Confession: I am realizing now that my apprehension against Ritalin is kind of like judging a diabetic for using insulin instead of dieting and exercising regularly.
But after a lot of research I’ve realized where my negative stereotype came from:
- Seeing so many kids diagnosed early: What kind of four year old ISN’T a wiggle butt?
- Reports of “zombie like” side effects on the medication.
- The stereotypical “welfare mom” who takes advantage of the diagnosis to dump the kid from dawn to dusk at day care.
- The ease of the diagnosis in the first place: even teachers and social workers can diagnose a child and refer him to get medications!
There’s always a little bit of truth to these stereotypes after all, or they wouldn’t stick. Really difficult kids drive referrals, which is why boys are diagnosed in day care and most girls fall through the cracks. That “zombie” kid may have been over-medicated because there isn’t an exact science to the amount of medication each individual kid needs – and as I’ve learned full well through my RA journey, sometimes it takes months (in my case, a year and 2 months) to get the balance of medication right! Lower income parents have a more difficult time with ADHD children and less support, having to work more and not necessarily having the child’s needs be any cheaper…
I’m no expert, but I have read enough on the subject to understand that the medications prescribed for ADHD are stimulants to help an underactive part of the brain – the part that helps with slowing down and thinking things through. It’s not easy to dial it down! But it makes sense to me because after Anakin would stand in the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, for 15 minutes, I would have him drink a cup of coffee with me in the mornings.
Cafe con leche, also known as cafe au lait. Half brewed coffee, half milk, and some sugar. It saved my life on more than one school morning myself… But I digress. I did this every so often, specially on challenging school days.
I tackled all these concerns with his pediatrician too. I came to understand that for most public school kids, they get put on longer-lasting medication. Many schools are not exactly tolerant of a daily trip to the nurse’s office for another dose. So when the aim is to help a child get through an 8-12 hour day, it’s not inconceivable that the dosage can be largely over-shot.
We decided to try a small dose that a) works immediately (side effects and all) and b) lasts only 3-4 hours. If it was going to be too much, and negatively affect him, I wanted to know pretty immediately and call it good. I also homeschool, and have been doing so the past 2 school years successfully without any medication. In this time:
- He learned to swim.
- He published a book on Amazon.
- He is a Cub Scout
- He reads high school level fiction and even Kathy Reichs (we’re all a fan of the television show Bones)
- He designs video games and learned coding
- He’s an excellent chef – with the best mac and cheese in Alaska, I’m sure!
- He’s made and kept a few good friends
- Shot a .22 with outstanding accuracy
- Premiered in a Christmas production with a local theater company
- Performed in a choir, singing middle school level pieces of music with at least two part harmonies.
Needless to say, all things ARE possible. Even with ADHD.
The particular issue in this season of our lives is that the distractions and noise are constant and at times chaotic. Not only was he having a difficult time focusing but the stress of trying to concentrate with the odds against him were also giving him headaches, depression, and an upset stomach.
So far, I’ve tried a dose of Ritalin twice – and always with his consent. I’ve asked him, “Do you want to take your medication for XYZ this morning? Or do you think you can handle without?” He’s asked me to do cub scouts and church without meds. But on meds, he tackled a lot of chores and a lot of school work – might I add in an impressive amount of time. DRASTICALLY less fussing with the sibling over every. single. chore.
Rabbit trail: How do I know this kid is a math genious? Because he’ll tell me, “Caleb only vacuumed 1/3 of the surface area upstairs. Mean while, I have swept and mopped the entire floor down stairs, which is about twice the surface area Caleb has to vacuum upstairs in the first place! Therefore, it stands to reason that I should get on the computer first and not do any more chores – not even his chores!” For the record, Caleb is 7.
He has complained it bugs his stomach but not enough to slow him down. No change in personality either, just more task efficient; seeing the problem as “what needs to get done?” and then doing just that without complaining, fussing, or bullying his siblings into taking his place.
I don’t doubt that with or without medication Anakin, along many other kids, will accomplish things that will surpass anything his father and I could’ve hoped for! While we read through the literature and learn better skills, we can certainly use treatment as our ally.
And we will probably BOTH need treatment. All my research shows me that ADHD is hereditary, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Anakin probably inherited it from me. If I braved this process for him, I owe it to him to brave it for myself too because I can only parent as far as I know. If you want to know how this saga progresses, you’ll have to follow my blog. Only time will tell!
Do you face medication concerns when it comes to your loved ones? How do you handle that conversation? Share below!