Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Attention Deficiet Disorder Update

Category: Child Care


What is Attention Deficit Disorder? According to the most recent studies, it is a learning disability with specific problems paying attention. It is associated with several other learning disabilities from memory skills to physical coordination skills. It may be associated with physical hyperactivity such as the classic hyperactive child, constantly in motion. More often however, about 60% of the time, it is simply a combination of inattention, distractibility, impulsivity and difficulty delaying rewards. The physical hyperactivity associated with these other difficulties is more common in boys than in girls. Children with attention deficit disorder have trouble concentrating on one thing such as their teachers' instructions. If they try to do more than one thing at a time they get frustrated and run into problems. They have trouble filtering out all the distractions around them, particularly in a busy young classroom.

Because of the difficulty with attention, learning becomes more complicated as children grow up and they may begin to experience failure both academically and socially. This is usually when a physician or learning specialist is consulted.

I think from all of the cases I have seen and from the pediatricians I know who spe-cialize in treating ADHD, it is well worth trying to properly diagnose and treat this condition.

The standard treatment used by over 90% of the pediatricians is Ritalin. Ritalin is a stimulant in the amphetamine class of medicines. Surprisingly, however, it works more as a calming medicine and helps the child to focus their attention better. In some cases, it is dramatically better and grades will go up significantly. More important than the grades or the learning is the child's self image. I have seen so many children with attention deficit disorder experience school and social failure and feel so badly about themselves that I believe strongly in helping them in any way possible. Ritalin is a good, well proven, safe place to start. It doesn't work in every case and when it doesn't, I strongly recommend seeing a specialist such as a pediatrician who specializes in attention deficit disorder or a psychiatrist or neurologist because there are several other medicines available which may work if Ritalin doesn't work. In addition to Ritalin or

another medicine, it is worth approaching this condition with long term plans. These long term plans include providing as much structure as possible for the child, helping him get organized to do his homework, being extremely patient, giving him the moral support that he needs, providing tutoring if necessary, consulting a learning specialist in case there is a learning disability which needs to be worked with in a unique way, keeping a positive attitude despite discouragement, and constantly looking for positive things to praise and thus building up the child's self image.

Some children with attention deficit disorder will outgrow the need for Ritalin at a young age; others will need it even into college.

As children get older, they usually learn to control their impulsivity and may not need medication or any other special treatments but still could use extra patience and understanding even as young adults.

The more you understand any condition the better you can deal with it. Read everything you can on attention deficit disorder because it is a condition in which we are gaining enormous amounts of new knowledge every year. Join the nearest support group. There is an active CHAD support group in Lafayette which meets at Voorhies Auditorium at University Medical Center on the third Tuesday of every month from 7 to 9 PM. You can call Becky Courville at 896-8082 for more information. Also a group is organizing in Opelousas and their first meeting will be on August 8th at Opelousas General Hospital auditorium from 10 AM till noon. You may call Priscilla Marks at 585-7134 after 5 PM for more information. If your child has attention deficit disorder, don't get discouraged but just decide (like any other condition in children) that you are going to make the best of it and do exactly that.