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PS Y C H I AT RY the classroom, Dr. Weimer explains. For children who have the disorder without hyperactivity, known as ADD, signs include difficulty completing tasks and following classroom instruction. At home, children with undiagnosed ADD or ADHD may have difficulty sitting still, frequently interrupt, become easily distracted and show poor time-management skills. Parents who notice these symptoms should not hesitate to bring them up with their child’s pediatrician for an evaluation. A diagnosis requires impairment in more than one setting — typically at home and at school. Once a diagnosis is made, the mainstays of treatment include both behavioral measures focusing on organizational and time-management skills, and the stimulant medications Ritalin or Adderall. “These are modifying the signal-to- noise ratio so that the child can focus ... and sort out what is important from extraneous stimuli,” Dr. Schneider says. ADHD Treatments Safe and Effective Choosing not to treat the condition can lead to an increased likelihood of disruptive behavior and difficulties in school. While some parents are reluctant to treat their children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), two UCLA Health experts point out that ADHD treatments are safe and highly effective. And ignoring ADHD symptoms or not opting for medication when it is called for can be detrimental, they say. “Kids who have untreated ADHD have a greater likelihood of school failure and conduct problems,” says UCLA psychiatrist Benjamin Schneider, MD. “Studies have shown that in the long run, children with untreated ADHD are more likely than those who are UCLAHEALTH.ORG 1-800-UCLA-MD1 (1-800-825-2631) treated to go on to experience untoward life events such as jail time and teen pregnancy.” ADHD is a genetic-based neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by problems with focus, impulsivity or both. “It is very common and often undiagnosed,” says Amy Weimer, MD, a pediatrician and internist at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. “And when it’s diagnosed, it often is undertreated.” ADHD symptoms usually become apparent after age 5 and are often first noticed by teachers because of disruptive behaviors in ADHD drugs have been used for decades and, while all drugs have potential side effects, they are considered safe and highly effective. Dr. Weimer notes that many parents are concerned about starting their children on the medications, in part because of reports that the drugs are abused by non-patients for their stimulant purposes. “What we find, though, is that people with ADD or ADHD are more likely to have substance-abuse problems, but treating them with the medication actually reduces that risk,” she says. Some parents are initially resistant to the idea of medicating their child, Dr. Weimer adds, but ultimately are pleased to see the difference the treatment can make in academic performance, social skills, extracurricular activities and at home. Studies indicate that children with ADHD who go on medication early are more likely to have improved brain functioning that enables them to succeed without medication as adults. “People with ADD have a lot of gifts that come with having a brain that’s less constrained by time and organization,” Dr. Weimer says. “Our goal is to treat patients in a way that allows them to use this gift of creativity and to feel like themselves, while also being able to meet the demands of everyday life.”