Should Toddlers Diagnosed with ADHD be Medicated?
More and more children under the age of 18 are being diagnosed each year with different types of behavioral conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD. Children with ADHD are being prescribed strong medications such as Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, and many others. “An estimated 5% of children have a form of ADHD. More boys are diagnosed than girls; it is the leading cause of referrals to mental health professionals, SPED and juvenile justice programs. (Children’s Mental Health Disorder Fact Sheet for the Classroom...)” Many times, parents are faced with the decision of choosing prescription medications as an alternative to trying different routes that may not show changes as fast. Even though some children with ADHD may genuinely need medication, prescribing medication to children as young as two years old seems to have become a new trend in the medical world but why this is occurring is what intrigues me. A child at that age is expected to be rambunctious and overly active while at the same time just beginning to learn active listening skills. For this reason, I am skeptical as to why doctors would prescribe stimulant drugs to preschool age children if excelling in a school environment is not the main concern for children in this age group.
One question that may run through many people minds is will the medication work, or will it just improve the situation temporarily? This is one of the main things to consider when put in a situation of determining if medication will help not only the child as an individual but the family unit as a whole as well. One of the alternate approaches a physician may take prior to treating a child with medication is to suggest alternate forms of treatment such as counseling and various forms of behavior therapy. “As a general rule, I recommend working on strengthening the underlying core issues for at least six to twelve months and seeing how much progress we make before considering medication. (Greenspan, page12)” By exploring the other options available, it can help prepare the child to be able to develop and use different skills that will allow the child to thrive to their full potential as an individual. Many concerns that parents have as stated by Stanley Greenspan in his book called Overcoming ADHD, are the side effects of some of the medications used to help control impulses among other things, these side effects include; weight gain, agitation and sleep problems. Some doctors have also noted that many children experience restrictions with their emotions and perceptions of everyday life issues. At the same time, depending on the child and situation, medication could be viewed as a blessing instead of as a hindrance in the development of the child. Jill Sparks, a developmental specialist for an early intervention program in Lawrence, MA, shared her personal experiences with me in relation to two children she worked with that had ADHD and were currently on medication therapy. One child requested to take a break from the medication. When this happened, the child quickly found that he would usually tire out very easily when simply faced with his normal daily routine. The next morning he very early requested his medication again. Her other child just recently was put on a regimen of medication and already she can see the difference in her everyday life. For the first time ever, her daughter was able to make the honor roll in school and the child states “that ever since she has started the medication she has been able to focus more on the important things and she daydreams less often than usual.” With cases like these, it can definitely show the positive side to medication. It is a fact that different medications have various effects in each individual. In most cases, medication that treats ADHD actually proves to be beneficial to those children who take it and their families. But in some cases...
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