attention deficit disorder

Question: What kind of treatment is available for attention deficit disorder?

Dr. Dobson: Treat-ment involves a range of factors, beginning with education. The adult with ADD is often greatly relieved to learn that he or she has an identifiable, treatable condition. Dr. Robert Reid from the University of Nebraska calls it the "label of forgiveness." He said, "The kid's problems are not his parents' fault, not the teacher's fault, not the kid's fault." That is good news to the person who has been told all his life that he's dumb, stupid, lazy, obnoxious and disruptive.

The first step in rebuilding the self-concept of an adult is to get an understanding of the forces operating within. My advice to that individual and to his family is to "read, read, read!" One helpful book for laymen is "Driven to Distraction" ($14, Touchstone) by Edward Hallowell, M.D., and John Ratey, M.D. An excellent set of cassette tapes by these authors is also available. Another well-written book by a Christian psychologist is "The Hyperactive Child" (Chariot Victor) by Grant Martin, Ph.D.

The second step is to teach the ADD person, especially those who are adults, to minimize his or her distractibility and impulsivity. They can learn to use "to-do" lists, daily calendars, schedules and written plans. "It ain't easy," as they say, but it can be done.

The third step is to secure the assistance of what Hallowell and Ratey call "a coach." A knowledgeable friend is needed to stand nearby with a whistle - offering encouragement, pointing out mistakes, teaching and modifying behavior. If a wise instructor can teach a novice to play tennis or golf, a caring coach can help a person with ADD learn to behave in more successful ways.

In regard to children, a knowledgeable professional is needed to advise and encourage parents who are often bewildered and frustrated by behavior they neither control nor understand.

Finally, there are the considerable benefits to the use of prescription drugs for both children and adults. Approximately 70 percent of ADD patients benefit from appropriate medication. Surprisingly, certain stimulants are often effective in helping ADD children - including those who are hyperactive. No one knows exactly how they work, but they probably affect the electrochemical processes in frontal lobes of the brain that regulate behavior. The most commonly prescribed drug is Ritalin, although some patients do better on Dexedrine or Cylert. In some instances, these substances have a remarkably positive effect.

Question: What can we as parents do to improve public schools in our area?

Dr. Dobson: Most educators know that parental involvement is absolutely critical to what public schools are trying to do. Others - fortunately, not the majority - see themselves as professionals who resent parental interference. We should never accede to that idea. Parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their kids and they should not surrender that authority. Educators are their employees, paid with tax dollars, and are accountable to the school-board members whom parents elect. The best schools are those with the greatest parental involvement and support.

If your school system is not so oriented, get involved to help turn the tide. Meet with parent groups. Join the PTA. Review the textbooks. Work for the election of school-board members who believe in traditional values and academic excellence. Let me say it again: Schools function best when the time-honored principles of local control by parents prevails. And I believe it is making a comeback!

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