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  • Shared Experiences

    My child takes Ritalin medication, should I be telling him why he takes it?

    Today I learnt a really valuable lesson from a friend of mine that I thought I would share: She believes for best results with ADHD medicine compliance, it is essential that children understand the varied roles of medicine. This morning a friend of mine was talking to her 10 year old son who was reluctant to take his Ritalin since “he is on school holidays and not doing any school work”.

    She had previously explained to him that the role of medicine is to make it easier for him to concentrate and focus, just like eyeglasses make it easier to see for some children. He understood that, but he primarily associated medicine with school and homework. She then explained to him that medicine also has a therapeutic effect on his brain, and that it corrects for low brain chemicals and tissue thinning (i.e. decreased white matter) inside his brain, in the same way that Panadol has a therapeutic effect on a fever.

    He then promptly proceeded to take his Ritalin.The point is that children should also understand the therapeutic role of ADHD medicine on their brains. An understanding of how their medicine works is increased, thereby increasing compliance. For older children, a more intricate discussion of the neuroscience behind ADHD medicine would be beneficial.
    • 1 comment
    • Christina Potter
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  • Servicing Children, Adolescents, Families and Adults About Christy Potter Christy is a Psychologist, registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and a Member of the ... View Profile

    I believe its really important for children to know why they take medication. I also think this explanation needs to be age appropriate. Lots of kids know they have difficulty with certain things and difficulty with learning, concentration and impulsivity is no different.  I like the analogy your friend used.  

    I do believe however that during school holidays its is fine for children to have medication breaks from their stimulant mediction. These medications do not have long term effects, such as re-building brain matter. They simply allow the brain to function more optimly so the child has an opportunity to learn self-regulation skills. 

    The thing to watch out for is how the child makes sense of the information you share with him or her. Many children have feelings of shame about their difficulties and having to take mediction makes them feel even more different to their peers. Depression and anxiety associated with their learning difficulties can lead to more problems later on than the ADHD itself. Being open, honest and empathetic will give the child a sense of understanding and acceptance.

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