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Concern About ADHD Medication
Q: I was just told that one of my 7-year-old twin daughters is ADHD. She is in the first grade. When my son, who is now 10, was in the first grade they said the same about him. I put him on Ritalin® at the advice of the teachers. I hated the way he was (like a zombie). I took him off immediately. He is now just fine. He still has trouble in reading, but is doing fine in all his classes. I refuse to put my daughter on any drugs, I believe she will also turn out just fine. What is your advice? She has the most trouble in reading just like her brother.
A: Two things are likely here. One is that your son may have had undiagnosed reading difficulties (or perhaps even learning disabilities) when he was little. The teachers may have misread the signs of frustration for the signs of ADHD (not being able to follow a story looks a lot like inattention; getting out of your seat or always asking to go to the bathroom are good ways to avoid the embarrassment of reading poorly in front of your friends, and so on). The Ritalin® probably didn't work because he didn't need it, and you did the right thing by taking him off of it. (I do hope you consulted your pediatrician and that he or she agreed; changing or stopping medication should always be done with a doctor's knowledge.)
I can understand your hesitation about putting your daughter on Ritalin®, especially since she has reading problems like her brother had. I would suggest that you have her tested for reading disabilities now. If the school suggests that there is no reading problem, it's their job to determine why she's having difficulty. It certainly is possible that ADHD is a cause or a contributing factor, but I think you should unravel this mystery a layer at a time -- and start with a good LD evaluation. Glad to hear your 10-year-old is doing fine. Sometimes...mother knows best.
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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.