When we see a student who is just being diagnosed with ADHD for the first time, I am often asked if medication is something that has be taken forever. The answer is different for everyone. Ultimately, if medication helps to manage the symptoms of ADHD that are interfering with success in school and home, then yes, it may need to be taken forever. But students often find that once they have been on the medication for some time, they begin to “figure things out”. Before medication, students (and adults for that matter) have no idea what it feels like to be focussed or in control. No matter how many times someone has told them to pay attention, they have never really understood what that meant. Taking medication is like the first time someone with poor eye sight puts on glasses. Things become clearer and crisp. They immediately think “Oh, this is what everyone meant by “pay attention”!”. Now, if medication is stopped, the student has a much better idea of what they are aiming for. While it may be more difficult to get there without medication, they at least have a point of reference and an understanding of what it will take to get there. Medication can be used long term, but it also can be used as “training wheels” for attention and focus.
During this time that medication is being used, is a good time to teach and practice organization skills as well as study skills. It is likely that students with ADHD have not established successful study skills and are sometimes very unorganized. Putting routines and strategies in place while on medication will make them habits that they can continue if they chose to stop taking medication.
Finally, the older a student is before they are diagnosed with ADHD, the more likely it is that they will have academic gaps due to the fact that during instruction times, they just have not been 100% attentive. While on medication is a great time to get some academic remediation in the way of tutoring outside of school to fill in any academic gaps that may be present. These gaps can prevent students from future academic success even with medication to aid in their ability to focus.
For more questions about ADHD and how we evaluate and diagnose ADHD, contact our office today!