Navigating the new school year with ADHD
SALT LAKE CITY — Psychologists say the beginning of a school year can be especially stressful for kids with ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and their parents, as they wonder how new teachers will work with the child.
Some psychologists say once parents figure out how to treat their child’s ADHD, the change in their behavior is like night and day. However, treatment doesn’t always mean medicine. Further, not all children diagnosed with ADHD actually have the disorder.
Child psychologist Dr. Douglas Goldsmith says giving a child medication that they don’t need could lead to anxiety, sleeplessness and appetite issues.
“Nationwide, we look at the over-diagnosis of ADHD – often, it’s a cover for trauma. Children who have experienced trauma can look very distracted in the classroom,” Goldsmith says.
For children who indeed have ADHD, the right treatment is critical – whether that is behavioral or medication.
“We often have to adjust the dose. For many children, we have to go through a number of medications before we hit the right one,” Goldsmith says.
He says one of the signs of ADHD might seem counterintuitive. It’s called hyperfocus, where the child will be able to focus on something they love for hours on end, but they have absolutely no ability to multi-task.
Also, many of them will have to fiddle with something while they watch a movie. And, of course, they have a tendency to dawdle, which parents frequently misinterpret. For example, let’s say you tell your child to put on their pajamas.
“Can you child go to his bedroom and get dressed, and you go in a few minutes later and he’s actually dressed, or is the child sitting in the floor playing with toys and staring out the window? And that’s actually a problem for parents because they see it as ‘this is just a defiant little kid,” Goldsmith says.
Rather than being defiant, Goldsmith says those children are struggling to pay attention and get the job done, and treatment may help – at home and at school.
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