Go Team! How Your ADHD Treatment Team Should Work Together

Putting together your Starting Five is key to managing symptoms like a pro.
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Creating an ADHD Treatment Team that Works Together

Marilyn Griffin, M.D., this week’s guest blogger, is a board-certified adult and child and adolescent psychiatrist, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in the departments of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (UIC-COM). She is currently the medical director of the Comprehensive Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder Clinic (CAC) at the Institute for Juvenile Research within the department of psychiatry.

I love football! Like any team sport, football requires a group of individuals working together toward a common goal. The goal is to win, and it takes a team to get into the end zone. An ADHD treatment team is like a sports team. Here is how your team should work together to achieve maximum results.

1) Child/adult with ADHD diagnosis. You are your greatest advocate and are responsible for giving honest communication with other members of the team. Only you know what is happening inside of your mind and body. Don’t be afraid to communicate your needs, fears, doubts, and questions with others on the team. Also, educate yourself on your diagnosis, being mindful that there is a lot of information out there on ADHD. Not everything you read is factual, so please fact-check with other team members, especially your doctor.

2) Parent/spouse. You are your child’s/spouse’s biggest advocate. No one knows your child or spouse better than you. It’s important that you share the details of a child’s or a spouse’s behavior with other members of the team. You probably remember more examples of ADHD-type behaviors than the person who has been diagnosed. Plus, a younger child usually finds it hard to articulate his concerns or difficulties. You should be just as informed about the diagnosis and treatment as the person who has been evaluated.

3) Doctor (psychiatrist, pediatrician, family practitioner, internist, nurse practitioner): Your doctor is the team leader. She should direct and coordinate individualized treatment for you, your child, or spouse. The doctor will use her medical knowledge, experience, and the established standards of care to provide you with the best treatment options. This treatment should include educating you and your family on the symptoms and criteria that lead to a diagnosis of ADHD, and the ways in which symptoms can best be managed. Treatment can include medications (stimulants are first-line treatment for ADHD) as well as individual therapy and educational advocacy. Your doctor should be an excellent communicator, keeping all team members on the same page.

4) Therapist/coach: The therapist or coach helps you, your child, or spouse develop key coping skills that will enable a patient to succeed in various settings and aspects of his life. From emotional regulation to time management skills, the therapist is invested in a child’s or spouse’s real-life function and well-being. The therapist/coach may spend more time with the individual with ADHD than the doctor and provide updates to the doctor between appointments.

5) Teacher/employer/sports coach: This person is one of the most valuable members of the team, but is often overlooked. The teacher spends a lot of time with your child during school hours. She is on the front lines and sees your child in action in the classroom and other school activities. The teacher’s observations are very important and can help guide the treatment provided by other team members. Employers and sports coaches may not be privy to an individual’s ADHD diagnosis. If this is something that you decide to share, be prepared to educate the employer/sports coach on basic information about ADHD and what you are doing to manage and minimize your symptoms.

Remember that each member of your Starting Five has the same goal in mind. Everyone must be willing to participate and be accountable for his or her role on the team for you to succeed. And, of course, make sure you do your part.

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