Viewpoint: Success in life, despite ADHD

May 1, 2008

The challenges of child ADHD and how important medications and support from family, school, and outside activities are to the child.

This month's issue contains an important and insightful article by Michael Jellinek, MD, who is both a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist. In his article "ADHD treatments: Going beyond the meds," Jellinek reminds us that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is more than a diagnosis-it is a diagnosis attached to a developing child who is learning about his/her worth through thousands of daily interactions with parents, teachers, friends, and classmates. Indeed, the tasks of childhood include going to school, developing friendships, and learning; and those tasks are likely to be poorly accomplished, or at least accomplished in a different manner, by children with ADHD. It's difficult to appreciate the frustration and demoralization that must accompany repeated failures to measure up.

Jellinek proposes strategies that will help parents work with their child to reduce frustration and achieve success, at least in some aspect of their lives. As helpful as the pediatrician may be in providing insight and guidance, however, the challenge of minimizing the impact of ADHD on the child's self-esteem falls largely to parents. It's likely, therefore, that the parent guide included in Jellinek's article will be especially helpful to pediatricians who want to partner with parents but have limited time for counseling.

Pharmacologic therapy has unquestionably been important in helping children with ADHD regulate behavior and focus attention. Medication may make it possible for the affected child to achieve successes that would otherwise be more difficult; however, Jellinek reminds us that the pediatrician/parent team can ensure that the child with ADHD reaches adulthood feeling empowered to accept the challenges of life.