By SEAN ROWLEY
Parenting a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be challenging, but there are local options for diagnosis, treatment and accommodation of those who have symptoms.
Characterized by difficulties with mental focus accompanied by energetic and often inappropriate behavior, ADHD is a medically recognized psychiatric disorder which most commonly affects children.
Locally, Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health can assist with diagnosis of ADHD and treatment options, and a child development specialist is on staff at W.W. Hastings Hospital. Calming Connections at 1140 Mayberry Drive offers treatment of ADHD cases.
“Our services are definitely comprehensive,” said Dr. Laurna Champ, clinical director at Calming Connections. “We provide a standardized, computerized, validated test for ADHD which can diagnose in those as young as age 4-and-a-half. We have a psychiatrist. Our therapeutic and medical services are carefully coordinated - the therapist and the MD can let each other know about changes or concerns. If a patient is taking medication prescribed by their own doctor, we send regular reports.”
Tahlequah Public Schools also accepts diagnoses of ADHD and can make arrangements for afflicted students. When dealing with a student with ADHD, TPS policy is to keep the child in a normal classroom setting.
“We try to accommodate them in the classroom as much as possible,” said Dana Payne, counselor at Cherokee Elementary School. “We use structured classroom management and parent education - keeping the parent informed and communication open.”
Some considerations can be made for students that exhibit moderate symptoms of ADHD.
“An example might be allowing them to have preferential eating,” Payne said. “We may assign an area where they can stand while they eat, because it may be difficult for them to sit for long periods of time.”
In severe cases of the disorder, TPS might place a student in a special needs classroom, though ADHD is not considered a special need.
“There are 14 different categories in which we can place a child in an (independent education program),” said Nancy Jones, special services director for TPS. “ADHD might be covered under other health impairments if the disorder is substantially affecting their educational development. But ADHD in itself does not qualify a student for special services.”
Jones said ADHD students can more easily qualify for accommodation under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“It is a program that helps kids when they are not eligible for an IEP,” she said.
“The services allow considerations for students, such as more time on assignments and more frequent breaks. These are provided with the existing budget. There is no additional funding.”
Payne said parents can make the biggest impact when mitigating the symptoms of ADHD.
“They can just continue to try to stay with a routine, providing a lot of structure and consistency,” she said. “Exercise can also be a good treatment. They can join an extracurricular activity outside school and release some of that energy.”
Jones said it is important that parents of a child diagnosed with ADHD contact the school counselor.
“There are a number of things we can do as a school system to help,” she said. “It is also important that the teachers know the child has the disorder.”