Taking medication for ADHD in Alternative School

ADHD Medication During Breaks From School

Should My Child be Taking ADHD Medication When Not in School?

February 03, 2016

With Spring Break activities and summer vacation approaching, many parents of children diagnosed Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) face the decision of whether or not to continue their child's ADHD medication during breaks from school. As with most medical conditions, there are few one-size-fits-all answers and treatments. Some medical professionals argue that a vacation from ADHD medication might help a child who has experienced a loss of appetite or suffered from lack of sleep while on the medication. But the answer is simple according to behavioral health professionals that see students at the therapeutic day school program of The Pinnacle Schools. "If the diagnosis is correct, the effects of ADHD will require medication management during and after school,” said Penny Baker, LPC-S who is the clinical director of The Pinnacle Schools, a program of Pinnacle Behavioral Health. “Eliminating the medication even for brief periods of time with certain types of ADHD will likely unleash the very behavior that is a symptom ADHD," Baker explained.    
For more than 20 years, Baker has worked with at-risk teens in residential and outpatient settings. There are at least three different types of attention deficit including the hyperactive, impulsive traits of ADHD. A person with this particular diagnosis has experienced symptoms that have had a direct, negative impact on their social and academic functioning including:

  • Squirms or fidgets in a seat/often taps hands or feet  
  • Unable to remain seated when required
  • Running or climbing when inappropriate
  • Constantly interrupting people
  • Talking excessively
  • Difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Feeling very restless

Parents would never consider discontinuing medication if their diabetic child so it is surprising that a child’s mental health condition wouldn’t receive the same consideration. Mixed messages from health professionals are likely to blame. A child with inattentive ADHD may not struggle with the same issues as a hyperactive/impulsive child who discontinues medication. 

A less obvious type of ADHD is not typically diagnosed until older and expected to work independently. Parents and school officials begin to pay serious attention when grades start to decline. The inattentive type of ADHD is less noticeable because the child may sit quietly and appear to be working when they actually do not understand the assignment. This child may be labeled as “spacey” because they typically have trouble focusing on a task for any length of time or “lazy” because they move slowly and process information less accurately. 

A person exhibiting hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention are considered to have the combine presentation of ADHD.

ADHD has an impact on multiple parts of an adolescent's life including the emotional, behavioral and social aspects. It is common for an adolescent with ADHD to have both behavioral and social problems along with some emotional issues as well, like a heightened sense of frustration. Spring and summer breaks are packed with high-stimulation and low-structure activities which can naturally strain a child's attention span, impulsiveness and self-control. Add untreated ADHD to the immature brain of a teenager and you may begin the next school year with emotional and social setbacks.