English: A child not paying attention in class.

English: A child not paying attention in class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently a mother was questioning whether drugs should be the first line of treatment for her daughter who had been diagnosed as having severe ADHD. The mother was reluctant to give her daughter drugs and was also surprised by the ‘severe’ diagnosis.
Many doctors can be too quick to give out drugs for disorders despite their side effects and it is important for parents to discuss alternative treatments.
Drugs can reduce the symptoms of ADHD such as impulsiveness and distractibility but they can’t cure it. Side effects include difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and stomach upsets and not much is known about the long-term impact of the drugs on the developing brain. ADHD drugs can also make children listless and withdrawn.
Parents can ask their doctor whether it is possible for their child to have cognitive behavioural therapy instead. This works by getting the child to understanding how their thoughts and feelings are linked to their behaviour. They are also taught how to change their thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
It can be difficult to manage the behaviour of a child with ADHD so parents often benefit from attending a course that teaches discipline techniques. Some parents may feel reluctant to attend a parenting course but it is worth trying first before giving a child drugs. Such courses can really improve communication and relationships within the family.
Other treatments for ADHD include social skills training and family therapy. Social skills training works by teaching children appropriate responses to different social situations. They are also taught how to deal with their thoughts and emotions so that they can modify their responses to other people. Family therapy involves looking at whether communication patterns and relationships within the family are contributing to a child’s ADHD symptoms. Parents have to be willing to accept that their behaviour might be affecting their child’s behaviour for the therapy to work.

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