Christine Willing, M.Ed., NCSP,
My Child Was Diagnosed with ADHD, Now What?
If your child was recently diagnosed with ADHD, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. From finding the right treatment to navigating school accommodations, it’s a lot to take in.
But don’t worry. Lots of parents have been in your shoes. And with a little work, you’ll have a solid grasp on your child’s ADHD and the many resources available to them.
In this post, I’m going to walk you through the first 5 things you should do when your child is diagnosed with ADHD. Following these simple steps will help you put the systems in place to manage their ADHD effectively.
1. Learn Everything You Can
You don’t need to become an expert on ADHD, but the more you know, the better you can advocate for your child. The easiest place to start is by talking to your pediatrician or therapist. I also recommend reaching out to friends or family who also have children with ADHD. Learning from their experiences can help you avoid mistakes and better understand your options.
You can also find a lot of reliable (and not so reliable) information online. Because there is no cure for ADHD, you should avoid any sources that promise one. CHADD is a great place to start because it is one of the most respected sources in the field.
I also recommend picking up a book or two on the subject. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
1.Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson & Richard Guare
2. Smart but Scattered Teens by Richard Guare &Peg Dawson
3. Late, Lost, and Unprepared by Joyce Cooper-Kahn
4. Taking Charge of ADHD by Russell Barkley
2. Explore Your Treatment Options
According to the latest research, the most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy. Medication is often prescribed and managed by a pediatrician—but if your child doesn’t already have a therapist, you’re often left to find therapy on your own.
So what should you look for in a therapist? I recommend finding someone who offers behavioral therapy, parent training, or both.
While ADHD medication decreases symptoms like impulsivity and distractibility, it does not change behavior. With behavior therapy, you will set clear expectations for your child’s behavior by praising and rewarding positive behavior and discouraging negative behavior.
The 4 Principles of Behavior Therapy
• Use a reward system.
• Discourage negative behavior by ignoring it.
• Take away privileges when the negative behavior is too serious to ignore.
• Remove common triggers of bad behavior.
Several children with ADHD have increased interpersonal conflicts with their family, friends, and teachers. Parent training will teach you the skills you need to encourage positive behavior, reduce conflict, and communicate more effectively.
Think Happy Live Healthy offers both behavioral therapy and parent training. Contact us now to learn more.
3. Begin Medication Immediately When It Is Prescribed
Some parents may be hesitant to medicate their child. But the results speak for themselves: medication can improve ADHD symptoms in 70 to 80% of children shortly after starting treatment.
Taking the right drug can have many benefits: reduced fidgeting, interrupting, and other hyperactive symptoms, as well as improved task completion and home relationships.
The two most common medications to treat ADHD in children are stimulants and non-stimulants. A pediatrician or psychiatrist will be able to help you determine which is right for your child.
As with any drug, there may be side effects, including reduced appetite or weight loss. But working with your physician or psychiatrist to find the right dosage is key to reducing these effects. And often the benefits of medication often outweigh the negatives.
4. Talk to the School About Your Child’s ADHD Diagnosis
Before I started Think Happy Live Healthy, I worked as a school psychologist. I treated many children with ADHD and saw firsthand how a good relationship between parents and school staff can positively impact a child’s academic success.
That’s why I recommend setting up a meeting with your school right away. Or, at the very least, talk to your child’s teacher about how ADHD may be impacting them in the classroom. Your child may qualify for accommodations or special education services that can make learning and testing more manageable.
If you want to learn more about school accommodations, make sure to check out my post, How to Get My Child Testing Accommodations for ADHD.
5. Make Small Lifestyle Changes
I know that making changes to your family’s routine isn’t easy—but building new habits and getting used to them now can have a big impact during the early stages of treatment.
Two of the most important things you should focus on are diet and exercise. It may not seem obvious at first, but physical activity and eating healthy can help reduce ADHD symptoms.
Just one short workout can have a similar effect to stimulant medication. Not to get too scientific, but physical activity boosts neurotransmitter levels and increases dopamine levels in the brain which can help children with ADHD feel less confused and more focused.
While there is limited research on how diet affects ADHD, we know that eating nutritious foods can help reduce symptoms and improve overall health. While diet alone is not a stand-alone treatment, it can be an important part of your overall plan.
It Gets Easier from Here
When your child is first diagnosed, there are a lot of new ideas and terminology being thrown at you. It can be hard to wrap your head aro
und it all. But by completing the steps above and doing your homework, you’ll become well-versed in ADHD in no time.
Once you understand your child’s condition and have an effective treatment plan in place, you’ll have all the tools you need to manage their symptoms and advocate on their behalf. It may seem hard now, but it gets easier—I promise.
If you’d like more info on ADHD or child wellness, make sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter.
If you’re in the sharing mood, comment below and tell us one positive thing that came out of your child’s ADHD diagnosis. Sometimes it helps to look on the bright side!