ADHD, a common disorder typically diagnosed in childhood, but sometimes also diagnosed in adulthood, gets a lot of media attention. Read for more information about what is ADHD. Read for more information about adult ADHD.
The first step is to get a thorough evaluation by a qualified professional who specializes in the diagnosis of ADHD. Read for more information about ADHD testing and evaluations.
So you or your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. What now? There are several options that your treatment provider can cover with you, depending on your or your child’s needs.
A very common treatment for ADHD is medication. The most common class of medication prescribed for ADHD is stimulants. “Why would I give my hyper child a stimulant?” many parents ask. The answer is that ADHD is thought to be caused by a decrease in brain activity in the area of the brain that controls attention and decreasing impulses. Taking a medication that stimulates this area of the brain actually works to hopefully give the child more ability to maintain attention or act more thoughtfully, and less impulsively.
- Some of the most common stimulants used to treat ADHD include Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and Focalin.
There are also non-stimulant medications that can be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms. It is a little more complicated how these medications work, but they also work on the neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain to help increase attention and decrease impulsivity.
- Common non-stimulants include Strattera and Tenex.
Many parents are wary of medications, the side effects, or want to try something else first. Talk with your pediatrician or your psychiatrist if you have any of these concerns about medications. In some cases, medications are helpful, but not quite enough. If medications are not right for you, not right for you right now, or not enough, there are more options.
Research suggests that cognitive training can help increase sustained and shifting attention and reduce impulsivity. Cognitive training can also increase processing speed (the ability to do routine tasks quickly without making mistakes). Processing speed is the skill we use when taking notes in class.
Two common programs for cognitive training include Play Attention and Captain’s Log Mental Gym.
- Play Attention uses similar technology that US Air Force pilots and NASA astronauts use. With this software, the user wears a special bicycle helmet that monitors brain activity through sensors. Only when the user maintains attention can they complete the activity on the screen. In this way, there is immediate feedback regarding whether or not they are paying attention. Through these games, learning to keep attention can be fun and motivating. Eventually, the user starts to learn how it feels to concentrate and focus. Read more about Play Attention at their website.
- Captain’s Log uses over 40-multilevel programs to build attention, working memory, impulse control, processing speed, and logic and reasoning. It is a game-like program that first assesses a baseline of the child’s abilities in these areas. Then the professional creates a program for your child to train any areas of weakness. Read more about Captain’s Log at their website.
There are also therapy techniques for treating ADHD.