Children diagnosed with ADHD face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. First, an ADHD diagnosis conjures unflattering stigmas. The labels are detestable, but a regular part of an ADHD child’s life. Second, special accommodations in the classroom cause deep resentment in peers and the teachers responsible for implementing the accommodations. Most important, children diagnosed with ADHD rarely have an advocate who looks after their best interests.
ADHD advocacy is a nascent trend in the mental health industry. For years, children struggled without advocacy support while trying to cope in social environments and in the classroom. ADHD clinicians began to heed the call for advocacy, but their role was limited to medical education for parents and education personnel. National ADHD advocacy organizations have been effective in lobbying politicians for ADHD laws, especially in the areas of education and the workplace. National organizations have a macro sphere of influence, not the micro attention to detail that is parental ADHD advocacy.
Parents are the only true advocate for ADHD children. Their sphere of influence ranges from medications to ensuring education equity. While researching ADHD is a positive first step in becoming an advocate, knowledge of the condition is not enough to make an impact on an ADHD child’s life. Parents must become involved and make the commitment to advocate for their child. Here are some important areas that demand parental ADHD advocacy:
Recognizing the signs
ADHD education begins with recognizing the complicated signs of the condition. By complicated, I mean that some symptoms of ADHD mirror other disorders like anxiety and depression.
The best place to research ADHD symptoms is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). The manual provides a general list of 18 symptoms and the requisite criteria for making an ADHD diagnosis. Dr. Daniel Amen breaks down the 18 symptoms further by providing a detailed list of symptoms in checklist form.
Parental ADHD advocacy is ineffective if parents do not understand the basic symptoms of the condition.
ADHD clinician testing and evaluation
An ADHD diagnosis is a two-step process. Parents must make it a three-step process by carefully scrutinizing a list of clinician candidates. I recommend choosing a clinician based on your friends or family practitioner referral.
Parental ADHD advocacy involves creating a list of questions for each clinician candidate. Questions should include:
- How do you make a diagnosis?
- Do you have references?
- What is your position on ADHD medications?
Parents are usually involved in the second step of the diagnosis process, which entails the attendance of a significant other. Parents should also participate in the first step of the process. The first step is a series of psychological tests that determine if a second consultation is warranted. Parental ADHD advocacy during this step is observing how the clinician conducts the tests. Moreover, parents must eliminate any clinician who aggressively pushes ADHD medications during the first step.
The purest form of parental ADHD advocacy is understanding one fact: adhd test medications do not cure ADHD. The medications are prescribed to mitigate the symptoms. They are not a panacea, and there are other options that help children manage ADHD. The same concern for illicit drug use should be applied to the prescription of a stimulant narcotic for an underdeveloped human being.
If parents decide that ADHD medications are the best course of action, they must be vigilant when it comes to monitoring their child’s prescription. Side effects occur when a child takes the wrong dosage during the wrong time of day. This usually happens at school, so parents must clearly communicate their child’s ADHD medication regimen with a school nurse and administrators. They must also ensure that the medication does not fall into the hands of other children who are looking for a stimulant “high.”
Above all, parental ADHD advocacy means promoting the alternative treatments for the symptoms. This may entail banging heads with the clinician. Banging heads is a good thing when your child’ health is involved.
The physical and mental benefits of a regular exercise routine far outweigh ADHD medications. Exercise is a long-term solution for rampant hyperactivity. ADHD medications are a quick fix that introduces potent chemicals into a child’s system.
Parental ADHD advocacy for exercise is more about changing a child’s sedentary lifestyle. Parents should encourage their children to refrain from playing video and computer games. The encouragement needs to start at a young age, when unhealthy habits are easier to change.
The ADHD establishment continually dispels the theory that too much television causes ADHD. While television does not directly cause ADHD, lying around without significant periods of exercise exacerbates the condition’s symptoms. Parents are the first line of defense to prevent a sedentary lifestyle from firmly taking root in a child’s lifestyle.