Medicate My 4-Year-Old?!

Revised guidelines give doctors the go-ahead to diagnose and treat ADHD in younger kids, but are parents comfortable evaluating preschoolers for attention deficit?

Try Behavior Therapy First

As a speech therapist who works with children, Joe'L Farrar, of Wilburton, Oklahoma, recognized symptoms of ADHD in her daughter, Carey, at age one and had her diagnosed at age three. Because Farrar was already using many behavior therapy strategies, Carey's doctor suggested a trial of medication when she was four. It didn't go well.

"The side effects were too much for Carey," says Farrar. "We took her off medication and focused on behavioral modifications for a couple of years -- and put her back on meds at six." Now 10, Carey takes Strattera, which Farrar says is helpful in managing Carey's hyperactivity and inattentiveness, but less effective in improving her impulsivity.

Despite mixed success with medication in Carey's early years, Farrar is glad she had her daughter diagnosed at three. She was able to get accommodations Carey needed at school. "When her kindergarten teacher said that Carey didn't like to take naps, we arranged for the special-ed teacher to take her to another room during naptime to do calm activities together."

Carey has done well in school, as well as in cheerleading and choir. Farrar has also put a positive spin on her daughter's ADHD. "I explained to her that there were chemicals missing in her brain that made it harder for her to sit still in a chair like other kids did," says Farrar, "but that didn't mean she wasn't as smart as they were." "The earlier parents intervene, the greater the chance that we can make a difference," says Quinn. "Earlier diagnoses may increase the chances that young children with ADHD will make friends and do well in school. The new AAP guidelines can prevent a lot of pain and suffering in the lives of individuals who have ADHD."

Laura Flynn McCarthy is a freelance writer based in Bow, New Hampshire.

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TAGS: ADHD in Preschool|Kindergarten, Diagnosing Children with ADHD, ADHD Medication and Children, Behavior Therapy for ADHD, ADHD Treatment

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