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Johns Hopkins Health - Managing ADHD

Fall 2013
Issue No. 22

Managing ADHD

Date: October 15, 2013

With new research pointing to a long-term illness, parents have resources at the ready

Managing ADHD

Children grow up far too quickly. Often, parents are told kids will leave behind conditions such as allergies or asthma as they age. Nevertheless, research from Johns Hopkins shows that children who have moderate to severe cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) won’t grow out of it much, even with medication. The findings open a broader discussion of how parents can best manage what in most cases will be a chronic, not passing, illness.

Over a six-year period, researchers followed 207 patients, mostly boys, ages 3 to 5. Although problems decreased by year three compared with the baseline, symptoms remained moderate to severe through the entire period. Nearly nine out of 10 met ADHD impairment criteria at the end of the study.

What can parents do? Use the tools right in front of them, says Mark Riddle, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins and one of the study’s authors.

“First and foremost is early identification,” Riddle explains. “We can’t cure ADHD, but there are a lot of things we can do to reduce symptom severity, and that will impact the child’s development and family life.”

Next, when ADHD is diagnosed, consider medication for the child, if appropriate. And it’s imperative that parents monitor the effects of the medication over time. No less important, however, is behavior management training for the parents, Riddle says. “It really requires super-consistent parenting,” he says.

Finally, make use of appropriate school intervention, a formal plan developed with teachers and school psychologists.

“Usually, when those three things are in place,” Riddle says, “life can be a whole lot better for the child and for the family.”

Helping Your ADHD teen cope
Puberty can be difficult for parents raising teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). What should parents do?

First, if medications are involved, keep an eye on dosage, says Mark Riddle, M.D., a child psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins. “Use the lowest dose that sufficiently reduces symptom severity and doesn’t cause problematic side effects,” Riddle says.

Parents should also approach their child as the adult he or she is soon to become, Riddle says. “Teenagers want to feel normal. Parents can reinforce normality by emphasizing their child’s strengths and accomplishments and by reiterating the importance of the teenager’s job in taking prescribed medication and attending prescribed therapy sessions,” he says.

Parents’ well-being is equally important. Take it easy on yourself, Riddle says. “Parents who are experiencing stress while managing their child’s symptoms or behavior need to appreciate that this is common and is not a reflection of bad parenting,” he says. “Even the best of parents can get entangled in a cycle of good and bad behavior with their adolescent.”

Watch This!
Watch a video featuring Johns Hopkins child psychologist Carisa Perry-Parrish, Ph.D., and child psychiatrist Marco Grados, M.D., discussing the parenting challenges of ADHD and different treatment options to manage the condition with both medicine and evidence-based behavioral therapy. 

For more information, appointments or consultations, call 877-546-1872.

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