“New medicines can help improve attention and reduce hyperactivity”
Children are inquisitive, they like to explore and they have fun! If these natural instincts of kids turn into troublesome and unreasonable demands on parents and care givers, it is time to consult a Child Psychiatrist.
A child who is unable to sit still, does not maintain attention to tasks or activities for longer than a few minutes and speaks constantly out of turn may be suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Such children are impulsive and are often unable to stop themselves from touching or picking objects in their environment. This leads to “adults” feeling at the end of their tether in trying to stop them. More importantly, peer relationships do not develop and school performance is often poor.
Untreated ADHD persists into adolescence, leading to risk taking behavior and a refusal to acknowledge the consequences of their actions. Such adolescents are often labeled as defiant or difficult, when they are actually suffering from the sequelae of attention deficit and remnants of impulsivity. As adults, these persons are underachievers, with poor social skills and more often than not a dependence on alcohol or drugs. It is a tragic paradox that stimulants like ecstasy, LSD and amphetamine make such adults feel under control of their actions and thoughts while spiraling downwards into the whirlpool of drug dependence.
What should parents do if they suspect their child could have ADHD? An assessment by a trained mental health professional assisted by rating forms filled by parents and school teachers will establish the needs of the child and a formal diagnosis. Not responding continuously to the child’s’ actions and allowing him/her the flexibility of exploring his environment is the first step. Providing a structured surrounding which is predictably similar, and establishing and implementing boundaries of behaviour, is the key second step. As the child grows, some symptoms may naturally improve but establishing key goals at every 8-12 weeks is important to prevent parents and care givers from becoming unreasonably positive.
A Child Psychiatrist will also prescribe medicines which control the disturbing symptoms initially and help the child to rest and the parents to have some respite. More importantly, new medications like atomoxetine help reduce the hyperactivity and improve the attention span, without the risks of dependence in previous treatments like methyphenidate and dexamphetamine. Children with moderate to severe ADHD will show improvement in 10-12 weeks, and regain academic potential in six months if treated appropriately. That can translate into years of adequate functioning and skill acquisition compared to not being treated or evaluated. It can be taken long term without any adverse effects.
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