There is so much conflicting information nowadays on how to treat a child who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). What are the latest treatment trends?
Treatment involves dietary changes, structuring the routine at home with all the family members involved, reducing stress and confrontations, teaching the child self-regulatory skills and developing a better self-image.
Medication plays an important role. Better concentration improves school performance and reduces behavioural problems related to hyperactivity and impulsivity. The services of an occupational therapist, remedial teacher or psychologist may be needed.
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is effective in the majority of cases. But if more than 10% of a class is treated with Ritalin, it is overprescribed to children who don’t really suffer from ADHD, warn paediatricians. If a child suddenly develops problems with concentration, it is not a sign of ADHD. It is most probably due to a mood or anxiety disorder.
Ritalin stimulates the underutilised self-control area of the brain, resulting in the hyperactive child calming down and the dreamer being activated. In both cases, concentration improves.
In the remaining cases where Ritalin is ineffective or where side-effects become problematic, alternative treatments such as Tofranil, Catapres, Aurorix or Petrofan could be used. New formulations yet to be registered for use in South Africa, include Concerta, a long-acting drug similar to Ritalin, and Strattera which works in a different way, but has proven to be effective in the treatment of ADHD.
The right medication can improve a child’s problem by 80%. Children will report that they are now able to complete tasks and no longer bring home loads of unfinished work. They develop greater confidence in their own abilities as they discover their ability to learn once they remain focused upon a task.
ADHD can persist through adolescence and into adulthood. ADHD seems to affect families and parents may recognise their own symptoms of ADHD – these might be difficulties in delaying gratification, time management and prioritising tasks. It can impair inter-personal relationships and work achievement. Medication and psychotherapy can be helpful.