Using ADHD medications to improve self-esteem in ADHD children and teens


How to Build Self Esteem in ADHD Kids Five

Using ADHD medications to improve self-esteem in ADHD children and teens

It’s a simple fact: ADHD children and teens with ADHD cannot build self-esteem if they can’t concentrate on or pay attention to the visual, auditory and non-verbal cues that they must absorb in order to learn social skills and advance in academics. (Long sentence…but necessary to get it all out!)

Everyone is quick to describe the child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as impulsive, poorly focused, having poor social skills and possibly hyperactive-driven to distraction. But they often forget the single most consistently occurring core symptom of ADHD is poor attention span or inattentiveness, not hyperactivity or impulsivity.

In my experience, about 70% to 75% of kids with ADHD will need medication to help them focus better, pay better attention and decrease their impulsivity and hyperactivity so that they can learn all of those things needed to build self-esteem.

The other 25% to 30% of ADHD children and teens will either get better with coaching or behavior training or will just go untreated. Once again I’d like to point out an untreated or undertreated child with ADHD will suffer multiple levels of failure in life. So, it’s very important that children with ADHD are adequately evaluated and properly treated.

While you have these last two paragraphs fresh in your mind, let me share my rules of thumb about treating ADHD with medications:

  1. Use the least number of drugs to reach your desired target behavior; zero is the best, one the next best choice
  2. Use the ADHD drug in the lowest dose possible to still achieve the desired results
  3. Use the drug on the lowest dosing schedule possible with the least length of therapy time; one dose a day is the best schedule
  4. Use the drug that gives the least number of side effects; that means using non-stimulant type drugs as often as permitted
  5. ADHD children all respond differently to the same drug-what works for one child, may or may not work for another-each child’s metabolism is different
  6. Just because one child has side effects doesn’t mean another will
  7. When one drug is not working after a twelve week trial, don’t add another-either increase the dose of that drug or switch to another altogether
  8. If a child’s ADHD behavior doesn’t respond to a methylphenidate stimulant, switch to another drug in the same class before jumping to a totally new type of drug-he or she may respond very well to the second ADHD medication-each ADHD drug is uniquely different and may work better or less well than its cousins
  9. Long acting amphetamine based ADHD drugs work better and of course last longer, than short acting medications for ADHD
  10. It’s almost impossible for a parent, teacher, or doctor  to see significant improvement in a child’s or teen’s ADHD behavior in less than one month on any ADHD drug
  11. Remember, children and teens can become addicted to ADHD stimulants when not properly used and if you stop their medication abruptly, they may suffer severe withdrawal symptoms
  12. ADHD drugs-all ADHD drugs-can have serious side effects. You should always discuss any of your child’s previous health issues with your child’s ADHD doctor before he or she is started on any ADHD medication.

The best treatment for a child with ADHD is the one that suits his or her needs the best! (That’s one of my little pet sayings. Cute, but one I firmly believe in.)

In closing this series on building self-esteem in children and teens with ADHD, I’d like to once again remind you:

It is just as important not to fail to properly identify and treat a child who really has ADHD, as it is to avoid over diagnosing or misdiagnosing a child with ADHD when he or she is not ADHD!

We should all strive for a truly accurate diagnosis before using ADHD medications to improve attention span and focus to build self-esteem in ADHD children and teens.

Frank Barnhill, MD


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