Friday, May 8, 2009

Sue Scheff: Keeping Kids Safe This Summer

Expert tips to help parents avoid some common risks to their ADHD children.

Little children fall and scrape their knees or bump their heads. Big kids drive too fast, and get into accidents—or experiment with drugs or alcohol. They... well, it doesn't pay to spend too much time pondering all the risks youngsters face.

Suffice it to say that childhood and adolescence can be risky—especially if your child has ADHD. The risk increases in summertime, when kids spend more time outdoors—beyond their parents' supervision.

Not long ago, a mother called me to say that her 10-year-old son, a patient of mine, had vanished. It was 7:00 p.m., getting dark, and Billy was nowhere to be found. She was frantic. I suggested that she call the police. At 8:00 p.m., she called back. Billy had been found, safe, at a nearby creek. He was surprised to see the police and could not understand why his mother was upset.

Billy explained that he had been unable to find a friend after dinner, and so had decided to go frog-catching. Asked why he did not tell his mother where he was going, he said simply, "I forgot." Of course, forgetfulness was not the problem. The problem was that Billy's ADHD medication had worn off around 6:00 p.m. He had headed for the creek on impulse.
I share this story not to scare you, but to remind you of the fact that ADHD makes kids vulnerable.

Remember, ADHD is a neurological disorder, resulting from a deficiency of specific neurotransmitters within the brain. By correcting this deficiency, medication goes a long way toward curbing impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity. But, as Billy's case illustrates, parents must be especially vigilant at those times of day when a child's symptoms may not be fully controlled: early in the morning (before the first dose kicks in) and at the end of the day (when the last dose has worn off).

Be especially careful if your child takes a break from meds on weekends or vacations.
Of course, medication alone is not enough to protect your child. You must be alert to the dangers ADHD kids face, and provide an extra measure of structure and supervision. Here are the biggest causes of accidental injury—and strategies you can use to protect your child:

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