PORTLAND, Ore. – Close to four and a half million children suffer with attention deficit hyper-activity disorder, commonly known as ADHD.
The Consumer Reports National Research Center recently surveyed nearly 1,000 families with children who have been diagnosed with this condition. The survey turned up some interesting results. For example, in 45 percent of the cases just switching schools helped "a lot." In 35 percent of the cases, something as simple as scheduled activities also helped "a lot" in mitigating ADHD.
Take 15-year-old Amanda, who had good grades in school but trouble focusing in class. She also was easily distracted.
"Like if the teacher would ask me a question, I would ask them to repeat it 'cause I wasn't listening," Amanda said. "I just couldn't really, like, sit still in class."
Amanda was diagnosed with ADHD: attention deficit hyper-activity disorder. Her doctor said children with ADHD face a unique set of challenges. See "Who to see for ADHD."
"The main symptoms are short attention span [and] disorganization," said Dr. Martin Kutscher, a child neurologist. "And there may also be hyperactivity and impulsivity."
The non-profit consumer research organization's survey of 934 parents found "84 percent of those in the survey had tried medication and, of those, two-thirds said that it helped a lot." But first, Consumer Reports found it's important for children to have a health exam.
That exam should be done before they take any medication for ADHD. Fifteen percent of those surveyed did not have a basic screening before being prescribed medication.
Consumer Reports' survey also found that medication alone is not a cure-all.
Children like Amanda, who were treated with both drug and non-drug therapies, had better results than those who used drugs alone. Non-drug ADHD therapies include having children meet with a psychologist, getting accommodations in school and keeping a consistent schedule. See "ADHD treatments that work."
Also, Consumer Reports' researchers said if you're considering ADHD medication be aware there can be side effects.
"Weight loss, decreased appetite, sleep problems, irritability and an upset stomach," said Dr. Orly Avitzur at Consumer Reports. "These problems are usually mild and, with the help of a doctor, they can be well managed."
As Amanda's family has found, with the proper treatment and close monitoring, children and teens with ADHD are likely to improve over time.