Sunday, May 19, 2013

ADHD - Should I Medicate?

When my son was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade my husband and I were given the choice to medicate him with a stimulant, the most common form of treatment. Most people struggle with the thought of putting their child on conventional ADHD medication. My husband and I were thoroughly opposed to medicating him, and rightly so, have you seen the warnings and possible side-effects for taking those drugs? The thought of putting that into a tiny, growing body made me feel sick and guilty. We decided to ignore the advice and hoped he'd be able to cruise by; he was bright, tested with an above-average IQ and got great grades, but the almost daily emails and notes from his teachers made ignoring it impossible. So we tried for over six years the natural approach: Omega 3 and 6; over-the-counter herbal concoctions said to reduce or eliminate symptoms of ADHD; eliminating artificial food coloring, especially Red #40, which has been proven to cause hyperactivity in children; giving him half a cup of coffee before school; controlling sugar intake; brain games which aid in focus and attention; and of course, a strict, regimented routine. These kids thrive on knowing what comes next - they don't do well with surprises or changes.

All of these approaches at different times worked well although the teachers all had the same complaints: Work quality inconsistent, wanders around classroom chatting and disrupting classmates, seems to space-out. He held it together though and his grades were consistently As and some Bs, that is until 6th grade. It amazes me and our entire family at what these sixth graders are now being taught. The academics are a lot harder. What my generation and previous generations were taught in 8th grade these 6th graders are now learning. It isn't so easy to play catch-up anymore when you miss a portion of a class because you've submerged into your own world. We found the things that had worked well in the past weren't helping him as much. For the first time in his life he was bringing home some failing test grades. He was really beginning to hate school and he was calling himself stupid.

So, recently we did what we said we'd never do; we spoke to his pediatrician and decided to put him on the lowest dose possible of a short-acting stimulant. His doctor recommended a morning and lunch time dose, but my husband and I decided we'd give it to him just once a day in the morning. I contacted all the teachers and asked them to watch for signs of any side-effects. His teachers, apart from the mid afternoon teacher, saw immediate improvements in his concentration and his ability to remain on task and finish classwork. The end result is that my son hasn't brought home a grade lower than a 93% in any subject. He actually made honor role. The confidence and pride it gave him was a gift in itself and he likes school again.

I still feel guilty about medicating him, but I do have the small consolation that it's just one low dose and only given if he has a full day of academics. I want my son to have every chance possible for a successful, happy future - it starts now, now earlier than ever. Life is demanding and so much more competitive as the world's population rises to over seven billion. If your child has dreams of getting into a top-notch college they can't afford to graduate with a C average.

As a parent, though, you still have to put in your time. Medicine isn't a magic potion. It's what you do at home that makes a big difference: Make sure they study, do homework and help them if they're unable to; make sure you help your kids get organized as this can be an issue - my husband sets time aside every Sunday and along with our son they go through his school bag and reorganize it; make sure they sit at the table with the entire family at meal times without television; make sure they know their schedule and have it where they can refer to it; and most importantly, make sure manners are taught and adhered to – trust me, teachers are more forgiving towards your child if he/she is sweet and has impeccable manners.

If your child is young, then you need to decide which route you want to go, otherwise talk it over together with them. Find out your child's dreams and hopes for the future. Remember, that if they want to reach for the stars, you need to give them every opportunity to get there!


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