Walk In My Shoes: ADHD
Treating ADHD Kids Takes More Than Just Meds
Give a Child a Pill or Teach a Child to Cope?
Behavioral therapy teaches coping mechanisms. It's the process of exploring the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with a focus on examining unhealthy and possibly destructive patterns. The goal is to change negative patterns and behaviors. We work on coping mechanisms all the time at home, but still need and appreciate outside help. If fewer than 25 percent of children with ADHD are getting help beyond medication, it makes me wonder if and where they’re learning the skills they need as they grow into adulthood.
Therapy Isn't as Simple as a Phone Call
The JAMA Pediatrics research letter also looked at the availability of therapists. It’s logical to wonder if the lack of children receiving this kind of help is because there aren't enough providers. With the diagnosis rates of almost all childhood mental health issues rising there is more demand and need than ever before. But therapist availability isn’t the only issue.
As any parent of ADHDers will tell you, it’s not just about the number of providers. It’s about how well-versed they are in ADHD and its many co-occurring conditions, and how well they relate to children and teens and their ever-changing issues. Finding a good fit is difficult, time consuming, and often disheartening.
To top it off, there's a financial element that can’t be ignored. Is it covered by insurance? What's the co-pay? How many visits per year? Not to mention the many hoops for both the doctor's office and the parents to jump through. These are all important factors in trying to juggle care of our children and meet their needs.
Shattering Society's Therapy Stigma
Our society is so obsessed with the notion of "normal" that taking a child to see a psychiatrist or therapist can be like painting a target on a parent’s back. As if we didn’t have enough judgment and criticism thrown our way by those who don’t know or understand what it’s like to parent a child with special needs.
I worried about making the switch from pediatrician to our psychiatrist who doubles as a therapist for our children. It was a decision I agonized over until that first appointment. Its been over 10 years now and it’s a decision I wish I’d made earlier. I’ve never regretted making the switch. Our kids love their psychiatrist and are often the first to tell me when they need an appointment. I often wonder how we would’ve made it through the teen years without his help and guidance.
The stigma attached to therapy will only be broken as we make those things that used to be considered taboo acceptable and normal. We break the stigma by our attitude, our reactions when criticized by others, and by spreading fact and dispelling fiction. After all, what’s more important than the long-term success of our children? We give them that opportunity by seeking out what’s best for them. In this case, we make sure they have all the tools they need. So we find out about our insurance coverage. We seek out the best possible providers and take time to squeeze appointments into our already busy schedules. We help them apply the strategies they are working on in therapy. And, in the face of criticism, we defend their right to the best care.
Video: Diagnosing ADHD: The New American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines
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