How Can I Get My Daughter Meds for ADHD?

My daughter's teacher suggested she get medication for ADHD. Her grades are terrible and her behavior is out of control at school. This has been happening for, like, two years now. She's in seventh grade. Her teacher and some other people in my family told me that Ritalin can help big time with kids like her with ADHD. Helping them focus and do better in school, I mean. I'm ready to try this to help her, but how do I get her those medications? The teacher said the school counselor or nurse can't do that. What do I do to get her the meds, and how much will it cost me? I have insurance through my work, but have never used it for mental problems. Thanks. —Desperate
Dear Desperate,

Let’s take a closer look at attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD). The National Institute of Mental Health says it is “one of the most common childhood brain disorders”; it generally appears in childhood and can continue throughout life. You say your daughter started having problems about two years ago. I wonder what, if anything, else happened then—if she had a difficult experience, if there was a family disruption, something else she is reacting to. It seems like everything was OK until about the fifth grade, is that right? It might not hurt to think about her history a little bit. And let’s talk about what ADHD means, since that’s what the teacher suspects. Did previous teachers ever say anything about it?

I hope my answers are not too detailed. I want to make sure your daughter is properly diagnosed and treated. It’s important to be careful before prescribing medications to children, especially a controlled substance such as Ritalin.

Definition of ADHD

People with ADHD have trouble paying attention, controlling their behavior, and are often hyperactive. These symptoms are also associated with anxiety.

Some Causes of ADHD

  1. ADHD sometimes runs in families. Are you aware of relatives who might have ADHD?
  2. Environmental factors may also play a part. Pollution, for example, or lead poisoning, which commonly happens when people are exposed to the lead sometimes found in paint or in plumbing fixtures, like water pipes in older buildings.
  3. Maturational factors may also play a part. Some children just grow up faster than others, who may not be ready to meet the demands of school.

How Do You Know If Your Child Has ADHD?

It’s not easy to tell. Start by talking to your pediatrician, who will refer you to a mental health expert. Together they will determine if your child is experiencing ADHD or if there is something else going on.

What Happens After You See Your Pediatrician?

After a thorough examination, your child’s doctor will contact a specialist. The specialist will want to look at school records and perhaps talk to the adults who know your child best: you, of course, other important family members, plus any teachers, coaches, or babysitters who know your child well. Your daughter might also be given exams to determine if there is a learning difficulty. It’s important to look at all aspects of her life carefully to make sure she gets the right treatment.

Other Things That Might Be Going On

Again, only a trained specialist can pinpoint exactly what’s going on with your daughter. But if ADHD isn’t the root of the issue, here are some other possibilities. (I’d encourage you not to jump to conclusions about anything on this list; it’s simply a list of issues that sometimes mask as ADHD.)

  1. Undetected seizure disorder
  2. Hearing problems
  3. Visual problems
  4. A medical problem that causes behavior that looks like ADHD
  5. A learning disability, such as dyslexia, which makes it hard to read, write, and spell. (It has nothing to do with intelligence.)
  6. Anxiety or depression. Often, people don’t think children can have emotional issues of this nature, but they can (and can be helped).
  7. Bipolar: severe mood swings
  8. Oppositional defiance, which manifests as a stubborn, rebellious child who likes arguing with adults and refuses to obey the rules
  9. Conduct problems
  10. Family problems, such as death, divorce, or financial difficulties

What Will This Cost?

I wish I could guide you on cost. It likely depends on your insurance policy, and it might be a good idea to do some comparison shopping. Some sources say that a month’s supply of generic Ritalin costs under $30. Here’s a list of medications sometimes used to treat ADHD:

  • Adderall (amphetamine)
  • Adderall XR (amphetamine extended release)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate long-acting)
  • Daytrana (methylphenidate patch)
  • Desoxyn (methamphetamine hydrochloride)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Dextrostat (dextroamphetamine)
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate extended release)
  • Metadate ER (methylphenidate extended release)
  • Metadate CD (methylphenidate extended release)
  • Methylin (methylphenidate oral solution and chewable tablets)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Ritalin SR (methylphenidate extended release)
  • Ritalin LA (methylphenidate long-acting)
  • Strattera (atomoxetine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)

I hope I haven’t given you more answers than you expected. I don’t want to make this difficult experience even harder, but I do want to make sure you have all the information you need so you can take the best care of your daughter.

I wish you both a clear and successful road together.

Take care,
Lynn

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
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  • Rena

    Rena

    February 14th, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I am sure that your daughter’s teacher means well, but does she really know enough about this to be making a diagnosis herself? I would definitely take what hse has said with a grain of salt and try to use others who can do some testing and either conform or deny what she has come up with. I would never just take the opinion of one person especially when it comes to giving medication to my kids. I definitely want to know that this is the only way to get her help and that this would be the right choice for her. There may be other ways to solve whatever problems she could be having in school so I think that I would take a ,ook at all of my options before proceeding one way or the other.

  • grace

    grace

    February 18th, 2014 at 3:58 AM

    Maybe meds are the answer, maybe not. Have you talked with her doctor?

  • Johnny

    Johnny

    February 19th, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    I know that as parents we want the ebst for our children and often getting a label is thethingthat allows them to actually get the help that they need. But then again you have to be careful with those labels because in the end those can also be detrimental to a child. It could lead teachers and educators to think differently about them and in the end it could hurt in that they come to think differently about themselves.

  • greg

    greg

    June 2nd, 2014 at 2:45 AM

    I know it made me into a meth user later in life, after not using ADHD/ ADD/ Hyperactivity/ (whatever label…) And was the ONLY way i felt ” normal”.
    Oh well, im now “normal”/chemical free, and TOTALLY bat-guano nuts….

  • Douglas

    Douglas

    February 19th, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Call me a little shocked but I guess I don’t pursue healthcare for myself or for my child in this way. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with asking questions because I know that’s what we are all here for to nurture and support one another. But I can’t believe that a teacher is advocating for this without any medical insight into other conditions that your child may have. Medication may be the right answer for your child and then again maybe it is not. But to have someone talk to me about it without any other knowledge of their health is kind of shocking to me and I guess as a parent I would have to step up and speak my mind about that. Did you feel that way? I just think that sometimes parents are pressured to do something, anything, to help the teachers maintain equilibrium in the classroom when this may not be what they are comfortable with.

  • jo p

    jo p

    February 20th, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Putting my son on Ritalin was the best thing ever for him. We were kind of like you, had a teacher suggest it to us and I guess without ever being in that setting with him didn’t realize how much aof a challenge that school work was becoming for him. We were always there for him at home and the distractions were not as great so we didn’t think about how not having us there and all of the other students could influence how he bahved and thus his behavior and performance in class. It was not magic, there was always a little tweak here and there with dosage and when to take it and when not to, etc. but it made a huge difference for him. And the teachers too I am sure.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    June 2nd, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Greg, thank you for writing about your experience, it’s important for people to hear this. And I’m bat guano glad that you’re chemical free.

  • Sue

    Sue

    December 17th, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    YES I FEEL FOR ALL OF YOU I HAVE A 4 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WHO DOES WELL IN SCHOOL BUT ACTS LIKE A PHYCO WHEN THING DO NOT GO HER WAY THE CLOTHES COME OFF SHOES FLYING IN THE AIR THUMB IN HER MOUTH SCREAMS THROWS FITS ON THE FLOOR AND EVEN DOES HER PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL. I TRIED IGNORING IT WALKING AWAY AND YOU THAT DOES NOT WORK BECAUSE SHE JUST CHASES ME AROUND SHARING HER UNHAPPINESS.

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