Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Dr. Michael Reiff, editor, explores Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder myths and realities in the book “ADHD: A Complete and Authoritative Guide.” Reiff and his colleagues note that some of the most prevalent misconceptions are these:

• “He’s just lazy and unmotivated.” A child who finds it almost impossible to stay focused at school or complete long tasks may try to “save face” by acting as if he or she doesn’t care or doesn’t want to do the task. That is masking a serious difficulty in his ability to function.

• “He’s a handful or she’s a daydreamer but that is normal. They just don’t let kids be kids.” All children are impulsive, active and inattentive at times. But a child with ADHD has a serious problem fitting into family routines, keeping friends, avoiding injuries and following rules.

• “Treatment for ADHD will cure it. The goal is to get off medication as soon as possible.” ADHD is a chronic condition. It does not just go away. From childhood to adolescence to adulthood, ADHD evolves and treatment may need to evolve with it. Getting off ADHD medication is not the goal; dealing with the problem effectively is.

• “He focuses on his video games for hours. He can’t have ADHD.” A child with ADHD may stay focused on the stimulating visuals, sounds and physical activity of video games, but have real problems dealing with situations where his senses aren’t as stimulated. These can include sitting for long periods in a classroom, organizing complex projects over a long time and dealing with people in ways that require frequent and subtle changes.

• “ADHD is caused by poor parental discipline.” Poor parenting does not cause ADHD. But it can be made worse by inconsistent limits and other lapses that can confuse the child. There are proven techniques that parents can use to help their ADHD children. Your pediatrician can help you understand these and may refer you for behavioral counseling.

• “If a child doesn’t receive the ADHD diagnosis after being examined, she doesn’t need help.” A child may not meet the clinical requirements for an ADHD diagnosis during one clinic visit but may still need help through counseling and extra help with behavior. Remember that ADHD can manifest itself in different ways over many years. The key is to continue helping your child learn to function better at every age.

For information, talk to your health care giver; visit the American Academy of Pediatrics Web site, www.aap.org; and consult “ADHD: A complete and Authoritative Guide,” (Michael I. Reiff, M.D., Editor in Chief, with Sherill Tippins, American Academy of Pediatrics).

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.