ADHD Treatment & Medication

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ADD Medications & Meds Management

Medication and therapy for 9-year-old with ADD

Nov 2012

Hi, We just found out that our daughter who is 9 is ADD. Since she turned 3, we have had difficulties with her at school/home. We feel relieved to have a diagnostic and to be able to help her. We are looking for a doctor for medication and a therapist for behavior in the east bay (Albany/Berkeley/Oakland) who has experience in that area. We are with Anthem HMO and Alta Bates medical group and would like a provider in that network. We heard about Dr Landman. Any opinions ? We would love also to talk to people who went through this. Thanks for your help anon

We recently started seeing Dr. Burhmann in Albany for my 10 year old son with ADHD and some learning differences. Dr. Burhmann did a very thorough examine/evaluation of my son. Even before wew made out appointment she called me back on a Friday evening to discuss my son and why I was seeking a developmental pediatrician. ALL of the other offices I called at the time did not even get back to me. It took me almost a year to sort out my son's insurance and how we were going to pay for this service and both she and her assistant, Sally, remembered me and some things about my son. We live in Alameda, so Albany is not exactly close but it is very worth it. Provide any other insight let me know, A.

College freshman has started taking Adderall

Nov 2011

My son, ''Steve'' is a freshman in college and has started to take Adderall because he says it ''focuses'' him when he does his homework. Steve thinks he may have ADD because this medicaiton is so helpful to him, but I have not noticed any ADD symtoms when he was living at home. Also, Steve is a straight A student going to a very selective college and I don't believe he could preform at that high level of funtioning if he was ADD. I am concerned because I have heard that Adderall can be addictive and also because he is getting these medications from other students. Steve says lots of students at college use Adderall, but I am still very concerned. Any advice would be appreciated. Worried Mom

My son is quite a bit younger than yours (14) and on Adderal since he was 11 or 12. It made a huge difference in his life. I was against it for years, but I now regret not giving it to him sooner. With the kids I see (a few of his friends and that I work with)there hasn't been addiction - most kids I know on it do not want to take it on weekends or holidays or anytime they don't have to. But I know with adults it is quite different. When the doctor was talking to me about it and I really wasn't sure, he did say that anyone would do better with it - so that your son is doing better with it doesn't mean he has ADD - you or I would focus better with it too. If I were in your shoes, I would definitely encourage him to get his own prescription, because the dosages very HUGELY and are not only dependent on weight and how long someone has been on it, etc. I know some kids who are on many times the dose of other kids. Good luck! hoping it works out for your family

Dear Worried Mom, You should be worried, especially since your son is getting this medication from other students. Consider getting him tested for ADD, and explain to him that taking medication from other students can be deadly. Goodness knows where the medication really came from!! My 13 year old daughter has ADD and she is very bright. ADD affects the ability to focus and to organize, not intelligence. My two cents worth is that he should stop the Adderal immediately until he has been properly tested and diagnosed with ADD. Then, his doctor can prescribe appropriate medication.

Need new Dr. for teenage boy with ADD

March 2010

My 13 year old son recently started taking medicine for ADD with positive results. However, he really doesn't like the doctor - an older woman who doesn't connect with him at all. I would really like to find a doctor in Oakland/Berkeley who can prescribe the medication and is good at connecting with teenage boys. Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Also, he is having a harder time falling asleep. If anyone has advice on this issue that would be great as well. concerned mom

I wish I could help you with regards to doctors in Oakland/Berkeley but can't since we go to Brad Berman in Walnut Creek. Berman is amazing with our 10 y.o. son (and us) and to me would be well worth the drive. Of course it takes forever to get a first appointment with him. If you want to try, his phone number is 925-279-3480.

With regards to not falling asleep easily, our son is on Ritalin and had the same problem. We were told to try Melatonin by another parent in the same shoes. After checking with our pediatrician and Berman, he took it. It was a miracle; 30 minutes after taking it, he was sound asleep. This works as long as he is in wind-down mode when he takes it. I get it at Trader Joe's under their brand. It comes as 500mg chewable tablets. My son only takes one, but we were told he could double it. Good Luck

My son sees Dr. Paul Abrinko for his ADHD. Dr. Abrinko is a psychiatrist, he relates very well to both parents, teens and children. He is also very knowledgeable regarding the wide variety of ADHD/ADD treatments available. He is not covered under all health plans, so can be expensive out of pocket ($250 per visit). My son sees him twice a year and his expertise is worth the expense. His office phone is 510-496-6014. East Bay Mom

My son is also 13 and has been on Concerta for ADHD. It worked well but the downside was no appetite until it wore off at 8pm and trouble sleeping. My solution, which his MD agreed with, was to give him Melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime. That worked really well. I would give him 1 3mg lozenge. He is now on Straterra and that is working much better. His appetite is more normal and has no problems going to sleep at night. My son sees Dr. Hartman, who is a young MD at Pathways to Wellness in Martinez. He's a really nice guy and easy to relate to. m.

I'd recommend Dr. Andelman in Albany (510-527-9615). TK

My now 15 year-old was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 13 and has been under the care of Dr. Brad Berman whose practice is in Walnut Crrek: 925-279-3480. It's a bit of a drive, but worth it for us. Dr. Berman does understand teenage boys as well as their parents. He is empathic and insightful, but not a pushover and very appropriate for this age group. Our son does have trouble falling asleep and has decreased appetite due to the meds. He drinks chamomille tea at bedtime and says this helps a litle bit. Also, the computer and other electronic equipment need to go off 30-60 mins before bedtime (which is supposed to be at 10:30) and he is supposed to engage in other quiet activities. He sleeps better on days he has sports activities. Because his decreased appetite was affecting his weight gain, Dr. Berman recommended nutritional supplements such as Boost and whole- milk yogurts and these do seem to have helped. With Dr. Berman's ok, I chose to not have him take his meds on weekends and holidays, but that is a decision should be made with a physician. Berkeley mom

Adderall and facial tics

Nov 2007

does anyone have any info on adderal and facial tics? my 17 yr old was put on adderal for a diagnosed adhd, which he took sporadicaly, maybe a total of 10 times. i removed him when i noticed the facial tics. he has not been on any medication for about 4 months, but the tics have gotten worse, with the neck stretching, grimmacing, etc. thank you kat

It sounds like you need to get back to the doctor and report this, as well as the fact that the first trial of dosage and type of medication didn't seem to work out. Those facial tics sound noticeable enough that they might produce some social fallout and embarrassment for your child. There is really great information about AD/HD and co-occuring conditions on the websites of and the National Resource Center on AD/HD at In my experience as an educational therapist who treats adolescents and adults with AD/HD, the road to optimal medication can be a long one, and working closely with your doctor is important. Don't give up too soon. These facial tics are probably distressing, and your doctor may want to change medications because of them. You're an important partner in the treatment because you provide the observations in real time. Good luck. linda times and I really do not understand why people are so hesitant to just TRY something. I do not see what the costs are in terms of trying this drug--it is completely reversible. I think that there is so much angst about medication for mental conditions and some hidden fears of addiction that people do not realize this is NOT really a big decision. You are not getting married to Ritalin, you are meeting briefly for coffee!!! Then if things work out you will date a bit while constantly re- evaluating your relationship!

My one caveat is that you do need a doctor who knows what they're doing and is going to be systematic, knowledgeable and objective about what is really a PROCESS. The MD shouldn't just throw the prescription at you and run. They've got to check in with you and follow up and keep tabs on your kid's growth. best wishes

Having recently seen a therapist who owns a business specializing in ADD/ADHD I must say that I warn you to procede cautiously when sending a child to therapy, ie to meet with the therapist yourself first, and gather your own opinion, before sending a child in. I am still going thru self-esteem issues that arose DUE to his approach, not being helped by his approach. The therapist, himself having a disorder, which was I thought the best part about him, that he admitted his own condition upfront, was often late for the appointments and worst, very negative in his beliefs about ADD/ADHD once you get to the point of ''diagnosis.''Upon ''diagosis'' which consisted solely of appointments with him and costly forms, he then recommended that I continue on with their other ''services''-- such as coaching-- which of course, they so happen to offer. It seemed more of a snag-you-in type of business than working with ones needs. anon

Educating yourselves is essential, so read, read, read and visit reputable websites. I suggest,, and for a few to start with. Watch out for emotionally based information. There's lots of good science focused on ADHD and you might as well benefit from it. You can be more of a help to your child if you feel authoritative because you have excellent information. Some big thinkers in this area (and they don't all agree) are Russell Barkley, Peter Jensen, Ned Hallowell, Mel Levine and John Ratey (the last two are my personal favorites). You could drown in the amount of information, but you have to start somewhere. An ADHD diagnosis provides useful information that can avert difficulty for your child. It doesn't have to be sad, although it is a challenge for sure! Best of luck. LL

I have ADD/ADHD.

1. Local resources: local CHADD chapters, support groups etc etc can be found at It's a great starting point and you will be welcomed at our meetings!

2. Information: there's a lot of misleading information and scare stories out there. I'm an engineer and like to understand how things really work under the hood. The best book I have read which has real, hard research-based information is by Paul Wender ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adults. Oxford University Press, 2002. It goes into the neuro-chemistry, clinical case-studies etc.

3. Meds.

* I take meds every day and they're helpful.

* Delaying meds will not *harm* your son.

* Ritalin may or may not be the *right* medication - it did not work *for me*. If it makes a positive difference, great. I had BAD sides effects with Strattera which, anecdotally, are experienced by many males although denied by the pharma company. The only times I ever got driving tickets was when I was prescribed amphetamines.

* Meds ''the most effective treatment bar none''? This underestimates the significance of complementing with non-medical support. In my and my friends' experience, meds alone are NOT enough, and you may need to experiment with various organizing strategies and techniques. If you can get him into various habitual daily rituals (making lists and checking them) it will make a huge difference, especially when you and supportive adults are not around.

4. In my experience, many non-specialist educators and medical staff talk very knowledgeably about ADHD although (a) their knowledge comes from third-hand sources and (b) is several years out of date, typically gained through CE credit courses.

5. ADHD is a gift as well as a frustration. Find ways to exploit, develop and enjoy the positive and creative and fun sides of ADHD as well as 'fixing' the disadvantageous side-effects. This will help your son It is important to understand that your child does not have a problem, but a condition. Steve

How did you decide to try ADD meds?

Nov 2005

Both of my kids, now 7 and 8 (20 months apart) have been little handfuls since birth- very active, very verbal, very intense, very creative and very bright. In fact, they were great babies, and we gave ourselves all the credit for raising them ''right''. Both of us parents were similar as kids and it was not thought to be more than a strong personality. We used to joke about ADD, but imposed as much structure as possible and learned to enjoy the chaos...then they started school. Both have problems there, primarily impulsiveness and emotional reactivity. One is gifted based on testing and off-the-charts active, the other distracted, dramatic and dreamy. After one too many discussions with schools, we started family therapy directed at behavioral modification (1-2-3 Magic, etc.) and have instituted every nonpharmacologic approach to ADD on the books. I am a researcher, but I have even done things that have no proven benefits based on research, such as limiting sugar.

Nothing is working for school and whenever we go out to public events (BD parties, etc get them overexcited) although their behavior is markedly better at home. I have tried to think of their ADD as a personality type that can be adaptive in many ways. I work with alot of successful adults who were hyper kids. I cannot seem them as ''diseased'' or having a brain disorder.

But we now are beginning to understand why people medicate their children like ours- the reaction of teachers and other kids and their parents to them causes us and the kids alot of anguish. People are quick to assign blame. It's assumed we do not discipline our kids (and yes, we don't hit them but there are very clear consequences when they misbehave, but impulsive kids still lose control of themselves at times) or spend enough time with them (both parents work), etc. I am tired of yelling at them and dampening their exhuberence, which I have been advised I must do to get them to be able to behave at school and in public. They never were allowed to run around screaming, but you have to shout to keep them in line and impose consequences daily. I am NOT setting expectations too high- as if!- I'm sure half the parents we come in contact with assume I'm too lax. But they also think it's unseemly that when one of the kids get revved up, I have to speak firmly to them in public.

They have friends because they are creative and funny, but if a kid wants to be mean, they choose one of mine. When my kids get upset, they often cry or ''take a swing'' back- very rewarding to tease with low risk of retribution. They both do well in school, but are felt to be underperforming by teachers- one's messy handwriting is said to be a sign of insufficient pride in work product, the gifted one can't sit still for reading aloud. It's one month into the school year and I have been to 2 ''conferences'' about my problem children. I am in tears and stressed out daily- trying to hold the line on their behavior and bear up under criticism, snide remarks and ''advice''.

Here's the dilemma- do we give them medication? We promised ourselves we'd give the other path a full year to work and if anything, things are worse as one year later. I just can't yell anymore at kids who really are trying their best. I know they will gain self-esteem if their schoolwork begins to show their potential (I myself am less concerned about ''grades'' at this age but they both are very invested in school despite daily negativity there). Our medical advice is that it's time to give it a try. One kids is getting too dispirited from all the criticism and the bouncier one is starting to lose his temper from the same. I know I will likely be judged negatively for medicating the kids too, but I am concerned that they used to be hyper and happy, and now they are hyper and anxious.

I am asking for support in general from parents of kids like mine. If you gave your kids medication, what tipped you over into that decision? Did the ''shame and blame'' from outside the family play a role? Did it just wear you down to deal with their behaviors constantly? Did the meds make them into zombies? Some days, I really just want a quick fix, but my real concern is their happiness and future well-being- and it's starting to seem one or both might be happier on meds. not quite super-mom

There are two things that made me feel better about trying medication on my child: 1. There is nothing irreversible about the decision. If you do not like it you can stop ANY TIME! This is not surgery or switching schools or even making a big financial purchase. This is trying a cheap drug with an extremely short half life that will be out of my child's body in a few hours. It is called a drug trial because you are trying it to see if it works. 2. If my child needed glasses or insulin or other medical care I would provide them. Why is the cultural assumption that drugs are so bad?

Use your skills as a researcher and do a lit. search--look at what works, look at what people do in other countries, look at the risks and side effects of ritalin.

Honestly from your letter I couldn't figure out a reason why you wouln't want to try medication. Because people are going to judge you?

Keep in mind if your kids are zombies from the meds. then it isn't that they shouldn't be on them, it may be that they're taking too much.

Get a good doctor who knows about this and then go for it. What do you have to lose?

Also, your kids sound almost old enough and together enough to have an opinion about it themselves. Ask them whether they like it. Sometimes kids like it and feel so much better on medication and ask for their medicine when it is stopped. extremely thankful my child is on medication

You are most certainly not alone! Every parent of a kid with ADHD goes though all this same agonizing. This is such a huge and difficult issue. And other parents can be quite judgemental about your kids, their behavior and if you choose to go with medication, about all that too. It's hard. Give yourself a lot of credit for understanding your kids are trying their hardest already.

If you have not yet seen this site, visit:

It is a huge source of support on all these issues and includes a large section on complementary & alternative treatments, which work well fro some kids. There is also a large section on conventional medication.

We did a trial of medication when our daughter was your kids' age and the side effects were just too tough to deal with, due to her metabolism, I guess. A few years later we tried again, and it has been really, really good. The side effects have been tolerable, and most importantly, she feels like it is really helpful. It helps her with attention and also with impulsivity in her social interactions. I'm fairly certain that without the meds, her life would be much more stressful and home life would be much more bitter. She's not zombie-ish at all. It seems the key is a willingness to work through the trial-and-error period to find the right medication and dosage-- and that can be trying.

Best of luck on this journey, Sympathetic Parent

You may wish to read Mary Ann Block's book on what you can do for your children through non-pharmaceutical means. Also, know that many modalities have been able to help gifted children (read THE EDISON GENE by Thom Hartmann) which may include: HANDLE (, sensory assessment and integration (http://, Jin Shin Jyutsu (, and neurotransmitter assessment with targeted amino acid therapy ( Since ADD drugs work on neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine) amino acids (building blocks for all proteins in our bodies) can address the underlying imbalances, after first measuring what the body is making (via urine). You might call the company to locate a practitioner using this methodology. Nori

Hi there, I am a former special Education teacher and am now the Assistant Director of a learning center ( in Pleasanton. Have you read ''Driven to Distraction'' by Ned Hallowell? I just heard him speak and he is an adult with ADHD and a very different perspective on things. Try reading his book (s). i was very impressed. Also, you may want to look into cognitive training, such as at LearningRx, or other treatments that involve brain science. Keep your great attitude! Cynthia

You seem to be very thoughtful, ''on top of it'' parents who have done all of the right things to deal with your childrens' difficult behaviors but obviously the treatments and strategies you have tried have not been optimally effective. I would DEFINITELY give medication a try. I don't have children with ADHD children myself, but I am a child psychologist who knows the ADHD treatment literature very well. In the majority of cases children with ADHD respond positively to medication and their lives (as well as the lives of those around them) improve, sometimes dramatically. Of course there can be side effects and the effects of long-term medication use are not well understood. However, if I had a child with ADHD I would definitely give medication a try. If your kids are prescribed a stimulant medication (which is most likely), you will know very quickly whether the meds are having a positive effect. If they aren't or if you are concerned about side effects you can simply stop the meds. It is worth a try. Liz O.

I have a child who somewhat fits the same description as yours. We held off on medication for 10 years, determined to work with our child. We tried EVERYTHING. The differences in raising a child who has ''issues'' really became apparent to us when we had other children and began realizing that ''normal'' children do not behave/react the way our oldest child does. This may seem obvious but if you don't have anything to compare it to it is not. We finally relented with the medication for many reasons, all of which you touched on in your email. Primarily though was finally getting to a point where I felt my child was enduring failure after failure no matter how hard he tried and that it was starting to shape his character and who he believed he was. As a parent I also had had enough of being judged and my child being judged. Because we had other children who were absolutely delightful we had a bit more faith that there was nothing wrong with our parenting but rather a roll of the genetic dice. But anyone who thinks that having a difficult child doesn't wreck havoc on your family, personal life, marriage, self-esteem etc. is fooling themselves. Likewise, I've come to the conclusion that to plod along in the hopes that things will improve for your child is naive at best and can be extremely damaging to the child who is experiencing all the frustration that impulsiveness and other strong behavior creates.

Medication is not a miracle although we saw a difference in our child within the first few weeks of starting. What it has done for our child is help him focus and control his behavior just enough that he can engage and learn in his school environment and start experiencing some of the success that is rightfully due to him because he is smart and bright and can be a pleasant guy. We use the lowest dosage that we are comfortable with and that appears to make a difference. We use his more balanced personality as teaching opportunities to empower him to take responsibility for himself. Now, I'm convinced we did the right thing and could kick myself that we waited 10 years before getting help for our child. Because he has had some real success, I hope that as he grows older and his maturity and physiological system catches up OR he learns about better behavior and can more control his actions he may be able to eventually be med free. But I would also support him staying on the med as long as he benefitted from it. We'll just have to see what the future holds. Happy to have a happy kid

You sound like a great mom! It's very difficult, I know, and I give you a lot of credit for trying so hard and thinking this through so thoroughly. My son, who is now 11 and in 6th grade, was diagnosed with ADD at the beginning of 5th grade. Trust me, I was very opposed to the idea of meds, but I was also really tired from years of dealing with various behaviors that you described very well. More importantly, I was concerned about his growing frustration and discouragement as he got older and more self-aware and as the expectations at school increased. The thing that helped me most was that I have a tremendous amount of trust in his doctor, Brad Berman. I trusted the diagnosis, because it was certainly not something that Brad rushed into. Nevertheless, I felt very sad about it because I felt terrible that my son was going to have to deal with all this (meaning the ADD label, taking meds, etc). When Brad pointed out that my son was already dealing with it (meaning ADD itself), I realized that perhaps my resistance to meds was not helping my son. I was also terrified that my kid would be dramatically different and somehow not-himself if he took medication.

I wanted to write to tell you that trying meds was the best thing we could have done. My kid is still his same wonderful smart weird energetic (and occasionally very trying) self, but it is just much easier for him to focus and control his impulsivity. He handled what could have been a very difficult transition to middle school this fall beautifully. He likes school and is doing very well there, both academically and in terms of behavior. He would tell you himself that it helps him to take the medication. One initial issue was getting the right drug. He started on Concerta, which kept him up all night, but after switching to Ritalin, that was much better. The other, ongoing, issue is that he doesn't have much appetite in the middle of the day - we've had to be pretty vigilant about making sure he eats.

I would encourage you to get a second medical opinion if that would help, and then just to give it a trial of a month or two. You can always take them off medication if you feel the harm outweighs the benefits. I still cannot necessarily say I'm thrilled at the idea of medication, and I just have to tune out those who want to be judgmental about it, but our experience has been very positive. Good luck with your choice. Been there, doing that

This is a very hard issue -- I know just what you are going through because we have faced this situation and are still grappling with it. Our son is now 12 and still struggling with ADHD/ADD symptoms, as well as some other symptoms that unfortunately also have left him without friends. We started trying medications because of very intense pressure from his school. We resisted for a very long time and also tried many different kinds of alternative therapies, none of which had much impact. We finally gave in because of the pressure as well as our feeling that we needed to do something to allow him to have as much of a ''normal'' childhood as possible -- which he clearly was not having. So we tried many different kinds of medicines, most of which had very little impact and some of which had horrendous side effects. About a year ago, we started him on Adderal time-release, which has had some impact. He still has problems when he gets frustrated and anxious, but in general has a much easier time focusing in school and maintaining a least a little more even temperment in school. However, night-time, when the medication wears off, is more difficult at home.

It is all a very painful process -- for both your children and for you. It never ceases to amaze me how other people make such negative assumptions about your parenting skills when your children ''act out.'' In our case, we had to battle not only other parents, but the school, where the principal was very unsupportive and, despite a public pronouncement of ''community,'' took a hands-off approach to creating a community for our son. We, like you, have clear rules and clear consequences and discipline at home, but suffer others' assumptions and implicit criticism when our child acts in a way that is contrary to their expectations.

Good luck in your decision. anonymous

I don't have advice, mostly because I'm right about the same place you are. But I sure do sympathize. I have a bright, extremely active, emotional, and impulsive 6-year old first grade daughter. During her troubled K year we sent her to a psychologist for play therapy and it seemed to help somewhat with the outbursts and periodic non-cooperation at school. This year started poorly and we are now getting a behavioral pediatrician to evaluate her. Maybe you've done something like that? It's a dozen sessions total with the doc plus he does numerous phone interviews with the people she interacts with. We will see what's on the other side of that, and although I will exhaust all avenues before medication, the downside of her behavior is so damaging to her sense of self I cannot let it go on indefinitely. Our options are 1)find a less structured school, or move to the outback and homeschool 2) commit to long term therapy to see if the psychological support helps 3) meds. Obviously keeping a solid routine at home -- guarding their sleep and eating habits -- helps quite a bit, but it sounds like you have that covered. My kid does no extra-curricular stuff outside of school since she's exhausted and fragile at the end of the day, and much more apt to lose control. Are your kids at public or private school? And did you find the Magic 1-2-3 program helpful at all? I'm not familiar with it. signed, sarah, a sympathetic mom

I wish I could give you a hug! I too have been down the road of the judgement of others youre too permissive, but you shouldnt yell, your child is too loud, too active, calls out the answers, reacts bigger to teasing and such.

Do you know that your kids have ADD/ADHD? Have they been diagnosed? If they havent, you need to do that. If they have you need a really supportive doctor. I use Brad Berman who is WONDERFUL. He really likes my kid! He really cares. Hes told my son to call him anytime. They have one-to-one talks. Brad tells my son how terrific he is and is frank about the issues hes dealing with. My son too is gifted, cares about school, has friends. But the ability to control himself is not all there yet. We decided to put him on meds when he expressed his concern about how things were at school. He is very clear that having meds helps him focus on school and on his homework. It has helped with his cooperation as well. He was already a very self aware person not that he sat down and talked a lot about it, but at times he certainly does. It has made life much easier for everyone and school is much better. We also decided in middle school to put him in a private school with whole-child approach - that is they care about his mental and emotional state as well as his academic performance.

By the way, I got the recommendation for Dr. Berman a few years ago from this list. His office is in Walnut Creek and his phone number is 925-279-3480. There was a waiting list for new patients when we signed up. But I left a very frank message about how hard things were and they got me in earlier.

Good luck! Don't be afraid of meds.
a mom who has been there

Phew! You have your hands full. A household full of ADHD is an exciting and demanding place to be a parent. I have three perspectives to offer you. I got a diagnosis of ADD Inattentive for my 7th grade daughter many years ago and followed the suggestion of the doctor to give ritalin. I was really shocked when she commented, ''Now I can follow the conversation at the dinner table mom!'' She was not really the shy, uninterested in people, more interested in TV kid that I thought I knew. She had a great, dry sense of humor and enjoyed eighth grade more than she had ever enjoyed school because she discovered that her ''exposed'' personality made her POPULAR. The key to getting this is to see that she was always there, but her distractibility (among other things I won't get into here) made it so hard for her to keep up with the action that she just gave up. She later went off meds in high school, the sense of humor and popularity stayed, the things she had learned while available on meds continued to help her stay organized and recognize when her ADD was getting in the way. The story is longer, and not everything is so lovely, so in other words, she is really a normal kid. That's my personal, indirect, experience.

I am also a volunteer facilitator for an adult support group and a certified parent trainer for CHADD. I hear a lot there from people who have experienced AD/HD from both sides, medicated and non-medicated. has a national clearinghouse and it is a place to get information about medication and support groups for parents. Schwab Foundation has a parent message board.

In my private educational therapy practice I see people who have had both good and poor results with medication. It's not for everyone and it's a very personal choice. Medication works best with education - of kids, teachers, parents, family, friends.

The practical considerations you mention are the reality of life with ADHD in this time and place. It's not easy, but it doesn't have to be awful! Good luck to you. linda lawton

Two words about your situation: Brad Berman. He is fabulous, thoughtful, and knows his stuff. Other postings have mentioned him as well. Our child is 100% better all the way around after starting on meds. Why have your child(ren) struggle and fail academically and socially if they can't help themselves because their brain chemistry is off? If your kid was diabetic and needed meds, you'd use them. It's the same deal with ADHD. If your child doesn't improve with meds, you can always stop them with no adverse affects. And forgive people who judge you and your children: they are clueless, thoughtless, and obviously need all the help they can get in order to be kinder and gentler in the world. It can get better

Another perspective on meds for ADHD: I'm always wary of comparisons of ADHD with medical conditions such as Diabetes (as in advice like ''If your child had diabetes you wouldn't withhold insulin, would you?''), which are illnesses that involve the body failing to produce a needed chemical/hormone/whatever that it naturally produces--like insulin, or thyroid hormone for people with thyroid conditions or even seratonin for depressed people. Ritalin and many ADHD medications do not replace missing chemicals in the body--they introduce new ones, often stimulants, and the long-term results of medicating children like this are still being studied. The jury is by no means in, as far as I understand it, on those effects. For instance, I gather it is now proven that prolonged use of ADHD medication can permanently stunt a child's growth. Also, anecdotally, I know more than one child who has tried the spectrum of medications offered for ADHD and who may be doing better with attention, but whose appetite has not returned despite prolonged use and the promise that it will, and whose sleep patterns seem to be permanently disruptive. By no means do I think that medication should NEVER be tried, but I DO think that the argument that medication is THE answer to ADHD needs to be greeted with some sceptcism, especially when advocated by an organization (CHADD) that, while appearing to have sprung up from a grass-roots parent support group, is actually deeply funded by Ciba Geigy, the very drug company that makes Ritalin. (see this PBS report for more detail: I say, don't rule out medication, but try everything short of it first! Susan

Rages in 13 y/o on Concerta/Ritalin

Nov 2006

I am interested in what other families have done if the Ritalin or concerta for ADHD seems to be causing rages in a teenage girl but no other medications works well enough to get her through a day at school. This has happened with my daughter. The rages were so bad that she almost had to be hospitalized. We have Kaiser Insurance and I am frustrated with the lack of coordination between the pediatric department and psychiatry (the only discipline who can prescribe something other than stimulants)

There is a similar question in the archives but I would like to know if any other family is currently dealing or has dealt with this issue and how they handled it.

My daughter has tried adderal and a high blood pressure medicine without success. Any advise appreciated
worried mom

Have you considered getting your child off of the meds and in a school that has a different sort of structure that may be more conducive to her personality? While ADHD certainly has a basis in the individual, it is also a social construct. Meaning, in a different sort of situation, a different sort of schooling atmosphere, the ''problems'' of ADHD - the lack of focused attention, hyperactivity, etc - would not be the level of problem that it is in a traditionally structured school. Perhaps a smaller, more collaborative, more physical type of environment would suit her personality and allow her to succeed without the potentially scary side effects of the meds, like the rages or whatever else. Just a thought. Anon

As I have stated before, I do not accept the designation of ADHD as a ''disease'', and feel that the use of stimulants to ''treat'' this condition is misguided in almost all cases. I am not a psychiatrist, but, as a neuroscience professional, I am very concerned about the effects of stimulants on the developing brain. In my experience, many kids with the diagnosis of ADHD are, in reality, bored and/or underchallenged in their school situation, or are sufficiently ''different'' that they disturb the status quo; and, as is common in our culture, need to be ''medicated'' so that they ''fit in''. Often, changing the school situation, and use of physical activities can go a long way to deal with ''hyperactivity'' and other ''learning disorders''. Get another opinion from a good psychiatrist, preferably of academic standing . Robert A. Fink, M. D.

My son had and has trouble with anger and rage. For him it isn't caused by meds but I think some meds are better than others. We are using strattera now and things are not perfect but we're managing. We followed the advice on this list and went to Dr. Berman. He has been terrific. I hope someone with Kaiser can help you. Best of luck to you. This is so hard! still working on it

I have to ask some hard questions here: what is this child's diet? how much sugar? wheat? dairy? meat? and what kinds of sugar, wheat, dairy and meat are being imbibed? what excercise is this child getting? as in how many HOURS a day? how much television is this child watching? what kind of television? how much time playing or watching video games? what kind? how much time on a computer? is this time on the computer supervised. what attention 1-on-1 is this child getting? how much of the time each day, of this child, is supervised by the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and caring adults in the childs life? it sounds like you are solely ''working'' with allopathic dr's and, frankly, you are getting the results you are... it is no wonder. i do not believe in medicating our children. i believe that there are better answers than poisoning our up-and-coming generations. hopefully, you will see the answers not hidden within the questions that i have asked above. finally, i dont know if you meditate (and i am speaking of non-christian eastern type meditation) however, if you do not, it is time to learn how to and then teach this child. there are MANY MANY forms of ''skilled relaxation'' meditation, guided meditation, all sorts of tapes/recordings, self hypnosis (my favorite) and so much more. do not be brainwashed by the allopaths. they are NOT the sole answer, and frequently, they are no answer at all, as you are experiencing. this, of course is only my opinion, however, if you look at my questions and find some non=allopathic pysicians with whom you can work, you will be amazed at the speedy recovery of your child.

How long has your daughter had these rages? My son (12) had a terrible time at school last year because his teachers ignored his special ADHD needs (he just got angrier and angrier) but now that he is in a new school with teachers who know his issues and how to work with him he is much happier. If these rages have been going on for some time you need more help than you are getting from Kaiser. Ere you familiar with Dr. Daniel Amen and his clinic in Fairfield? He has worked with many types of ADHD kids (and adults) and uses different types of anti-depressants and/or stimulants to help his patients. His web-site is He could also suggest someone closer to you that could help. I often have to go outside of our healthcare plan to work with specialists but it's worth it because I can't afford to waste time by not using the best. a concerned mom too

I don't recall your original question but I'd like to add my 2cents based on the other responses I've read. (As an aside, for what it's worth, here's a baby boomer who's horrified at the medicating of so many children, prompted by doctors, ''supported'' by pharmaceutical companies and completely agree with Dr. Fink and the respondant with the ''hard questions''). But I have another question. Have you paid attention to the timing of these rages? Is she menstruating? If so, are the rages in conjunction with her period? As someone who suffered from PMDD (a horribly exaggerated form of PMS), until recently when my periods finally ended, I would say a good 2.5 to 3 weeks of every month were given over to the hormones around my period, including deep sadness and rages. It wasn't until a couple of years ago (after 40+ years of suffering from this monthly and when it was basically too late to do anything significant about it) that I finally realized what was going on - in the meantime it impacted my entire life in many negative ways. Please check her out for severe PMS (or even PMDD symptoms) so that if this is what's affecting her, she doesn't have to suffer as well, though it may be difficult to distinguish if she's being negatively affected by her meds. Good luck Joan

I missed the original post, but read the responses with interest. My son (now grown) was diagnosed with ADHD when he was about ten. We had him on Ritalin for perhaps 2 weeks. The ''rebound'' effect when he got home from school was absolutely frightening. He was so angry and violent. We took him off the meds, went further with diagnosis, and eventually tried him on a variety of other things. The school was annoyed with us for ''giving up'' on Ritalin so quickly, but I told them we and he shouldn't have to pay the price we were paying for a calmer school day. Eventually what worked best for him was a boarding school for alternate learners (NAWA academy--he didn't get there until mid-year of 11th grade). He was still on some meds (but not stimulants) when he was there, but once he graduated, he chose to go off the meds, and as an adult is managing well without them at a college that accomodates alternative learning styles (Antioch). He is NOT bipolar, despite his huge mood swings on ritalin. He is intelligent, enthusiastic, and highly empathetic after all he has been through. The bottom line--whatever you decide about medication, if the current med is causing huge rages at home, you don't need it and she doesn't need it. There has to be a better way, with or without meds Hang in there--it's worth it

Rages in daughter who's been on Ritalin for 4 years

May 2005

Has anyone used or known anyone who has used a childs individual neurotransmitter and amino acid tests to manage ADHD. My child has been on ritalin and concerta for 4 years. For the past 8 weeks there have been progressively more intense angry rages and outbursts. She is 12 years old. I have lowered her dose and would like to wean her off the ritalin and concerta. I would like to begin to use an alternative approach. A reference to the use of neurotransmitters and amino acids was made in an ADHD parent support group web site. Any experience or information from any parent or guardian in this group would be greatly appreciated. I am also looking for a homeopath with experience with ADHD and children in Oakland or Berkeley. Thanks much Desperate and Anon

Randall Neustaedter, OMD CCH specializes in children and ADHD. He is a doctor of Oriental medicine and a classical homeopath. He is in Redwood City at the Classical Medicine Center and probably worth the drive. You may also find a homeopath or other practitioner who specializes in children and ADHD by searching the directory of the Holistic Pediatric Association at Jane

I wonder if your daughter is getting more moody because she has began menstruating recently. Depression doubles in girls at the onset of menstruation, around age 12. Also, age 12 is a tough age for adolescents and girls at this age can get into clicks and become difficult to communicate with. I speak from experience remembering what a hard year my daughter had at age 12, and also as a psychiatrist I often find in women with depression that their first memory of feeling sad began about age 12. anon

I wanted to suggest to you that the rages you are seeing are as likely to be in response to reducing the Ritalin as they are a side-effect of taking it. I take Ritalin on a daily basis I can tell you that attempts to under medicate, or medicating only every 4 hours (unless that happens to be your metabolic rate) can lead to moments of rage and despair (as well as fuzzy thinking) as the meds wear off.

If your child was accurately diagnosed, and medication previously has helped, it may be that what's needed is more of what she's taken in the past, or a different medication. Only an expert you trust can tell you whether reducing her meds, or changing her regimen is a good thing to do -- or even safe. Please, tell me that the changes you are proposing are being made under the care of an ADHD expert. Heather

Alternatives to Ritalin for 8-year-old

Sept 2004

I am trying to help a family member cope with her wonderful yet ''souped up'' 8 year old daughter, who is taking Ridalin to help her focus in school. She does not have the classic symptoms of ADHD, and the psychiatrist wonders if she could be manic. She took Ridalin for four months, and her reading improved 3 grade levels. Impressive, but she hates taking it (she cries every morning) and has no appetite. She literally did not gain one pound last year. While the drug does help her focus, her personality seems to be pulled back to the point where she doesn't quite have her usual spark. (In fact, she asked her class whether they liked her better with or without medication. The kids voted for without, while the teachers clearly saw better learning outcomes since she could concentrate.) Are there better alternatives? Someone mentioned the drug Straterra... Are there effective alternatives to drugs? I believe in a holistic approach but do not want to send the parents through a path of snake oils. I welcome your advice, which I will pass on. THANK YOU! Help Needed

I have seen great results in treating issues like these (bipolar disorder, ADHD, ADD, etc.) with nutrient therapy. See for an approach. This clinic, although located in the midwest, does outreach clinics around the country and will be in the Bay Area next month. Feel free to contact me for more details. Robin

I was diagnosed with adult ADHD and began taking Straterra about 8 months has been an incredible help to me. The advantage over Ritalin is that it is not a stimulant, and therefore not a controlled substance. The disadvantage is that it is patent-protected and therefore much more expensive. For me! the cost is very worth it. A holistic approach would include therapy but I don't have the time or patience. :-) Michael

Hi There is a great organization called Feingold ( that every parent should know about. My son was displaying behaviour problems often associated with ADD. He also had problems concentrating and sitting still at school. On the other hand, he was able to sit still for a very long time at certain times. The Feingold organization has done ''numerous studies that show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior, and/or health effects for sensitive people.'' My son has become a different person with the help of this organization. It is well worth the effort. happy without medicine

Spending time in a leafy environment can reduce ADHD symptoms. 20040406-000015 Do you really have a proper diagnosis? Is it really ADHD? ADHD.html Neurotoxins could be the problem: sunsol

If you are dealing with ADHD the best first treatment is with either a stimulant med or a non-stimulant med (Strattera). Improving diet and lifestyle are definitely helpful, too. (I liked the comment you got from Michael about not being patient enough for therapy -- ADHD humor, ha ha). If you are dealing with something ''like'' ADHD then Feingold or a nutritional approach may be all you need. A child who is sensitive to additives could appear to be ADHD, and benefit from intervention -- but whether that child has ADHD is a different question.

ADHD is not a nutritional failing or a character flaw, its a genetic neurochemical disorder for which there is a known successful treatment. If you trust your diagnosis and the doctor who recommends Ritalin, try it If you aren't sure -- find another doctor and get a second opinion. Just because Ritalin is over-prescribed in general doesn't mean your child's life can't be transformed by appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Heather

Do you tell friends & family your child is on meds?

Dec 2003

My child was recently diagnosed with ADHD and is now on medication (whoopee, it is really helping!) 1st question: do others of you tell family and friends your child is on a stimulant? Do you get unsolicited anti- med advice? How do you handle it?

2nd question: I have been diagnosed with ADHD too (no surprise) and have been prescribed a med. The psychiatrist I saw charges $15/month to process the triplicate. Is this typical? thanks!!

It has been my experience that people have some strong feelings about ADHD meds and are not hesitant to communicate their personal biases if you give them an opportunity. I would advise giving yourself time to assess your own response to medication before inviting confusion into your decision. Your child's teacher should know that your child is medicated because that relationship is impacted and the teacher can offer valuable feedback. Teachers are required to maintain the confidentiality of that information. I am a teacher and an ADHD coach, so I have heard a lot about this! Linda Lawton

My 8-year-old daughter was also diagnosed with ADHD (finally!). She is on Adderall, and is doing immensely better.

Yes, I tell family and friends, and if I got anti-meds flak from them (which I haven't so far), I woudl offer to let them watch my daughter for a week or 2 without meds. People who haven't been in the situation and know nothing about it shouldn't be judgemental!

As far as your psychiatrist charging you to fill out the triplicate forms - mine doesn't, but I don't feel that it is unreasonable - since the meds are a controlled substance, there is probably a certain amount of extra paperwork/processing involved dealing with the triplicate forms and whatever regulations are involved.

feel free to contact me if you want a sympathetic ear! nkf

In reference to the question about meds for your child, my child is diagnosed with another disorder and has been on meds for almost a year to control his aggression. I do not tell everyone, only select family members that will need to know for his care. There are some people, including family and parents, that have never accepted his disability from the beginning so they definately wouldn't understand the fact that he has to be on meds. I am very careful about who knows and it's not discussed very often. Anonymous

Though I don't have enough experience to really answer your question, there is a great parent bulletin board/forum with a ton of parents who have dealt with this at Good luck! Anon.

Initially I was pretty circumspect about telling people that my child had ADHD and was on meds. Then I decided that I was role modelling that it was something to cover up. So I started treating it like I did my other child having an allergy. Yes, people do sometimes offer unsolicited advice. But if you present the information with a tone of confidence (this is how it is) rather than inquiry (what do you think?) they are much less likely to say anything. If they do, you can say something like, thanks for your concern, we're doing fine. BTW, I realized from the tests that I have mild ADD and have developed coping mechanisms over the years. So you and I can attempt to explain what it ''feels like'' but the truth is they may never understand. anon mom

The question isn't who to tell, but what to do with unsolicited advice? In this case I think I'd develop a stock and fairly harsh response for most people, along the lines of ''Thank you. I appreciate your insight, but of course you really know nothing about my child or our circumstances''.

Unsolicited advice is one of the more annoying by-products of life in Berkeley. PLEASE don't suffer it in silence...

But, if in fact the advice is from family who know and love you and your child --- I'd request that they withold judgement for six months and see how things are going. ...And, there's always the ''Stimulants for ADHD are like glasses for myopia'' argument. (Its not kind to withold them unless they aren't really needed).

p.s. My doctor charges $10 for writing the prescription. Heather treated. It is also likely that his father ''self medicated'' (ie: drug use) to deal with the challenges this condition brings. The doctor has suggested Ritalin and I have many questions. Will it turn my son into a zombie? What are the long term effects? I would like to hear from parents who have had to make this difficult decision. I would like to know about the good, the bad and the ugly. I want what is best for my son. I want him to have a chance to be successful.I have been doing some reading but I would love to hear from other parents about how you and your child are managing. Thanks. a mom

There is a great book that I used for the Cody's Parenting book group called ''Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in your Head.'' The author, Carla Hannaford, offers a less typical approach for dealing with ADD that you may find helpful. She advocates for something called 'brain gym' which she believes has helped children with all different types of learning difficulties. Good luck! Ilona

My now 14-year-old daughter had problems with organization and attention starting in 2nd grade. I felt that she might have ADD, but none of her care providers or teachers would acknowledge that ADD existed. I had her evaluated for all sorts of learning problems, put her in counseling, etc. Four years later, when she was ending 6th, I still was reading the same comments on the report card since 2nd grade: ''Talks too much in class, can't finish assignments--too distracted. Trouble paying attention.'' My daughter also felt like her impulsivity was irritating to her friends sometimes. Her self-esteem started really suffering. So I finally found a specialist who instantly agreed she had ADD. She has been on Concerta (timed-release ritalin) for almost 2 years. She is much happier. Her grades have improved significantly (Now As and Bs). I feel our family relationship is much better because there is less stress. Nightly homework used to be a nightmare. The main problem now is that some core academic skills (reading, spelling, vocabulary) were not instilled during elementary school and, now, in middle school, she has some problems in those areas. My suggestion is to try the ritalin and see what you think! It's not a lifetime commitment. You'll know pretty quickly if it works or if it doesn't. Hope this is helpful for you and good luck. PS--don't be surprised if you run into very strong anti-medication opinions. Read the studies in the clinical journals. Ritalin is one of the most tested drugs available. Anonymous

My son also had trouble with focusing and getting things done and he had some really hellish years in school. No teacher ever suggested that I have him tested, they said he was smart and needed to pay better attention. He told me at age 10 that he wished he had ADD so people wouldn't blame him when he couldn't focus. He was VERY ARTICULATE. I talked to his pediatrician who talked to my son. They decided to have a diagnosis. The doctor found that he has ADD and we started on Concerta (later switched to Metadate because he didn't sleep well with the Concerta) but there were results right away. It was easier for him to complete a task from homework to chores. If you don't see a benefit right away then you can just stop the medication. It has really helped my son's confident. It hasn't changed his personality -- as he says ''I wish it made me want to do homework.'' But now he knows he can do it and he gets a lot of positive feedback in the classroom instead of constant reprimands to sit down, stop talking and not call out the answers. He feels like he's more under his own control. I really angsted about giving my child a drug for his brain but he is so much happier. I do keep reading about it and I subscribe to an e-mail newsletter about the lastest research findings. You can sign up to receive the newsletter at Good luck I know it's a really hard decision and you know your child best. anon

I've learned a lot about AD/HD lately as I recently made a career change and became a teacher -- a teacher of special needs kids with AD/HD and other Learning Differences. I also found out that I have AD/HD myself!

It is important to know that there are three potential causes for AD/HD in the brain, and that the medication that can work for your son must be targeted to the specific cause. What this means is that your pediatrician needs to try different medications, carefully monitoring the effects, and see which one works the best. Don't get discouraged if Ritalin doesn't seem to do the trick. You may just need to keep trying. Make sure that your doctor is willing to take this approach and doesn't just write you a prescription and not follow up.

Meanwhile, there are many things you can do to help. One of the most important is making sure that your son gets LOTS of vigorous aerobic excercise, every day! This has been clinically shown to have a therapeutic effect for people with AD/HD.

There are lots of other, simple ways that you and your teachers can help him cope. More information is available at a great educational outreach organization in Campbell (San Jose) called Bright Solutions. Their Web site is The head of the company, Susan Barton, conducts workshops on dyslexia and AD/HD on a regular basis, and she puts aside a chair or two for parents, for FREE, at each seminar. Please contact her -- she is a great source of help and inspiration.

Finally, you should be aware that AD/HD, for all it's difficulties, is a gift. It is strongly associated with higher IQs and brilliantly creative minds. Tap into that, and your son will find that he has an incredible asset in his ''different'' ways of thinking. Colleen

I don't know a lot about Ritalin or ADD, but I listened to an interview on NPR on the subject a week or so ago. A book was recommended which advocates against being too quick to label a child with ADD, when any of a number of attention deficits may be to blame for their behaviors. The author believes that many children are diagnosed with ADD who don't actually have it, and while Ritalin may be helpful in making their behaviors more manageable, it's not the best thing for them, because it's a drug ... for life ... which doesn't actually address their true problem. If you're interested, the name of the book is A Mind at a Time, by Mel Levine (sp?). Susan

I just noticed postings about ADHD so I thought I would let people know about the free 4 week ADHD series for parents or teachers. On Thursday June 13th at 6:30Pm till 8:30Pm Dr. Mel Burman and I will discuss medication issues. We'll cover the pro's and con's of using medication. The classes are interactive with a focus on answering parents questions. Anyone is welcome to pre-registration is necessary and no childcare is provided. This will be class #2 . Weeks 3 and 4 will cover parenting and school issues. The classes are at Kaiser Permanente, Richmond Medical Center, 901 Nevin Ave in Richmond (off of Harbor Way) You take elevator ''C'' to the 3rd floor. Rona Renner

ADD Treatment without Medication

Fish oil for ADHD?

Nov 2010

Not asking for medical advice here, but personal experience only. I've read the Australian study that said around 40% of 7-12 year olds they tested had the same improvements with their ADD/ADHD symptoms (focusing, impulsivity control, etc.)after using a certain amount of fish oil, than as if they had taken medications. Has anyone had luck with the fish oil? How much did you use? I'm seeing alot of different info on dosing amounts. I'm also wondering how long the fish oil takes before being effective. We gave my diagnosed child the smallest amount of Concerta possible for 1 day. It was amazing to see how it effected him just for one day, but then he stayed up ALL NIGHT LONG. I know we can go back to the dr. and get new meds, but I ran across the fish oil thing and thought I'd try it. anon

We've been using it for our 5 year old and it's hard to know if and how much it helps but it certainly is good for him in other ways, brain development, healthy skin, to name just two, so it's a very beneficial supplement overall. Don't expect to see any dramatic changes, though, and give it at least a month. To learn more about fish oil's overall benefits, ''Super Immunity'' by Dr. Leo Galland is a very good book, and also includes the advice of giving the type of fish oil that contains vitamin A for a week during a cold or flu to help boost the immune system. Otherwise use the kind that has little or no vit a or d, as these can be toxic over time in the amounts that you'd want to give your kid for ADHD. We give our boy one tablespoon of Carlson's ''best'' lemon flavor fish oil (no a & d). He enjoys the taste, and he likes taking it in capsule form also. We keep Carlson cod liver oil capsules for when he's sick or at risk of becoming sick and the no a & d kind for when he's well. The 500 ml liquid Carlson makes is the most economical, as it is loaded with DHA. You want about 1500 mg of DHA to treat ADHD, and Carlson's has about 500 per teaspoon. When buying fish oil, it's very important to get a brand that tests for heavy metals and other junk--Carlson's does thoroughly and is very high quality, but there are other companies that do too. Our two year old also likes the taste of the lemon fish oil, and she likes chewing on the 1000 mg. capsules. Just watch out: if it gets on clothes your kids will smell like fish and the oil stain can set, so use stain remover and wash asap. To read more about fish oil, check out Andrew Weill's advice and also Dr. Sears, the famed pediatrician, is big into the benefits of DHA. BTW, there are a number of good books about non-drug treatment of ADHD, one of which is by Edward Hallowell...i'm currently reading another one of his books, ''Super-parenting for ADD'' and it's a small but really great and important book. Mark K.

I give my ADHD diagnosed daughter fish oil off and on. I think it takes the edge off, but I have no miracle cure to report. If her symptoms get worse we get out the fish oil and are good about it for a few weeks. She is also dyslexic and she did make a leap in reading about 6 weeks after we first started fish oil. We usually use Trader Joe's sea gummies, but she also sometimes takes pills. Have you tried tea or coffee? I give them in small amounts when she really needs to concentrate. tea and fish oil--breakfast of champions

I don't know about fish oil - we have a bottle on the kitchen counter but I can't say I've noticed any change.

However I do have a 9-year-old on meds for ADD and I do know exactly the problem of the ''big improvement, but now he's up all night.'' I just wanted to tell you not to give up on the meds yet. We found that at Kaiser, they start everybody out on Concerta, but it does not work well for every single kid. It didn't work well for our kid - it kept him awake. But there are a LOT of different ''delivery systems'' for ritalin and you don't have to use Concerta. Talk to your doctor. We ended up consulting with a meds specialist to sort out the options (child psychiatrist at Kaiser). It turned out that our kid has a slow metabolism, so the timed-release meds like Concerta were just sitting there in his gut too long and then kicking in too late. Thus the all-nighters. We found something that works, and everything is smooth sailing now. But it took us several months of trying different things mainly because we didn't understand enough about what to look for, what the side-effects are. With ritalin (unlike SSRIs), you can see immediately whether it works, and immediately see the side-effects. When they stop taking it, it immediately leaves their system. So that makes it easier to find out what works for your kid.

Ritalin has made such a dramatic difference for our son. Without it, he can't function in a classroom at all, on any level. Not only that but his social interactions suffer because he can't hear what other kids are saying. (He has Inattentive Type ADD). I wish we had tried it sooner than 3rd grade. I'd be happy to answer any questions about our experience.

hi, i am adhd and been treated for 18 years. i also am extremely qualified to offer an opinion about various treatments. i have studied and researched every option with dozens of people and although fish oil has a noticable(sometimes) benefit, it really isn't significant or even measurable greater than placeboes compared to the profound effect of the stimulants. It is not uncommon to hear concerns about all sorts of negative affects or issues from the three stimulants, (especially around here) but it honestly is almost entirely unfounded. the irony is ritalin is the oldest and one of the safest medications after the more than 50 yrs it's been available. it's an irrational stigma not based in science and until you try them, i suggest you keep an open mind about the possibility. if not, focusing on your diet can help. little or no caffiene, low carbs, suger and multiple high protien sources thoughout the day is the answer. i imagine its about opposite of what you actually consume but the wrong diet can hurt maybe more than the stimulants can help. exercise everyday and letting the bodies natural endorphines focus the mind and calm the body is the best thing anyone with adhd can do to find clarity, keep alertness and be calm and productive rather than reactive and agitated. thanks and if you need suggestions for help, feel free. w.

I have given my 13 year old son fish oil for years now to help with ADHD. Even with 2-4 capsules a day, there was not enough of an impact on his symptoms. I consulted a nutritionist and was diligent with his recommendations, but in the long run, it was not enough to help him. After much hesitation, we put him on meds. He was on Concerta and it was really difficult with him losing his appetite and having trouble getting to sleep. We switched him to Strattera and it has been significantly better. It does not affect appetite or sleep. I highly recommend you consider that if you're looking into meds. It keeps him calm, focused and less impulsive. anon

We tried fish oil with my son who has attention issues related to ADHD (at the recommendation of his neurologist) when he was in 4th grade, as I felt the need to do full due-diligence before trying any medications. After one month we found no difference in his ability to focus and finally stopped. When we finally tried medication (Concerta), the change was immediate and dramatic. No doubt there are side effects (he has a bit of trouble falling asleep at night), but we find it manageable if he takes his medication early enough in the day (never after 8am on a week day). Anon

My son took Omega-3 fish oil for anxiety and ADD. HUUUUUGGGGGEEEE difference w/in a few days. This was rx'd for him by his psychiatrist instead of meds. He was in 5th or 6th grade at the time and is small for his age...This was also after a brain scan to compare his brain activity to others of his age and level. First we started w/ 3 of the big caps...No difference. Then we added a 4th...MAJOR!!! I can't say enough about this. We got high quality...there are many brands. The caps are soft and squishy so easy to swallow. He took them every day (usually at night...his preference) for several years....then slowly kept forgetting, I forgot to nag, summer camp, etc. Now he doesn't take it at all. He has gotten through hsi anxiety and is doing great. Personally I think EVERYONE should take Omega-3. It's an important supplement to our health and daily nutrition for many reasons. Definately worth a try but get a high quality brand...not TJ's or cheapo....the cheapo brands are often rancid and will give him fishy burps. UCH!! Good luck. anon mom

We are just one family, but fish oil did not work for us and we tried for an entire year. In fact we tried every possible alternative program we could find: occupational therapy, cranial sacral therapy, acupuncture, family therapy, social skills group, chiropractor and finally we tried meds and they worked! Our son was a new child on the very first day of concerta. Later, we noticed that he became dull and unconnected with the world, so we tried other meds that worked better. Now he is 11 and his wonderful school is working with him without meds!!! They say it is like a new upbeat child with great things to say has joined their school. When he was on meds he didn't raise his hand or participate in group discussion. He actually didn't say much at all and not to his parents either. Plus, he lost his appetite and didn't like sleeping either. I wish I had all the answers, but it is a very hard road you are on & going through it will make you stronger and a better person/parent. Be sure you have a great Behaviorist like we have at Children's Hospital who is willing to work with you and find the lowest dosage possible. Parents of boy who happens to have ADHD

I don't have any experience with fish oil, but I do with meds. My daughter has ADHD and I ''fought'' the concept of putting her on medication. However, as many people reminded me, I would give her medication for any other serious problem that was treatable with medicine.

In any case, on so many levels my decision to try medication for her was one of the best I've ever made. Her grades sky-rocketed, her social interactions and friendships improved dramatically, and home life got less chaotic, particularly around homework and chores. In fact, she thanked me for having her take them. I now wish I hadn't waited as long as I did (5th grade).

There are many options in terms of meds and forms of delivery. The time-release options did not work (they ''ran out'' early rather than keeping her up) and others gave her stomach upset. I did not want her to have the stigma of going to the school nurse to take a pill at lunch, her doctor suggested the daily patch (Daytrana). It is fabulous, but very expensive, so it is usually not a first choice (particularly for Kaiser, I would assume). She takes it off around 5 p.m. and has no problems getting to sleep.

In retrospect, I realize there is no reason not to use medication. She is not ''drugged'' any more than a kid with Type 1 Diabetes is ''drugged'' when they use insulin. Mom of happier child

We've used both Fish Oil, Concerta and Methelphenedate (Ritilin). In my son's case case the fish oil was not nearly as effective as the drugs, but was considerably better than nothing at all. I took the fish oil too, although I didn't notice it helping my ADD. We had a devil of a time finding fish oil that did not make us both stink and that had pills that were small enough for a child to swallow. And when we succeeded my hubby stocked up on them, and it turns out that they also make you stink when they are not fresh, so my son no longer trusts them not to make him stink, and resists taking them. Also hampered by DH's giving child ''a break'' from the fish oil pills, since the other drugs worked better, during which child forgot (and now refuses to believe) that there was one fish oil pill that was really stink-less. (The break was a bad notion because success via drugs does not mean the child has enough Omega 3 in his brain. I may try another less smelly source of Omega 3 such as flax seed oil in addition to the drugs. ) I'll repost the info on stinkless fish oil capsules if I can find it. Those that claim to be ''burpless'' still make you stink, and not just a little.

Since your son responded well to Concerta except the sleep problem, I suggest you try the short-acting Ritilin or generic equiv. methelphenedate. Same stuff without the candy coating. Although we give our child Concerta most days, I prefer the short-acting which has no candy coating to introduce digestive variables. We also must ignore instructions to give the drug on an empty stomach since it suppresses our child's appetite.

BTW, we decided we'll feel guiltier depriving our son of the drugs than we will giving him the drugs. One mom said, ''If I could get a drug to help my child, I would crawl across burning coals to get it.'' Either way, we'll feel guilty. And we cannot get our son to sleep on time with or without drugs, so you are better parents than we are in that respect. - Hope this helps -

Neurofeedback training for ADD

June 2010

I would love to hear from anyone who has any experience with neurofeedback training for children with learning difficulties. My son is a 4th grader with inattentive type ADD. Searching online, I found the Attention & Achievement Center (4 bay area locations) as well as a handful of independent practictioners. Please share any experiences you may have as to the efficacy of the therapy itself as well as any reviews of local practitioners. I also would like to find out how much it costs (and do costs vary much among providers). Heidi

I had a bad experience with Attention & Achievement Center. They saw that I was desperate, said what I wanted to hear, and took my money. The results: they had an unexperienced, revolving staff perform the neurofeedback on my son. The whole experience was frustrating and a waste of time and money.

I'm not saying that neurofeedback does not work. It does but it's finding the right practitioner. Susan Snyder, PhD does neurofeedback but I don't know if she works with children. Her contact number is 925-388-2001.

There is no easy answer. It takes a lot of work and any one who makes outrageous promises - beware! Anon

Feedback about Attention and Achievement Center

Sept 2009

I am considering testing myself and would like to know if you have any feedback about this place. I would love to hear any positive or negative feedback you may have experienced or heard. Since the treatment is very expensive I want to make sure it'll be worth the money. Thank you!! Ann

Yes, the treatment is expensive, very expensive and time consuming. When I first met with Dr. Hashemian at Attention & Achievement Center I felt an immediate connection with him. I felt that he really understood what my son was going through, and what I, his mother, was going through. I could not wait for treatment to start. The result: I was most disappointed with the treatment. Please read his legal disclaimer CAREFULLY,

''... While Ali Hashemian and other providers of complementary and alternative services hold private certification from independent credentialing bodies, such services are not regulated by the government and no licensing is offered. As such, providers of alternative or complementary services, including Ali Hashemian, are not, and are not required to be, physicians, surgeons, psychologists, or mental health providers and are not licensed by the State of California as healing arts practitioners.''

Yes, treatment was performed by his administrative staff. TM

May 2009

I am thinking about using the Attention and Achievement Center in Walnut Creek(also Pleasanton, San Mateo and Fremont) to assess and treat my son for ADD. Has anyone used them and how do you feel about the results? Thank You

It's a big money making business. Dr Hashemian has a revolving staff. You might get someone pleasant one session and rude the next. When I asked his office staff to tell me about The College of Behavioral Medicine, which they are a division of, no one knew what it was.

Their team of professionals are independent contractors which mean they refer to one another. There is very little coordination with the work that they do except take your money. I was certainly disappointed with Attention & Achievement Center. The neurofeedback my son received did not make a measurable difference with his ADHD, if any at all. Be sure to read their LEGAL DISCLAIMER carefully. A Wiser Mom

Dr. Stein's book about parenting ADHD no drugs

Feb 2009

Hi, I'm reading dr. David B. Stein's book ''Unraveling the ADD/ADHD fiasco, successful parenting without drugs''. Anyone read this book and followed his Caregivers' Skill Program (CSP)? My position is that I don't want to give my children drugs. Dr. Stein's CSP is about behavior modification implementing a firm program with time-outs for target (mis)behaviors, at the same time as you lovingly encourage the positive behavior. So, no positive or negative reinforcing of bad behavior, just time-outs, and lots of positive reinforcement for behaviors we want to keep.

The only thing I really have a problem with is the spanking. He says to spank the child three times on the bottom if he's not complying with going to time-out. I don't want to spank my children but he says it's necessary in the beginning to get started and showing them that you mean business. After that, just the threat of spanking could suffice. Any comments, views, opinions? K

Do you have ADD or ADHD? I do. I knew that I had problems focusing as a child. My parents talked about more discipline, that it's all in self-discipline and parental discipline. I believed the hooey until I became an adult.

As an adult in my early 40s I had the courage to bring this up to my doctor. I have been on medication since. After medication for the first time in my life, I could take my 170 point IQ (yes, really), slow it down and actually concentrate for 2 or more hours at a time. Before medication, my mind would race, here's how it looked. Okay, students open your math books to page 151, lets begin with problem three - my mind would then think 3 is a prime number I wonder how many other number problems are prime numbers? What about the answers to the problems do they create prime numbers? Why don't they teach us early on about the specialty of prime numbers? Surely the teachers must recognize it, because they begin teaching prime numbers in middle school. Then the teacher would make me stay in - I could do the assignment in less than a quarter of the time as other students - if I could only concentrate - and so it goes.

Imagine what I could have accomplished if only the chemicals in my brain had been balanced?

My guess is that your kids are really smart. I would like for you to try one thing. Try the method you say for 30 days. Then try medication for 30 days. Let the results of each guide your decision. You sound like a great mom; you'll know what to do with the simple experiment over 60 days. ADD Mom

Please don't spank your ADD/ADHD child. It won't work. The brain chemistry of these kids is such that punishments like that aren't effective--they don't have as much self- control and ability to inhibit their own behaviors and think about future results as typical kids. Most of ADD/ADHD kids already are confounded by what they do and why everyone around them is so exasperated or they have trouble with friends. Keep reading books and exploring websites that offer solutions you are comfortable with and that resonate with what you think will work for your child. Good luck. Another mom of an ADD/ADHD kid

Please go to the CHADD website: It's stands for Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. I am an adult with ADHD. I strongly disagree with the ideas you mentioned. ADHD, while called a disorder, is not something to punish for. The brain is malleable and there are many tools and programs to help ADHD children (and adults) improve their focus and behaviors. SM

First of all, many people I know with extensive experience working with children feel that time-outs don't work.

Second, while as a parent you always want to reinforce good behavior and discourage bad behavior, you have to look for the source of the behavior. Kids with ADHD aren't just being bad to be bad. For a child with ADHD, behavior problems result from an inability to direct or focus their attention appropriately to cope with the demands of the world (in school in particular). ADHD is not a lack of attention per se, but a lack of an ability to direct the attention as needed.

So, while you may develop a program to deal with a child's behavior at home, if you don't deal with the underlying cause, how with the child get along in the world away from home, especially at school? Will you expect your child's teacher to follow this program? In which case you will be out of luck because I don't think a school exists that will use spanking as a punishmet. At least I hope it doesn't exist.

You don't say why you are opposed to medication, but I think you should talk to some parents and children who have gone that route. The brains of children with ADHD are wired differently, and the medication is very effective in helping them control impulses and focus their attention. It is not the answer by itself, usually these children also need help in other ways; often accomodations need to be made in the way lessons are taught or tests are administered.

Finally, I would ask myself why instead of using medication, you would consider an approach that depends on a threat of physical violence as a way of modifying behavior. Skeptical

I work with adults and adolescents who have AD/HD. The damage that methods such as these have produced is heartbreaking to witness. It's really unfair to punish a child for something he or she cannot control, and it doesn't teach successful self-control either. All it does is raise the saliency of the desired behavior, using fear, at the expense of the relationship with you and the child's sense of self-worth. Better to teach enlightened self-control, practice greater patience (as all parents of kids with learning differences must), and protect and help the child more. Discipline has it's proper place in every family, but it is NOT a cure for AD/HD.

It's really hard to parent kids who don't fit society's expectations of what's possible, especially when the kids don't show any visible signs of their difference. I teach a special parenting class developed by CHADD for parents of kids with AD/HD, ''Parent-to-Parent Family Training in AD/HD''. There are lots of useful, practical and scientifically valid techniques that you can use to help your child. LL

Non-medical remedies for 9-year-old's ADD?

June 2006

I would like some advice on hermal remedies for a 9 year old diagnosed with add. We have evaluated her, and a very conservative doctor diagnosed her add and wants to medicate her. I have battled with the thought and have finally come to the conclusion we need to do something. We are tutoring and helping at home all the time. I just can't bring myself to do the drugs. When she was little she was harrassed by my husband for not eating well(he's greek) and since we've had her tonsils removed, she eats great now, but is now calling herself stupid. The biggest side-effect to all the add drugs is loss of appetite. Other than the fact that I don't like the idea of my child on a narcotic, even if I could do that, I don't think she or I can deal with her not eating again and the negative effects on the household. Hopefully, being from the Walnut Creek area, all you great Berkeley-ites could recommend some herbal remedies? At my whits end

As a special educator, I feel strongly that you should listen to the advice of the ''conservative doctor'' that diagnosed your daughter's ADD. Think of ADD as television white noise always on in your head. Think of the meds as a tool to help your daughter focus enough to learn what she is being taught, such as appropriate behaviors, academics, etc., because that is what the meds are supposed to do... help clear her head of all the white noise so she can focus. I hope that your doctor recommended a good behavioral therapist/specialist who can help your daughter learn appropriate behavior and how to recognize and cope with the symptoms of ADD, etc. The meds get a bad reputation because often people expect that the meds will cure the child as with a physical ailment. With ADD it isn't true... it just helps focus the child's attention so she can be taught. She still needs to work with an expert who can help her identify her inappropriate behavior and help her with strategies to manage her ADD. As she gets older, and even as an adult, she will still have ADD and she will need to be able to manage herself in order to have a satisfying and productive school experience, adult life, etc. She won't outgrow her ADD. ADD is the result of an inherant difference in the chemical make-up of the brain. I have never heard of it being successfully managed by herbal remedies. And yes, the meds have side effects, but they can be managed well with vigilance and the help and supervision a good doctor with lots of experience with ADD. You owe it to your daughter to carefully and thoughtfully consider this... her education and the rest of her life is at stake. anon

I know you asked about herbal remedies so you may need to disregard my note. I am a clinical child psychologist with some expertise in the treatment of girls with ADHD. I completely understand your hesitancy to treat your daughter's ADHD with traditional medicine, especially given your concern about her appetite. However, let me just add that there is a good chance that stimulant medication will be quite effective, will help her in concentrate in school, will help her make and keep friends.

If she is concerned about being ''stupid'', stimulant medication is much more likely to help her to change this self-perception than any herbal remedies are. And please remember that herbal remedies have psychotropic effects too (which is why they would have any impact at all), but they are generally untested in terms of their effectiveness and side effects. Also, FYI, ADHD is never treated with narcotics. It is typically treated with a stimulant. Stimulants are very short acting and are not addictive. That means within a matter of hours you should see a positive effect on your daughter's behavior and there is little risk to a short-term trial (e.g., a few days). If stimulants aren't effective or if the side effects are intolerable, you'll find out very quickly and can discontinue medication. Good luck! I know you have a difficult decision to make. Liz O.

I suggest that you consult several websites to get information about treatment - both alternative and pharmaceutical. There is a growing body of scientific information about AD/HD (or ADD) that would save you a lot of worry and help your daughter get more out of school while the window of opportunity is wide open. I find that a lot of parents share your concern about using stimulants and associate them with images of the seamy side of life. There is an assumption that herbal or alternative remedies are somehow safer and don't expose a tender child to moral turpitude. You can check out the results of well-designed studies that measure treatment effects and choose one for your child that works reliably. We know a lot more about what works for girls these days. The most important thing you can do for your girl is to educate yourself about this disorder. Your husband may begin to respect your authority on the subject and use fewer negative parenting techniques. There are support groups and classes out there and you find out about them on these sites:,, and There are more, but these stick to the known facts, are open to considering the promising treatments (fish oil for example), and are careful not to scare people! It's hard enough to know what to do about AD/HD without confusing misinformation. LL

I cannot answer your herbal question directly, but I do want to clarify one thing. Stimulants such as Ritalin do decrease appetite, but you can counter that by feeding your kid before their meds, and by avoiding the extended release types of medicines, the ones that last 8+ hours. At one point my kid took 5mg of Adderall *after* breakfast, and although her lunchtime appetite was suppressed, she would eat heartily by 2pm and during dinner when the dose had completely worn off. Good luck. anonymous

My daughter was diagnosed with ADD at 8. She was not a great eater and was of average height but below the 10th percentile in weight. The developmental pediatrician, who had a reputation for prescribing, would not prescribe meds for her because of her weight and we were grateful for that at the time... although there were subsequent years when I would have tried *anything.*

So I absolutely, positively know where you are coming from and you were totally right to try behavioral modification first (and as well as anything else). BUT... your daughter is coming up on the age when start falling off rapidly in school if the situation is not corrected. I also have an adult friend with ADD who says, ''Even with their side effects, finding a good drug -the right drug- was heaven and made my life so much easier.'' Since you say your doctor is conservative --by which I hope you mean she doesn't prescribe at the drop of a hat-- I really urge you to send your husband to the doctor with your daughter to be educated on the issues... and then try the drugs. They are not forever, they are not all the time, and if they don't help you can stop.

It always bothers me that folks are willing to try herbal remedies that have not been tested and are often not administered by a licensed practitioner. We are, after all, talking about a herb that will affect brain chemistry! Why should it necessarily be better or safer than taking a known quantity in a pill?

As for my own daughter... she's in high school now and found her own solution in a strenuous sport plus the maturity to stay on fixed, regular schedules. But it required a LOT of parental committment and I still think we were awfully, awfully lucky that we were able to keep her on the educational bandwagon until that happened. ADD Mom

We have not medicated our 12 year old with ADD so far, but one thing that has helped a lot is Omega 3 fish oil. We use Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega capsules (cause they avoid the fish taste cause they are in a lemon flavored capsule) and give him 2 in the morning and sometimes one after school. It has helped tons with his homework. Another thing we have done is to give him a very healthy diet, without chemicals and preservatives and we really limit the junk. Good luck and I hope this helps anon

I don't know about herbal remedies for ADD, but my daughter was diagnosed with ADD at the beginning of 3rd grade when she was 8. We did opt to put her on Strattera--it is neither a stimulant nor a narcotic. She is a picky eater, but her eating was really not affected by this drug; she continued to grow well. She did well on the drug, and after taking the summer off between 4th and 5th grade, she started back on Strattera for the first half of 5th grade to see if she needed to continue it. We stopped it during the winter break, and she has been off it ever since and doing well. rita

I was diagnosed with ADD at 15 and I'd like to share some of my experiences and suggestions. Hope they're relevant! I took ritalin and my grades improved, but I felt that it altered me quite profoundly. Taking it was like being given crazy powers of concentration, but my ''spark'' was lost. Yet the social and academic rewards for taking it were enormous, so I went along. In the end, I learned to deal with my brain and attention span myself, which allowed me to stop the drug (a relief!)

''Stupid.'' It is very easy to absorb the messages coming from doctors and schools that there is Something Wrong with you. Your girl seems to have learned some of these lessons already. Then comes that cycle where, the more you tell her she's not stupid, the worse it gets. I don't think there is anything Wrong with your daughter. I feel it is key that you create an atmosphere which lets your daughter be smart, and for that to happen, you and your husband need to believe it first. So she learns differently from other kids. So what? I'm sorry that it's hard for all of you right now, but ADD is not so bad. The real danger is that she hears ''there's something wrong with you'' and ''take this pill, it will all be better. I think that's a very dangerous lesson. Instead, what helped me was: ''of course you're smart and capable. Now let's figure out a way so you can show everyone else.''

I think it is great that you recognize the need to help her, but I would try a lot of other things before the drugs:

* More structure - having blocks of time assigned on a chart for different homework was helpful.

* Move! Get up, jump, chew stuff, walk around the room, whatever; it really helped me focus. My parents fixed it so that I was allowed to do this in class, too - great!

* Rewards for increased independence. My parents helped me a lot, but weaned me by letting me know (gradually) that I was smart enough to work on my own. Then they just became the homework checkers.

Maybe you could try to find some physical outlet for her, like a sensory gym where they allow kids to race around and pillowfight, and such. Those are great.

Best of luck to you, and may you never lose patience with your bright, beautiful girl! Fine Then, Better Now

If you doctor recommends ADD meds, I'd try them, before experimenting with herbal remedies. If the meds work you will know what to expect of non-prescription alternatives. If they don't work... she doesn't have ADD.

One dose of appropriately prescribed stimulant medication will do more to eradicate your daughter's sense of being ''stupid'' than almost anything. My daughter's life was changed with the first 15 mg dose of ADD meds... when she was 15. Within an hour she knew her ADD was real, and could be harnessed --- and for the first time she really believed she wasn't stupid... even though we'd been telling her for years that she was smart. She has taken meds continuously since then, but not every day or all the time. As her study skill improve and her impulsivity declines I predict she will not take them anymore...maybe 2 more years.

If we'd known about the ADD when she was 9, we would have done the same thing then, instead of 6 years later...

For me meds for ADD are like eyeglasses for myopia -- I would be cautious about getting the safest glasses I could and the ones with just the right prescription -- but wouldn't deprive my child of glasses because they might have unwanted side effects.

I understand your concern, but weight loss or loss of appetite aren't always side effects, and there are ways of dealing with either one if it happens. ADD mom of a (smart!) ADD daughter

7-y-o with ADD diagnosis: did you try meds?

March 2006

My 7 yr old first grader has been given a definite diagnosis of ADD Inattentive. My son is a highly compassionate, fun loving, creative ''space-cadet'' type, who gets along with all his peers. All the adults he interacts with think he is a delightful child, including his teachers. I would not call him hyperactive, although in a classroom setting he fidgets and seems unable to stay focused on classwork. The only challenges we have encountered with him are in the classroom, where he seems unable to stay on task.

The doctor who evaluated him did not observe any learning disabilities, and seemed very convinced that a 5mg dose of Ritalin would greatly help him during those morning hours in school. His learning would improve and we were not likely to experience any negative side effects. We obviously want the best for our child, and it seems to us that if this is the case, if medication will give our child an immediate benefit, that we should start treatment now.

I should note that the teachers and administrators at my child's school have been very helpful and supportive, and they have already taken (and will continue taking) all kinds of remedial measures to help our child in the classroom. However, there is only so much that they can do, and they have expressed concern that in later grades, when the learning is more challenging, and the workload is greater, our child will become frustrated and his self-esteem is likely to suffer.

My question is to parents who have a child with similar characteristics diagnosed with ADD: Did you try medication? Did it help? What were the negatives? I am especially interested in hearing from parents who decided to wait a couple of years: Do you see the benefits of having waited?

I know there are a lot of horror stories circulating about Ritalin, and I am not interested in hearing about this, unless you have had direct experience with your child. Also, please understand that we are not parents at the end of the rope who are desperate to fix some behavior problems, this is not the case. We have been told that the most effective treatment bar none for our child's problems is medication, and we are wondering if there are any reasons why we should delay it.

Thank you! Anon

I worked for quite some time with children with ADD and have a husband who was diagnosed with adult ADD - though we now understand he has had it his whole life. From my experience and from speaking with my husband, I think this would depend on how your child views his life. Does he feel ''different'' from other kids? does he feel like he struggles when others are breezing through things? does he want to take the medication? Medication does help, but it always works best with behavioral interventions. There is some really well-written, kid-centerd, literature out there as well as workbooks and games for kids with ADD. Despite medication your son will need to learn coping mechanisms to deal with inattentiveness and other symptoms that are not helped by medication. It might serve your son to see if he succeeds with behavioral interventions first then if he still struggles, try the medication. With supportive parents (sound like you are) your child will succeed! anon

My child was diagnosed at age 6, but we knew something was up since he was toddler. He is currently 11 and has been retested twice with severe ADHD. To get to the point of medication, there is little risk to give it a try. It goes in and out of their system in the same day. Doctors like to start with ritalin. We did and it didn't work. My son became withdrawn and just wierd. So we tried Adderall and we saw a wonderful difference. We have been using it ever since, upping the dosage as need be. Every child is different and I don't recommend medication for everyone. For us, it is the difference between night and day, sanity and insanity - really!! I encourage you to give it a try and see what happens. Personally, we couldn't and he couldn't survive without it. P.S. We also do therapy and bevhavioral modification. 5 years experience

My daughter takes Ritalin and didn't know she was ADD (inattentive) until 15. The only reason to wait before trying meds would be some strange desire to witness more dramatic improvement... My daughter actually thought she was stupid, and that everyone who told her differently had missed something. We really didn't know what to think just that things seemed harder for her than they should be. Some ADD kids make it through to high school without treatment, but most suffer a lot, needlessly, on the way.

At your son's age organizational or occupational therapy might be great -- but I would not hesitate to give a 7 year-old the ability to be ''like everyone else,'' and that's what Ritalin has done for us.

I tell people that stimulant meds for ADD are like glasses for myopia... some folks do fine without them...if they're only slightly out-of-focus to begin, and can develop coping skills to deal with their challenges. No questions here!

Our daughter was diagnosed with ADD inattentive type in fourth grade. Although we were skeptical, we took the psychologist's advice and put her on medication (Adderall extended release) primarily because of the social consequences that were beginning to appear as a result of her tuning out and then popping back into the interaction at the point she left it only to find everyone else had moved on and thus being labeled ''slow'' or ''weird''. The effects of the medication were subtle, but still obvious to us. She is now in high school, still on medication, and doing pretty well academically and fine socially. anon

We are two years further down the path -- our warm, affectionate, creative and spacey son ''S'' is a nine year old in fourth grade. We decided to put him on Ritalin last month.

Although his teachers have consistently remarked on his attention issues, I resisted having him tested for ADD, in part because I was/am dubious about pathologizing what seems to be a common and benign characteristic -- i.e. dreaminess. Because S was basically mastering all of the skills he needed to until this year, I hoped that he'd learn to pay attention better as he grew up.

Fourth grade was a tough transition. As he is in public school, his class went from 19 students to 27. Assignments, both in class and homework, became more demanding, requiring more sustained effort. For the first time, S became conscious and bothered that he was not performing on some assignments as well as his friends. His self-esteem was plummeting during the first semester, especially as his teacher was big on timed arithmetic tests, which he found excruciating. He broke down on several occasions, telling me that he was going to flunk 4th grade.

So, we had him tested and diagnosed in November. His teacher made a bunch of accommodations, which have helped, but she says that he's shown marked improvements on math and writing since we began the Ritalin in February (confirmed by my own ''blind'' test - a series of math quizzes on and off the meds).

I'm not crazy about my kid being on a stimulant, and I am comfortable that we waited until the attention issue became a self-esteem issue for him. If we could afford to send him to an arts-oriented school with very small classes geared towards dealing w/ kids w/ ADD, I'd probably do it. Reality being what it is, I've accept him being on the meds because his attitude about school has improved dramatically, and he is now keeping up or excelling in each subject. (BTW, he started on 10 mg, which did nothing. He is now taking 15, which works fine.) Another mom of a space cadet

When my daughter was seven, she also was diagnosed as having ADD. She was unable to concentrate in school. She seemed to be in a fog, while at the same time, hyper. Doctors suggested medication also. I decided to eliminate some simple causes first. I had her tested for foods. Although, the test showed she was not sensitive to any foods, I did remove gluten grains from her diet and she did stop having ear infections. The real turning point came when a friend of mine suggested that I read: ''The Yeast Connection''. I thought yeast was an adult female problem. Come to find out Candida can be passed on to our babies during birth. Well, it took some time before I could get a doctor to do a Candida Albican antigen blood test, but when a test was finally done, my daughter had highter levels of candida than I had. It has to do with antibiotics and all the simple sugars our children get at a very young age. The doctor didn't know exactly how to treat it, but we tried several months of the diet (mentioned in the book) and some Nystatin. What a change!!! The ADD symptoms dissapeared almost immediately. My daughter is much older now and she tells me when she over-does the sweets she gets a yeast infection and feels spacy. It's worth looking into. ADD and Candida connection

Concerta helps my child. Whether the medication works, how much you need and what type will vary by the child so you just have to TRY it and play around with it. The research is clear that this is an effective treatment for ADHD.

Just remember it is called a drug TRIAL. You TRY the dosage and drug on your child to OBSERVE if it makes a difference. You get your child's teachers to fill out an ADHD questionnaire (like the SNAP) before medication has begun and then at the end of the 1-2 week drug trial so you have an objective measure (although it may be obvious that it helps or does not help). Your son sounds pretty insightful so you can also ask him how it makes him feel. Ritalin is a short acting drug that will leave your child's body FOREVER after about 8 hours. Giving your child a few pills is NOT like deciding to do some type of irreversible surgery. If you do not like the drugs, you will have the power to STOP or try a different dosage/type. If you decide to stay on the medication then every year or so you will see what happens if you stop the drugs and in order to decide if your child still needs them.

I am sorry if I seem impatient, but I have seen this question so many

Helping child with ADHD, not on medication

Oct 2005

My son has mild ADHD, and has never had medication. He does well at school, except for homework, which often is incomplete. Also, his spelling is very non-standard, so to speak. I wanted to talk with other parents of kids with ADD/ADHD that do not medicate their child (I am not interested in any advise that is pro-medication) and ask how they deal with homework, the intensity of anger with parents and siblings, the distractability, etc. How are you able to help channel your child's strengths in a productive way?

It is very important to keep in mind that just because your child has ADD, it does not mean he does not have any other problems. I say this with regards to his spelling. Many different things can cause spelling trouble, and many with ADD have no trouble with spelling. I am not saying ADD is not the problem, I am just saying that there may be other problems.

With regards to controlling ADD, and channeling the energy, deciding not to medicate often means deciding to allow your son to live a slightly different life than traditional children live. Students with ADD/ADHD tend to have higher energy, and they therefore require a high energy lifestyle. He will require more activity, more attractions/distractions, more behavior management, especially with regards to conflict and boredom. PaulTheTutor

I'm sure you'll get lots of advice on this. As a teacher of kids w/ ADD/ADHD I will give you my single best suggestion for homework... predictable routine. I would try to work with your child's teacher and ask him or her to reduce the amount of homework (only for a while) and see if she/he can allow for predictable assignments (i.e. a mathwork sheet each night in math, the same part of a spelling unit every Tuesday, etc.) That way, you child will know exactly what needs to be done. If your child can start getting into the habit of doing a little homework, and realize that it is something he/she can do and complete, a routine will get established. You can gradually add more and include different types of assignments. It will take some communication with the teacher, but it is worth a try. Best of luck. I think you will be able to do it w/o meds. -a teacher

Have you tried books on food allergies and how diet affects children with ADHD? There are several out there. I have a friend whose son was diagnosed with ADHD, and wasn't convinced his medication was the right thing for him. She spent countless hours researching foods on the internet, and found which foods to avoid -- many contained high levels of sugar and sodium. Her child's behavior changed dramatically as a result of his new diet. Hope this helps. anonymous

Sometimes people who are trying to avoid or reduce medication try The Listening Center in Walnut Creek. It is very expensive and very time consuming. They do Tomatis based therapy for auditory processing disorders. This may help your child if he also has auditory processing disorders in addition to ADHD. If it is 'just' a question of 'pure' ADHD which is a neurochemical imbalance then I doubt this method would help him. They do an evaluation($375)for auditory processing disorders. A LOT of intensive excercise may also help with the neurochemical imbalance in the same way that regualar cardiovascular excercise has been shown to be as effective as an antidepressant in some studies. My daughter does better sleeping and being calm when she gets LOTS of excercise. good luck

Diet, Sugar, and ADHD

March 1999

I have a 10 year son who has recently been diagnose with ADD. He is not on any medication(ridilin). His Doctors recommend the Feingold diet before starting the medication.

I would strongly suggest some research and a visit with a behavioral pediatrician. There are many useful techniques for dealing with ADHD that don't involve the use of medications. The Feingold diet is not one of them.

The Feingold diet removes foods containing additives and preservatives on the theory that these substances cause ADHD. This claim has not stood up under scientific testing.

Russell Barkley, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at University of Massachusetts Medical Center, is a leading ADHD researcher. In his book Taking Charge of ADHD he addressed Benjamin Feingold's claim:


Most of the substantial research done over the next decade [after Feingold announced his theory] was simply unable to substantiate Feingold's claim. In fact, only a very small number (5% or less) of mainly preschoolers showed a slight increase in activity or inattentiveness when consuming these substances. No evidence has ever been provided that normal children develop ADHD or that ADHD children are made considerably worse by eating them.

Barkley also addresses another myth about diet--that sugar causes ADHD.

Not a single scientific study has been provided by proponents to support these claims. Since 1987 a number of scientific studies of sugar have been conducted, and these have generally proven negative.

There are number of people who promote low-sugar diets for treatment of ADHD. The diets with the best self-reported success rates tend to be extremely structured. Researchers believe that the success of those diets comes not from lower sugar levels, but from the increased structure in the child's life and changed parental expectations.

A healthy diet can only help any child, but none of the diet-based theories about the cause of ADHD have panned out. Research has established that ADHD is linked strongly to heredity, and current research points to inherent chemical imbalances in the brain. In light of these findings, it seems unrealistic for parents to pin their hopes on diet as a solution to the problems associated with ADHD. Ken

With regard to info of interest re ADD, John Taylor, PhD has written several books on the subject and also speaks nationally about nutrition and ADHD. He also includes why nutritional blue green algae shows benefits in many cases across the country. MaryAnn

ADD diagnosis: How are you managing with Ritalin?

May 2002

My son has recently been diagnosed with ADD. In many ways it explains some of the difficulties he has been having in school.He does not have the emotional or behavioral difficulties that often complicate this condition but has great difficulty with focus, concentration, impulsive behavior etc... He is repeating 2nd grade and not doing much better than before. As I look back it makes sense to me that his father (we are now divorced) also likely shares this condition although it was never diagnosed or

Had any luck with alternative treatments?

March 2002

My seven year old son has been diagnosed with ADHD. It's pretty obvious, and I know he needs help. Although stimulants are recommended I am curious to know if there are parents who have had luck with any alternative treatments: homeopathy, behavioral mod. etc. I would also be interested in any success stories from anyone using the medications. I'm just concerned about long term medication on a still delveloping brain. Are my fears unfounded? Worried Mom

I tried everything possible to avoid medication. We waited till he was almost 7 yrs. I tried the OPC-3, a health food drink with documented improvement with many kids with ADHD. I tried for about 4 months, with a teenie bit of relief. With school progressing, and his situation getting more demanding, we finally conceded to Ritalin. The result is remarkable. He is now on a time released all day medication.. It has made an amazing change in his life, and the rest of our family. Getting him to eat is the only , but large problem. That is my constant challenge to get him to eat, let alone foods that are high in calories, but healthy. I choose not to share this with the school. He still is a wonderful, but very tough child. anonymous

I can completely relate to your concerns regarding longterm affects of medicine on a growing body. And I think they are valid concerns. When my (then) 5 year old was diagnosed 2 weeks before the start of Kindergarten, I resisted medication for the same reason. I spent a year and a half trying alternatives including several different homeopathists, and a food allergy theory that basically eliminated wheat, sugar and milk products (this was really hard!). Although I believe we gave all approaches a fair amount of time, sadly, they did absolutely nothing for our daughter. As a result, she had a miserable Kindergarten experience, and only a somewhat better First Grade experience (mostly because of a great teacher who was willing to go way out her way to help her). Mid-way through First Grade, I caved and decided to try traditional medicine. As much as I hate to say it, I now believe this is the right road and only wish I had done it sooner. My daughter, now in second grade, can actually sit and listen and take turns and cultivate friendships, etc. The key, I think, is to have a doctor that is well-versed in the condition as well as the available meds and their possible side-effects - a doctor that has the sense to start small and is willing to closely moniter your child's health. For instance, the medicine my daughter is on has been known to cause heart problems in a very small number of cases. Some doctors' approach is to say just that and assume your child statistically will fall in the category of no harm done. Instead, my daughter's doctor requests regular EKG's at Children's where an expert can look for the slightest anomaly. These are powerful drugs and it is very scary to put your child on them. But I think if it's done with care and intelligence, it's worth it. You have to weigh that against the emotional damage and lowered self-esteem that occurs when they are constantly getting into trouble at school and when noone wants to be your child's friend. Best of luck to you as you make this difficult decision. Anonymous