Tuesday, July 20, 2010

medication and ADHD

Punkin started crawling at 13.5 months, walking at 16 months, and using a rare single word around 24 months. Looking at that, you might think he does things at a slow pace. You would be wrong.

At age two we all started joking about Ritalin; at age three those jokes became a lot more serious. At four I broke down and couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't function in school, he couldn't follow a simple direction, his autistic behaviors were escalating, and we were a tornado of limbs any time we attempted to leave the house.

I know. Isn't that what all four year old boys are like? Um, no. Most preschoolers do not fall out of their chair 12 times while eating a meal. Most preschoolers can sit and look at a preferred book or play with a preferred toy for longer than 30 seconds. Most preschoolers do not wail their arms and legs like a pinwheel, hitting anyone who may come within a 2 foot radius of their body. Most preschoolers who legitimately want to obey their mother when she says, "Walk to the car," will do it and not run into the street.

I called the pediatrician and asked for a referral to a Fragile X specialist -- a woman who is a neurologist and has done extensive studies on Fragile X. A woman who knows about medications and whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the National Fragile X Conference.

It was a simple visit, really. "He has ADHD." We started with clonidine, which was fine for a while, and then eventually switched to Ritalin. I remember being nervous, but ready. I also remember the first time we walked, hand-in-hand, into the grocery store, picked up a gallon of milk, stood in line to pay for it, and walked back out to the car. He stayed next to me; he walked with me. I didn't have to put him in a cart to buy a gallon of milk. I felt . . . normal.

I remember watching him play with toys -- pretending to use a wrench and a screwdriver beyond banging them together or waving them in the air in front of his face and being amazed that those skills were trapped inside his mind this whole time just waiting to get out.

And I remember not hearing, "He hit me" and instead, "He gave me a hug."

Medicating a young child is never an easy decision. And yes, I've seen and heard of it go terribly wrong. In our case, though, it was liberating. It was and still is the right choice for us. Now that he's headed to kindergarten, I'm glad that these issues are taken care of already. It's one less hurdle for him to have to jump.

He still has his quirks and his meltdowns. Pills aren't a cure-all. He isn't a "new" kid or a different kid; he's just able to be his fast-moving, cars-loving, paper shredding, dog barking, best self AND complete puzzles, sit at a table and eat, use slower speech, work with his teacher, and control more of his impulses.


Kristiem10 said...

Ain't that the truth. Meds help. They are not a cure, but they make life easier.

Sarah said...

Quinn's doc has wanted us to consider meds for attention issues, but we've been reluctant. Your post about the positive effects makes me think maybe we should give it a try.

Bonnie said...

Ritalin huh. Sounds a lot like my son Zack......I might have to mention this to our doctor and see what she thinks about trying it. Thanks!

Laura said...

This was a brave post and I'm so proud of you for writing it. I feel like my eyes are even more opened. You are making thoughtful decisions every day! Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

:) I offer a smile for this post :) Even though I do think it is important to be cautious and careful with any type of medication for children, I find that children who truly have ADHD and are left to fend for themselves until they become "old enough" become very frustrated. Children WANT to do what their friends are doing! They WANT to be successful...and spending all your energy attempting to focus on what you are doing, does not leave you a lot of energy to enjoy and be successful with the task of simply being a child :) Great post Erika! :) Pam

FraggleMom said...

How incredibly interesting. I know meds have helped my girl sooo much. We still don't have Matt on them. We tried but they just didn't do much. That don't mean we wouldn't try again in the future. I'm so happy punkin is more himself now :)

fragilemom said...

We have Ian on clonidine and have for a while now. We're going to look to up his dose at our next visit. I admit my fear of doing anything higher. While he has very similar things to what you've mentioned...the hitting kills me the most...I have a huge fear of him loosing his personality. Please keep us updated on your journey. I like hearing success stories! Helps get me confident for if the time comes. Thanks for posting this.

George said...

It's never an easy decision to put your child on meds.
I guess we never have to deal with the stigma, if my girl doesn't get her meds, she dies. It's actually as "simple" as that. So people can't exactly question it.
But gosh, who wants to have to do that anyway?
Neh, the heck with the judgers. You know what is best for your child.

(George from the DC, I've been reading your blog for a long time.)

Tova said...

I am glad you had such a positive experience! I too feel like medication was the secret to my success. I know ADD and ADHD were really over diagnosed and it seems to have made a stigma exist around the kids who have it for real, but for some of us, those meds make such a difference!