Treatment Options and Coping Mechanisms for ADHD

Fortunately, there is always help. Individuals with ADHD can turn to a variety of ADHD treatment options, seek support from peers and gain relief from medications. Let's take a look at the many treatment options and coping strategies that are open to individuals with ADHD.

Tips on Seeking Treatment
Children affected by ADHD are as individual or more so than other children, so how do you find a treatment plan that suits their needs?

Well, first it's necessary to get a diagnoses; getting a professional to diagnose your child will benefit you more than if you self-diagnose. Specialists can offer invaluable advice and prescribe medications based on your child's specific needs.

The next step is to research whatever medications your mental health care professional prescribes. If you decide to go on the prescribed medication, be sure to keep a journal and record any changes in emotions, behaviors or moods you notice in your child.

Subsequently, it's sometimes true that more is better; this is true of treatment options for ADHD. Don't just rely on medication; go to therapy, get ADHD coaching or reach out to other community resources, such as camping trips designed for children with ADHD. As a parent, research what teaching styles work for kids with ADHD; practice these teaching techniques yourself and share them with your child's teachers.

Lastly, get help from the people that touch your child's life, be it teachers, grandparents, friends, coaches or mentors. Ask what programs your child's school provides for kids with ADHD or start a program yourself. Keep an open dialogue and help inform the people in your child's life as to what helps and what doesn't. The key is to stay active and involved!

Behavioral Therapy
Behavior therapy can be practiced at home and at school. It is guided by simple principles; if good behavior is rewarded, good behavior will increase while punishing bad behavior will curb negative behaviors. It also works well with children with ADHD as rewards seem to perform wonders for these children. For example, have you ever noticed that while your child has difficulty paying attention to tutors, he can focus on Super Mario Brothers for hours on end? That's because he finds Nintendo to be super rewarding.

It's also beneficial to enroll your child in therapy that helps him practice important skills, such as scheduling. Therapists can help children understand ADHD and help your child deal with how they are portrayed by others.

Therapy can be especially useful, as children with ADHD deal with many frustrations caused by the disorder. You may notice some of the following behaviors or emotions in your child due to ADHD:

  • outbursts
  • temper problems
  • low tolerance for frustration; no strategies to handle frustration
  • poor self-esteem
  • depressed mood
  • strained peer relationships
  • academic underachievement, despite having bright, inquisitive natures
  • bossiness

Another reason to seek treatment is that 70-80% of kids with ADHD still have significant impairment in their teenage years due to ADHD. About 50% of kids with ADHD display ADHD symptoms into their adult years. Helping children sort through their ADHD-related

ADHD Medications
Some parents take issue with giving their children medications and resort to alternative methods. This is for a number of reasons, including the side effects of medications or the ways in which medications change some children's personalities. Speak with your doctor to see if medication is the right route for you.

Children with ADHD are given stimulant medications, such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), Adderall and Dexedrine. Kids with ADHD have trouble with attention, which is mediated by the prefrontal cortex, a dopamine-rich area. Stimulant medications work by making more dopamine available at the synaptic cleft, which improves a child's attention system.

ADHD Medication Side Effects
Ritalin side effects include irritability, reduced appetite, headache, stomach upset, sleep difficulties and depression. Adderall side effects are similar, although are said to appear to a lesser severity. Reports from U.C. Irvine have also found that stimulant medications stunt a child's growth by about a centimeter a year; researchers aren't sure whether there is a later growth spurt in kids on stimulant medications. Another study found that slightly increasing the recommended intake of Ritalin caused liver tumors in laboratory mice. Other researchers are questioning the impact of years of Ritalin on the nervous structures of children. The federal government's National Toxicity Program (NTP) found a "weak signal of carcinogenic potential" in stimulant medications such as Ritalin, but because children have only been taking Ritalin for the best decade or so, consequences of stimulant medications have not manifested themselves.

Because experts are still researching the complex interplay of side effects that result from taking stimulant medications, a grey area still exists as to the usefulness of medications that leaves some parents doubting. If your child does start taking medication, make sure to keep a faithful record of the changes you're noticing. Some parents find the use of behavioral checklists useful in recording changes. Talk to your mental health care professional about these behavioral charts.

Lastly, remember that medications have to be taken according to their directions to prevent serious consequences.

Diet Treatment for ADHD
There is literature on the effects of certain food additives and sugars on the attentional system of children. This dates back to the 1970s, when Dr. Benjamin Feingold found that certain dietary restrictions alleviated hyperactivity in his patients. Skeptics retort that a placebo effect could be exacting these changes in patients, that the benefits were merely a case of wishful thinking. Still, some followers of these diets found beneficial results.

In the early 1980s, the National Institute of Health (NIH) put together a conference, concluding that there was a "limited positive association…between diets and a decrease in hyperactivity."

So what foods should parents seek to decrease or eliminate from the diet? There are different schools of thought on this, but most agree that children should avoid food colorings, additives, preservatives, sweeteners (aspartame, nutrasweet), and limiting sugar intake. Dr. Daniel Amen suggests offering children more protein and less carbohydrates. Speak to a dietician to get more information on a diet plan that works for your child.

Martial Arts Helps Kids with ADHD
Sports can be helpful for kids with ADHD, especially for the ADHD predominantly hyperactive/impulsive subtype. Sports provide children the opportunity to vent frustration that builds up throughout the day. It's a chance for them to act how they naturally want to-jumping, high kicking and horsing around.

Before you enroll your child, consider speaking with the teacher to alert them to your child's ADHD. This is especially important if your child is impulsive or aggressive.

Provide Structure
For children with ADHD, knowing what is going to happen from day to day and at what time of day is a great comfort. Set routines for your child. Have your child wake up at the same time every morning, eat a hearty breakfast and leave for school ahead of time so there's no need to rush. Have activities planned for after school, and set a certain amount of time aside everyday for your child to do homework. Be available for your child when he needs your help. Lastly, schedule in lots of free time. Kids benefit from free, 'unstructured' time; it allows them to contemplate the day's events. Kids with ADHD are always made to feel like they need to be paying attention to something; giving their minds a chance to roam and not have to concentrate can make your kid feel more at home.

Famous People with ADHD
Remember, sometimes your child feels like they're outside life looking in. Because many children with ADHD feel socially isolated, it's good to let them know there are others out there who share their concerns. If ADHD is getting your child down, let him know that there are many famous people with ADHD who have achieved great things. Even you will be surprised by the list of famous people with ADHD. Here's just a few faces on that list:

  • Socrates
  • Will Smith
  • Beethoven
  • Jim Carrey
  • Leonardo DaVinci
  • Walt Disney
  • Salvador Dali
  • Thomas Edison
  • Alexander Bell
  • Cher
  • Galileo
  • Handel
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • "Magic" Johnson
  • Mozart
  • Napolean
  • Picasso
  • Henry Ford
  • Bill Crosby
  • and none other than Albert Einstein!

Assessing the Usefulness of Treatment
Seeking treatment is excellent, but without assessing how that treatment benefits your child's ADHD, you're not doing full service to your child. That said, assessing treatment can be tricky. This is because kids vary in behavior from day to day, especially when the first inklings of hormones start kicking in. While some parents simply keep a journal and record any changes they note in their kids, other parents turn to behavior charts. These are useful, as they provide a systematic listing of behaviors that can be recorded every day. Also, when assessing treatments, it might be best to introduce separate treatment options farther apart, so that results are correctly identified for that specific treatment strategy.

Helping your child to deal with ADD and ADHD can be quite a struggle. Discuss symptoms, challenges, and treatment options with others in our online forum.