David Rabiner, Ph.D. Research Professor, Duke University
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David Rabiner, Ph.D.
(Note: If you are looking for information on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) please be aware that much of what is discussed below should also be relevant. Technically, the term ADD is no longer used. Instead, children who have the inattentive symptoms of ADHD but who do not show hyperactive/impulsive symptoms are now diagnosed with ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type rather than with ADD. These terms mean pretty much the same thing but the latter is no longer technically correct.)
Talking to Children about Medication for
Attention Deficit Disorder/ADHD
A common question and concern that parents often have
is whether and how to explain
Now, as far as what to say... First, a caveat. I do not know your
child and thus can not
For grade school childwith ADHD/ADD, something like the following
may be appropriate: (What follows is much more of a monologue than would
generally occur and it is always important to give the child plenty of opportunity
to ask questions.)
"You know, kids your age differ in lots of ways. Some are
short and some are tall.
also differ in how energetic they are and in how their mind works. Some
Sometimes kids with so much energy and
so many different ideas need some help sit still and focus on one thing at a time. One of the things
that can help a lot with this is akind
of medicine. What the medicine can do is make it easier for you to stay in your seat and pay attention when you need to at school.
It can also make it easier to
slow down a bit so that you can make good choices about the kinds of
things you do.
Now, your doctor and I think it makes sense to see whether some medicine can make these things easier for you. That way, you will be able to use all your energy and ideas to get the things done that you need to and to make good choices about your behavior and the things you do. The medicine should make it easier for you to do these things, but we'll also need you to keep trying really hard as well.
Now, there are several different medicines that kids can take to help with this. Not every medicine works for every child and we may have to try a few different ones to try and find one that is best for you. If we stick with it, though, there is a very good chance that we will find a medicine that can help with some of the challenges you have been having at school."
(Note: This assumes that the child is aware of the difficulty they have been having and that this has be discussed with them. Presumably, this would be the rational given for why they were seeing the doctor in the first place.)
A few other things to mention. First, as hopefully comes through above, I try to convey to the child that the medicine is not a "magic pill" and that the child has to also try to follow rules and make good choices. After all, if medication works, all it does is to help the child have more control over his or her behavior, but how the child chooses to exercise that control is still up to them. A child can make thoughtful decisions about not to comply just as easily as impulsive ones. What you want to convey is a sense that the child is responsible for his or her behavior and that if they do better it is just as much because of their efforts as the medication alone.
One other thing. I would be careful about presenting medication as something being tried to help a child "stop fighting." You don't want to convey a sense that aggressive behavior is something that is outside of a child's control because this can make it more difficult to hold them accountable for their actions. Instead, I would say that the medicine may make it easier for them to stop and think about what they are doing, so that they will be able to make better choices about how they behave. This is a subtle difference, but I think it is an important one.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful and that you will be able take from the above what seems to fit for your child. Let me also mention that a number of good books have been written on this topic. You can find them at the A.D.D. Warehouse site.
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