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ADD Diagnosis in Young Children

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced the expansion of the time frame to diagnose Attention Deficit Disorder. Prior to that time, children between the ages of six to twelve years were diagnosed with ADD. The new protocol allows children to be diagnosed between the ages of four to eighteen. What implications does this new diagnostic standard have for children, parents, and health care providers?

When Attention Deficit is diagnosed at an early age and effective interventions are put in place, it is more likely that a child will have a positive outcome with this brain difference. The children have the possibilities of doing better in school and positive social interactions with early successful treatment. In addition to helping the child’s self-esteem, this improves the family dynamic. Which treatments were recommended for preschool children who would be diagnosed with ADD?

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued guidelines for the health care community. First, behavioral interventions were to be tried with these young patients. The behavioral interventions could be directly teaching replacement behaviors to children. Parents could also learn the most efficacious way to interact with their children with ADD. After a trial of behavioral interventions, medication should be considered. In particular, for preschool-age children, methylphenidate, or Ritalin (brand name) should be the first choice in medication. Dosing should start at low levels. Methylphenidate is a medication that has been in use for years. Its side effects and effectiveness have been studied and are well-understood. Are these guidelines being followed?

Recent research has shown that these guidelines are being followed by some pediatricians, but a significant number are not following the guidelines. What is a significant number? That would be more than 90 percent! Some ignore the call for behavioral interventions and go right to the medication step. Sometimes, the medication is done in conjunction with behavioral interventions, and at other times the medication is done alone. Methylphenidate is ignored as the first medication of choice for preschoolers in 38.3 percent of the youngsters who were diagnosed. Amphetamines other than methylphenidate were chosen 19.4 percent of the time. Non-stimulant medications were prescribed 18.9 percent by the medical professionals. What should parents do?

Parents need to become savvy advocates for their children. They must learn about treatments for Attention Deficit Disorder. While many children benefit from medications, some do not. Working with your children to develop a healthy lifestyle is an important first step for controlling the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Here are some concrete steps that your family can take:

*Eat as few processed foods as possible. Consume a balanced diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids.
*Encourage good sleep hygiene. Getting enough sleep helps to improve concentration.
*Build a routine that makes your life easier and that your family can follow.
*Spend time in open spaces outdoors. This is called “green time.”
*Send more oxygen to the pre-frontal cortex by making time to have short bursts of intense exercise.
*Take as many distractions as possible out of your family life.
*Develop a hobby that helps you to focus. Music, arts, sports, dance, and martial arts are all excellent choices.
*If your child takes medication, make sure that he takes it as prescribed. Don’t run out of medication and expect him to function normally. He won’t. Find out the side effects of the medication and watch for them. If the medication doesn’t work as well over time, have your child re-evaluated.

This site has a lot of information about all of these ideas for improving the negative symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. Go through the articles and see which ones apply to your family. There are also reviews of other resources that can help you in your decision making process. Getting a child diagnosed at an early age has distinct advantages for improving the child’s life. However, working with different modalities to treat Attention Deficit Disorder can bring astounding results and help your child to be the energetic, enthusiastic, creative, out-of-the-box problems solver that he is meant to be.


RESOURCES:

North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System. "90 percent of pediatric specialists not following clinical guidelines when treating preschoolers with ADHD." ScienceDaily, 4 May 2013. Web. 8 May 2013.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Children with ADHD benefit from healthy lifestyle options as first-line treatment." ScienceDaily, 24 Jan. 2012. Web. 8 May 2013.

Northwestern University. "Diagnosis of ADHD on the rise." ScienceDaily, 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 8 May 2013.

American Academy of Pediatrics. "American Academy of Pediatrics expands ages for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in children."ScienceDaily, 17 Oct. 2011. Web. 8 May 2013.


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Content copyright © 2013 by Connie Mistler Davidson. All rights reserved.
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