Many don't outgrow hyperactivity


November 01, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: When my son was in third grade, he was diagnosed as hyperactive and given medication, which helped. His doctor still thinks he needs it even though he's 15. I thought kids could outgrow hyperactivity.

A: For many years, it was widely believed that children who are hyperactive (now called attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD) would outgrow this behavior problem. It is true that some do and that other teen-agers still have ADHD but have, over the years, learned ways to cope (compensate) with the problem and succeed. This is particularly so for teen-agers who are quite intelligent.

However, many experts in ADHD have come to the conclusion that many children do not in fact outgrow ADHD and continue to have problems in school as a result. These adolescents will likely still benefit from medication.

Since you mentioned that your physician still recommends treatment, we are assuming that he or she has monitored your son carefully over the years. This is essential since medication should never be the sole treatment for ADHD. Instead a team approach is most helpful -- the team including your son, yourself, his physician and key school personnel. Together, the team should assure that your son's educational needs are adequately being met and that realistic goals and learning plans are in place. At home, your son should have a quiet place set aside to do his homework and you should assist him in the planning to get it done.

Success in school is critical to normal adolescent development. Teen-agers who do poorly are of greater risk than their peers for trouble with such problems as fighting, truancy and drug use.

Therefore by paying careful attention to his school achievement, you will also be helping him to be healthy.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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