This is a common misconception. When doctors prescribe medication for ADHD, it can take a little while to figure out which medication works the best for your child and at what dosage. There are many medications on the market, and some may work well for some children and not others. It’s not uncommon for doctors to try different medications until the optimal type and dose is determined for your child’s age, height and weight. When prescribed effectively,
ADHD medications work quite well soon after taking them. Your child’s personality won’t change, but his ability to focus and self-regulate will improve, which can make it easier to learn and to manage social situations. These changes can help your child build confidence and positive self-esteem.
If your child starts taking medication and you notice any changes in behavior, speak up. If you’re not satisfied with the way the doctor responds to your concerns, then getting a second opinion might be the next step.
Once you find the right medication and dosage, it’s important to keep monitoring your child’s behavior, as risks for side effects are still possible, although side effects are usually detected early in the treatment process. If you notice any changes in mood, such as irritability, anxiety or aggression, or if your child seems more or less emotional, then you should tell your child’s doctor right away.
Fortunately, this may only mean changing the dose or the type of medication. In rare cases, side effects can include rapid heart rate, hypertension or more serious cardiovascular events. Some common side effects include decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping at night, headache or temporary motor tics. Your child’s doctor can help you deal with any or all of these issues.
But whether your child has just started taking medication or has been using the same one for quite a while, it’s important to have regular check-ups with a doctor who is well versed in prescribing these types of medications. Because children are growing and their metabolism may be changing, some doctors recommend check-ups several times a year and sometimes as often as once a month.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that medication is not a cure-all—it is part of the treatment regimen for ADHD. Parenting skills and behavioral therapy are also key components, so be sure to do things like reduce distractions during homework time and encourage your child to eat a balanced diet and get plenty of sleep and exercise.
Dr. Laura Tagliareni is a pediatric neuropsychologist in New York City and a clinical instructor at NYU Langone Center. She works with children and adolescents facing a broad range of developmental difficulties, complex medical conditions, emotional challenges, and learning differences in her private practice. Areas of expertise include comprehensive neuropsychological and psychoeducational evaluations, individual and group therapy, bereavement and educational guidance and advocacy.