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Back-to-School & ADHD

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

This is the first full week of school for many students across the country and with just a few days of school under their belt, parents have already begun dialing and texting their pediatrician about their child’s attention issues and ADHD.  

I have to smile/laugh, as I have already received more than a handful of phone calls directly related to the subject of ADHD.  This happens every year, somehow it has become predictable, and I can only continue to be amazed that any parent would think that a few school days is enough to determine anything about how the school year is going to go!  I mean REALLY (like my teenage patients like to say), I think everyone has ADHD for at least the first 7–10 days of school. That includes most teachers, administrators, school nurses, and yes, the students!

Despite the fact that we all talk about “getting ready” for back to school, and establishing the bedtime routines, and early morning awakenings, followed by a healthy breakfast and an afternoon snack and homework done at a reasonable hour, it takes some time to really get it together.  It brings to mind the movie ‘Home Alone’ when they are all so organized for their early morning trip and then it all falls apart when the alarm clock doesn’t work and the “rush” begins.

I saw a lot of tired children yesterday, who admitted that they had not gotten to bed as early as had been planned, but have better intentions for the next night. That seems more like reality for most of us.

So, how can a parent call after 1 day of school to say “Johnny went back on his medication today and I don’t think it is working”, or “Sarah seemed to be distracted at school today and did not bring the right book home for homework and I think we might need to have a conference about ADHD”.  Does that sound silly to you? It happens every year.

Think about your first day on any “new” job, it is often unorganized, difficult to focus, hard to remember what you need to bring to the meeting, or what form you fill out next.  Yet alone finding out where the bathrooms are, where you park etc. It is the same thing for our children as they start a new year. They may be in a new school, or at least a new classroom, often filled to the brim as new students are added at the last minute. They have never met the teacher before, who is also going to be giving them numerous directions for his or her classroom rules and expectations. They have to find the bathrooms, cafeteria, library and playground. They may have lockers far away from their classes, the text book that they thought was going to be used might have already changed. The list is endless.  Getting back into a “good school routine” is a bit of a journey and not a race, and giving a child a few days to figure it out seems to be more appropriate to me.

With that being said, I called each of my patients back and basically discussed waiting for a week or two to get everyone settled in before making medication changes, or having conferences with teachers or pediatricians about attention issues.  Patience seems to be the word that comes to mind and remembering that starting any new “job” takes a bit of time to become adjusted.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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