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Get To Know The Effects Of ADD and ADHD On Your Child

August 21, 2009

Parents should be aware of certain behavioral symptoms in the classroom that might indicate their child should be screened for attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, an expert at Baylor College of Medicine (www.bcm.edu) said.

ADHD or ADD is present in about 5 percent of students from as young as six to adulthood, said Dr. Ayesha Mian, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at BCM.

“Children with moderate to severe ADHD or ADD who are not on medication are distractible and may have difficulty paying attention or concentrating in class,” she said. “They can be abnormally fidgety or impulsive and therefore unable to learn in an optimal learning environment.”

If your child has ADD or ADHD, he or she is eligible for modifications in his or her classroom, said Mian.  

These modifications, called the 504 accommodations (http://www.504idea.org/504mechanics.html), are individualized for each child and may include:

-Sitting in the front of the class

-Getting extra reminders about homework

-Receiving extra time for a test

-Taking tests in a smaller classroom

ADHD and ADD symptoms are treatable with medications, Mian said.  

“Stimulants are the most commonly used medications,” said Mian. “These are usually short-acting medications that are taken every day and do not leave any long-lasting side effects.”   

Transient side effects may include loss of appetite, headaches, disrupted sleep, irritability or mood symptoms, Mian said.

“These side effects should be watched closely,” said Mian. “A reduced appetite leading to weight loss may require lowering the medication dosage or trying a different stimulant. If treatment is medically necessary, medication holidays (not taking medications during the weekends or holidays) may be indicated for catch-up growth.”

Since these medications are stimulant-based, they carry an associated risk of abuse. Parents should strictly supervise the use of these medications, especially when prescribed for older children, Mian said.   

“Abuse of stimulants by children and young adults with or without a diagnosis of ADHD or ADD may lead to dangerous outcomes,” said Mian. “We keep a close watch on how much medicine has been prescribed to diagnosed children.”

“Teenagers with ADHD or ADD who are not treated tend to have a higher incidence for drug abuse, and are at an increased risk of accidents and early pregnancies because they are often impulsive and may have low self-esteem,” said Mian. “Parents must weigh the pros and cons of using medications.”

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