Coping with children with ADHD

July 19, 2010 8:33:15 PM PDT
Close to 4.5 million children suffer with Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD. Consumer Reports recently surveyed parents whose children have this condition and can offer advice and treatment options for families dealing with ADHD.

15-year-old Amanda had good grades in school but had trouble focusing in class and found herself easily distracted from her lessons.

"Like if the teacher would ask me a question, I would ask them to repeat it, or cause I wasn't listening. Or I just couldn't really, like, sit still in class and stuff," Amanda said.

Amanda was diagnosed with ADHD.

Amanda's doctor says children with ADHD face a unique set of challenges.

"The main symptoms are short attention span, disorganization, and there may also be hyperactivity and impulsivity," said Dr. Martin Kutscher, a Child Neurologist.

To learn which treatments work best, Consumer Reports surveyed more than 900 parents whose children have ADHD.

"84% of those in the survey had tried medication and of those two-thirds said that it helped a lot," said Dr. Orly Avitzur, of Consumer Reports.

But medication alone is not a cure-all. The survey found that children like Amanda who were treated with both drug and non-drug therapies had better results than those who used drugs alone.

Non-drug ADHD therapies include having children meet with a psychologist, getting accommodations in school, and keeping a consistent schedule.

Consumer Reports says if you're considering ADHD medication, be aware there can be side effects.

"Weight loss, decreased appetite, sleep problems, irritability, and an upset stomach. These problems are usually mild, and with the help of a doctor, they can be well managed," Dr. Avitzur said.

As Amanda's family has found, with the proper treatment and close monitoring, children with ADHD are likely to improve over time.

Before children take medication for ADHD, Consumer Reports says it's important to have a health exam.

15% of those surveyed did not have a basic screening before being prescribed medication.