Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a lifelong condition. After a diagnosis, families often feel upset, worry, overwhelm, or even relief. Chances are if kids are hyperactive or impulsive, others may have noticed challenges at school or daycare. Sometimes, parents worry about how hard it is to get their child to pay attention, have too much energy or how to keep them safe because they act before thinking. Many parents worry their child has been judged or labeled “the bad kid”.
These challenges can at times feel huge, but you are not alone.
As a behavioral pediatrician, I see many children with ADHD. While every family has unique needs, there are similar concerns across families.
What does having a diagnosis mean for my child? Does this mean I have to put my child on medicine? I just want the best for my child, what do I do next?
ADHD is common but it doesn’t make it any less stressful. When facing something new or challenging, it helps to have people in your corner. Everyone, including the child, must understand how to navigate the road ahead. This is the hallmark of chronic care management, which encourages medical providers and the patient/family to work together.
Partnership and Collaboration with your Doctor is KEY
It is appropriate to involve the child as early as possible, in child appropriate ways. Children can become active participants in self-care activities, when they understand basic concepts of health and illness. This is especially true if the decision is made to start medicine.
By providing parents and children knowledge about what to expect helps with compliance
During my prior work, we designed the TEACH program to help families learn about ADHD while in the clinic. In addition to helping parents develop an ADHD Care Plan, the My Today tool was created so children could learn to dial into their thoughts and how their bodies feel. ADHD medicines can have side effects like headaches, stomachaches and decreased appetite. A critical skill is helping kids voice their feelings and how to “tune in” to their bodies. Giving parents a way to invite children to talk with them and their doctor is just as important.
An ADHD Care Plan ensures a balance of treatment options
No parent ever feels good about starting a child on medicine. It is not always needed. But it is where parents’ minds usually go to first. There are other treatment options that can be done, regardless if medication also used. These options include: parent training, school accommodations, and behavioral therapy. Diet and nutrition, limiting screens, good sleep routines and regular exercise are also a must. However, certain situations will require the addition of medicine.
When medicine is started, it is important that it be taken regularly. It is also helpful to make sure you and your child learn how the use of medicine affects behavior at home and school. When children are invited to share their feelings about how it makes them feel, it can provide parents & doctors assurance that medicines are either doing what it is supposed to be doing or if not, then be changed.
Children can be encouraged to complete these sheets for the first few days after starting or increasing medication as a way to “jump-start” self-awareness and conversation with you. It should also be shared with your child’s doctor.
It’s available in English and Spanish.
Helping children learn how to talk about living with ADHD can make all the difference in how families feel when setting up an ADHD Care Plan with the doctor and navigating the road ahead.
*A special thanks to Dustin Lynch, Courtney Moore, Helen Senamatsu and Dr. Sarah Wiehe, as well as the families of our patient advisory board for their assistance in co-developing this tool.