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Featured Doc Blog: How to Help a Child with ADHD Adjust to a New School Year

Dr. Joanna Ghegan in our Mount Pleasant, SC office recently contributed to an article in Lowcountry Parent Magazine.  This article describes 5 ways you can make sure your child has a great start to a better school year. Parents of children with ADHD understand the difficulties that come along with new routines (or getting back in a routine!), new teachers, and more advanced coursework.  You can find the original article here, or read below.

“For parents of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), facing those first few months of a new school year can be a challenge. Routines have changed, teachers are different and academic struggles may be more pronounced as coursework becomes more advanced.

But helping your children get comfortable in a new school year doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle. Here are 5 ways to help your child with ADHD have better school year.

1. Confirm the ADHD diagnosis.

Usually a pediatrician or family doctor makes a diagnosis based on subjective questionnaires from parents and teachers, and that information may be conflicting.

“While those questionnaires are very important and part of the diagnostic process, it’s not enough information,” says Dr. Joanna Ghegan, a physician with Focus-MD in Mount Pleasant . In fact, that’s part of the reason she switched from a general pediatric practice to Focus-MD, which uses a FDA-cleared objective test to improve accuracy in ADHD diagnosis.

This computerized test objectively measures activity, attention and impulse control and compares each patient’s results with other kids of the same age and gender. “Including an objective measure of the patients symptoms helps prevent over-diagnosis of ADHD, which is a real comfort to parents,” according to Dr. Ghegan.

2. Adjust medications as needed.

Like all medications, ADHD medications can have side effects, but these can be avoided almost entirely by working closely with your child’s doctor to find the optimal medication and dose.

Teacher and parent input is critical and it’s important to listen to children and teens about their experiences with medication, both positive and negative, to get to the right balance.

“Having our objective testing to assess the effect of medication helps prevent over-medication and allows us to find the optimal dose more quickly that waiting for grades or subjective assessments”, says Ghegan. At Focus-MD physicians follow patients closely to monitor improvement in symptoms, academic and social progress and minimize side effects.

3. Go to bed early.

Many parents don’t always realize just how much sleep children need. While adults need 8 hours of sleep, children – especially ages 4 to 7 – require 11 or 12 hours of sleep.

With earlier school start times, after-school activities and both parents working, many children are sleep deprived. A child with ADHD will benefit greatly from getting enough rest since sleep is proven to help with attention, focus and hyperactivity.

4. Cut down on screen time.

We could all probably benefit from less time spent in front of the TV or computer, but this is especially true for children with ADHD. Remove televisions and computers from your child’s bedroom to eliminate distractions during both sleep time and study time.

5. Stay organized.

For children struggling to stay focused, getting organized will help greatly. Have the child keep an assignment book for school, makes lists and use a calendar. This not only helps the child stay on track but will cut down on stress at home.

Gheghan also stresses the importance a good diet and exercise, which releases endorphins that aid in concentration and focus.

“It’s not just about handing out medicine,” she says. “We take a holistic approach to the patient and talk about lifestyle as well.”

Focus-MD is a medical practice in Mount Pleasant for children with ADHD and related problems. At Focus-MD, ADHD is treated like a medical problem, not a psychological one. Their team of qualified and experienced medical doctors is committed to providing the high-quality, individualized care.

Call (843) 593-9332 for additional information or to schedule an appointment.”

Meet the 2017 Focus-MD $1,000 Scholarship Winner

We are very pleased to introduce the winner of the 2017 Focus on Your Future Scholarship Essay contest.  Isabel is a student at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.  Like many patients with ADHD, she was diagnosed in grade school, but it wasn’t until high school when she started to really struggle with the academic demands.

In high school she was frustrated that many of her peers were performing better and grasped the concepts much easier than she. After falling behind in most of her classes, she took charge of both her educational and medical well-being. She obtained a 504 education plan  to help her manage some of her barriers to learning. She also started treating her ADHD with medication and using organizational techniques that in her words, “enabled me to utilize the knowledge I possessed all along, but up until that point, struggled to organize and apply.”  She even improved her diet and sleep habits and began to exercise more regularly.

Once she was able to focus on her classes, Isabel says, “It was not a matter of not being smart enough, but instead, a matter of unscrambling the jumbled thoughts in my head.”  Now that she had that focus she also realized her love for mathematics and even made the Varsity Math Team her senior year, which moved on to win the State Championships!  That same year Isabel also started volunteering as a teacher’s assistant for students with learning disabilities. With over 150 volunteer hours serving the youth in Charleston, it’s no surprise that she is now pursuing a career in education, with a focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Now on her way earn her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics with minors in Computer Science and Women and Gender Studies at the College of Charleston, she is a member of the Bonner Leader Program, which is a four year civic leadership and development program for student advocates for social justice and change. She is also a volunteer with Girls Rock Charleston, a grassroots nonprofit that uses music as a vehicle for social change and builds power among girls in Charleston, South Carolina.  After finishing her bachelor’s degree she plans on attending graduate school for a Master’s Degree in Education.

Focus-MD is honored to award Isabel $1,000 towards her tuition to help her reach her dreams of becoming a Math Teacher. Her desire to help other students that face similar learning struggles is a testament to her character and hard work.  It is clear that her focus is not only on her future, but the future of her community.