since much of the time behavioral conditions require many team players. Your child’s doctor wants you to feel comfortable with every decision that has to be made along the way. They are happy to have you ask questions, no matter how many times or different iterations.
Another thing to remember is that at the time when the diagnosis is uncertain or is new, it can feel like you are all alone and overwhelming. The first step is to take a breath and write down any and all questions. Organize all paperwork and relevant schoolwork in a binder/folder and keep them together. It helps keep things handy when you have to meet yet another new team player. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page. There is nothing more stressful than not knowing which team member to call when things go awry or after a particularly challenging day. See my post “A new handout for ADHD” that I developed and use with families that can help explain some concepts I think is important to think about when a child is newly diagnosed.
The key is to remember to reach out to your child’s doctor if you have ongoing questions. Yes, they can prescribe medications for ADHD, but they can and always will be there to coordinate care and make referrals. They are interested in talking through all treatment options and linking you to great community resources and organizations. This is what the “medical home” is all about.