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When is it time to medicate a child who seems to have ADD?

posted Jan 17, 2017, 11:04 AM by Judi Munday
A mother wrote on Facebook today: "When did you decide to put your child on ADD medication? Did it change your child's life in regards to her/his focus ability? Does s/he deal with many side effects? Did you try alternatives that gave you good results?"

I replied with the following advice: I have two thoughts that I usually share with parents re: your question. First, you would be wise to consider that there are other reasons for a lack of focus that appear as ADD but are NOT caused by ADD. A child with actual ADD, if tested with a special MRI shows a unique brain signature that can confirm it. Of course, that is seldom practical nor necessary -- but I mention it because I think it is important that you understand I recognize ADD is a real neurological problem. It is not unusual for children who have language processing deficits (often "invisible" because they seem to hear just fine, can read/write just fine, etc.) These students have a brain-based lag in the speed and efficiency with which their brain can acquire, retain, and/or recall new information - orally and written. I have a whole chapter on this topic in my book -- but mostly I want to suggest that before you consider medications, you can rule out a central auditory processing deficit. Look up the "symptoms" online and see if there are quite a few that fit her!

Now to your big question: At what point should one medicate?  My guidance to my clients is this:  IF you see you are in danger of "losing your child" to such low self esteem or they are simply unable to benefit from traditional instruction so that they are continually falling behind, it may be that it is time to consider using medication. The right type of medication will help (just as insulin helps regulate blood sugar -- in the same way, the medications for ADD help regulate the dysfunction of the brain's structure and function.) Try to find a doctor who is willing to do a controlled BLIND "experiment" so that you do not know if the pills your child takes for a limited time trial are actual medication or just sugar pills -- that way you will not be seeing changes just because you expect them now that she's on medicine. Does that make sense? Have her take the actual medication too -again so that you do not know whether she's on the real stuff or the sugar pills. When and/or IF she improves and you learn she does better when she's on the real medications, you have learned that it was the meds that helped her.

If you want to learn more about the impact of language-based LD (and how to help her learn more effectively and recall more) check out my book.