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Does my hyperactive child need treatment?

Q: I watched the show on hyperactive children and I am compelled to feel that my 10 years old son is hyperactive. Since birth he has been restless, unable to sleep through the night until he was 4 years old. He cannot sit still for the shortest time and gets easily distracted. Is branded naughty, disruptive, restless even at the age of 10, since the beginning of school. He finds it difficult to get a job done and can't take instructions without us yelling and repeating them more than 7 times. Even at the age of ten, cannot handle more than 3 instructions at one given time. I have been advised to get him checked for hyperactivity by an institution that runs these tests. My concern is that if he is indeed hyperactive, then can such a condition be treated and will there be any adverse effects if medication is given? I must include that my son is intelligent and though has to oversee his lessons with a iron hand and much yelling and threatening, does score over 93% overall since the first year of school to date. He is in standard 5 at the moment. Please advise.

A:A ten year old who gets an aggregate of 93% over the last five years, must be a matter for celebration! It does seem as though your son has a mild problem. You as parents seem to have learnt to manage it. Even if you visit experts, they will at best tell you to manage it. There are drugs that quieten a child, but any psychologist would hesitate to recommend drugs, partly because of the long term side effects. Since your method seems to work (at least in terms of academic goals) starting a totally new regimen may be difficult. However, I would like to suggest the following:

  • Try not to shout or scream at the child. He begins to expect that you will say something six or seven times and hence ignores your message for a while.
  • Try not to be angry with him, but be gentle. We tend to treat behaviour (hyperactive or otherwise) as though the child is willfully doing it. If he bruises his elbow, for example, you would be concerned and sympathetic, because you can see the cause. If this is a condition he has had since birth, it takes time to control and the child shouldn't be treated as if he is being naughty.
  • Ultimately a proper (and caring) parenting is the only solution. If he takes drugs that quieten him, his attention to his school work may also be affected. But you as parents are the best judges on whether you need to see a specialist. As a Psychologist, I would like to suggest a few things you can do. Here are some of the steps you can take: 1. Yoga is a good system to make the body harmonious. If there is a Yoga class for children, maybe he could join it. You are likely to see improvement over a period of time. 2. Reduce the number of TV hours for the child, to one hour a day and maybe two on holidays. Do not let him watch adult programmes, which are often violent and explicitly sexual. 3. The reading light in his room should be a regular bulb, not a tube light. There is research that neon lights are not good for certain conditions. 4. Soft drinks, especially the cola drinks have caffeine in them and should be totally avoided. Try fruit drinks, cooled herbal teas, etc. 5. Playing classical music on cassettes or CD players just before bedtime and at times when he is doing routine things will also have a good soothing effect.

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