Decision Points: Medicating Your ADHD Child
The decision of whether or not to use medication as part of your child’s treatment plan can be extremely daunting. I don’t know of any parent who makes this choice lightly. There are many worries - primarily how the medication may affect a developing mind. You may be concerned about side effects. You may hear exaggerated stories of children who suddenly turn into zombies. You may hear the opinions of people who don’t believe that ADHD even exists and who feel that your child simply needs more discipline. Then there are those who will tell you that kids will be kids and that medication is unnecessary. Beyond the hype and rhetoric, what is a parent to do?
The following is a step by step guide on how to make this critical decision about whether or not medication is right for your child based on my hard earned experience as a parent. First and foremost I want to tell you that this is a personal choice. Nobody can give you the right answer. This is your child and your family. You have to shut out the opinions, judgments, and criticisms of others and decide what is right for your child.
Here are some suggestions of how to make a sound decision based upon facts instead of hyperbole.
• Keep a log of your child’s behaviors and symptoms. A daily log will help you determine a baseline before you initiate any type of treatment. Later you will be able to compare any changes in order to determine whether or not treatment, including medication, is effective or not.
• Exhaust other treatment options first. There may be various opinions on this but it is generally a good idea to use the most effective treatment with the least amount of risk as your first choice.
Here are some informational articles on non-medication treatments for ADHD:
• Ask for guidance from your child’s teachers, pediatrician, or therapist. The professionals working with your child may be helpful in assisting you with your decision about whether or not medication is a viable treatment option. They may be able to offer a different perspective on how to view your child’s challenges and also give you ideas of what may work for your child. A team approach can be very beneficial for giving you the support you need in making choices about how to best help your child.
• Research the medication choices available for your child. Nowadays there are many medications which can potentially decrease the symptoms of ADHD. It is worth the time and effort to read about ADHD medications so that you understand the risks, the possibilities for side effects, and other pertinent information. You can begin by exploring our ADHD medication guide.
• Write a list of questions to ask the doctor about medication. You want to make the most of your child’s appointment with the doctor. If you are seriously considering medication for your child, it is very important that you write your questions ahead of time so that you don’t forget anything. To help you with this task, our Eileen Bailey has written an article entitled, Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Beginning Medication. In addition to your list of questions, you should also bring in your observation log of your child’s symptoms so that you have an objective record to share with your child’s doctor.
• Decide on whether or not you and your child are ready to commit to following through with a medication regimen. Once you do make that decision to try medication, there are many things to think about. How will your child receive the medication such as through a patch, liquid medication, or a pill they swallow? Is your child generally compliant about taking any type of medication? Will you be able to commit to ensuring that your child receives his or her medication even during vacations, travel, or school time? Have you talked to your child about the possibility of medication and what changes they might expect in how they feel? Is your child comfortable with this choice of treatment?
Clearly there are a lot of things to think about before you make that final decision that medication is worth a try. Medication is not a panacea. It is not an instant cure for your child’s symptoms. But in many cases, the right medication at the right dosage, can be extremely effective in treating ADHD. This is no easy decision by any stretch of the imagination. In the end it is about deciding what is best for your child. Factors such as your child’s age, whether or not symptoms are hindering their quality of life in a significant way, or whether most other treatment options have been explored, are important considerations influencing your decision. In our case we waited until my son was nearly twelve and we had exhausted other ways of treating his symptoms. I can honestly say that medication has helped my son and in a subsequent post I wish to elaborate on our personal journey.
We would like to hear from you. How did you make the personal decision as to whether or not to medicate your child? We would really like to hear about your experience. It helps to know what other parents have gone through in this process.