Should I Medicate My Child?

  • we medicate when there is significant stress, academic failure, turning off of school, poor self esteem, safety issues or lack of social skills. We also medicate for conduct disorder and sometimes for oppositional disorder which I consider a part of ADHD.

Whether you have ADHD or not, it’s a tough decision whether to medicate your child for ADHD. Parents who themselves struggled with ADHD as children have a stronger feeling for what their kids are going through, but what if you don’t have ADHD and can only imagine what it must be like for your child.

So, here’s a list of reasons why you should give them a trial of medication.

1. Safety – its remarkable that some hyperactive highly impulsive children actually survive childhood – and some don’t – so if you have the kind of child who even with supervision puts themselves in harms way regularly, who doesn’t learn from mistakes, who doesn’t stop to think, well it’s almost certainly a good idea to medicate.

Kids with ADHD are far more likely to end in e.r. for fractures and major lacerations and concussions. They are much more likely to be run over by a vehicle.

Remember that safety isn’t just about younger children, or only children with combined type ADHD (the restless impulsive type), it’s also the inattentive teenage driver. Kids who love to drive often focus well behind the wheel even if you don’t approve of the speed they are going – they somehow manage to miss speed traps (because they are aware and attentive) and are mechanically competent. the kid who only sees a vehicle as a means to get somewhere and not an object of desire is far more likely to get into an accident through inattention – braking late and then being rear ended – or turning without due attention, or not even noticing a red light or stop sign.

2. Oppositional behaviour – if it’s severe, not only is it a pain for all around them, it has a huge impact on learning. Kids who won’t listen to advice or let a parent show them how have more injuries and take longer to learn things – even simple things like tying shoe laces. It may make school a nightmare. It’s asking a lot of a teacher to like, respect, and help a child who is constantly difficult – even saints tend to give up after a while.

3. Poor social skills – the impact of not being able to make or keep friends, or to fit in on the playground are enormous.

4. Reading – even with the internet, the ability to read and remember, and to find the activity enjoyable is hugely important and struggling to read is very hard on self esteem.

5. We all want our kids to be successful, at as many things as possible. We’re not against it taking some effort to be successful, but putting in a lot of effort and being repeatedly denied success is a messagings no one deserves.

6. It may come down to limiting options if you don’t choose medication. Making going to SAIT or university highly unlikely, or blowing tuition on a failed trial of college.

7. Your child may in fact be successful despite their adhd, but are paying for it in stress – anxiety or depression. That can have life threatening consequences.

8. Addictive behaviours – if your child has combined type ADHD with significant impulsivity, or if there is a very strong family history of addiction in addition you your chid being ADHD, this may be a very good reason for being more aggressive about treating the ADHD.

9. Instead of being stressed trying to do well in school, the all too common alternative is to turn off of school, to outright hate it and to not make any effort at all and to drop out asap.

If none of the above apply in your child’s situation, then perhaps they don’t need medication at this time. Do we really think being a day dreamer in kindergarten to grade 3 is the end of the world or justifies medication – quite possibly not – though the inattentive only often don’t get diagnosed until much later in life.

Some kids with severe ADHD still are great readers and love to read – which can give them an alternative to paying attention in class. I have lots of university students with ADHD who found attending class entirely a waste of time and never did, choosing instead to learn from others notes, or from the text book – and it’s working for them.

Kids who are very smart quite often do well in school despite significant ADHD because things come easily to them, and may not need medication until university or even later.

Girls sometimes don’t show any ADHD symptoms until adolescence but then can be horribly ADHD and struggle, starting somewhere in Junior High. It’s all too easy to blame this on laziness or not making an effort, or discovering boys – but maybe it’s just a late onset ADHD (we don’t know why this happens to girls sometimes).