An Unmedicated Kid Living in an Adderall World

Post By Sarah @ The Sadder But Wiser Girl

I talk about Princess Difficult quite often in my blog The Sadder But Wiser girl because she's home most of the time and she is a constant source of funny blog material.  The Professor, AKA my son and her brother, also lives in our house.  He is just harder to write about than she is.  He is one unique individual.  He is so unique that I just don't understand him.  I fully expect the parent-child disconnect on some level because he is a boy and I grew up with one sister and mostly girl cousins around me.  He lives in his own world.  There has to be some sort of barrier around him because it seems that most of the information that gets through is garbled.  He can repeat back to you what you just said to him, but most of the time it's like it went directly from his ear to his mouth without stopping to be processed.

The Professor is ADD and also has some major sensory issues and other as of yet to be explained things going on there.  Kindergarten was an absolute nightmare.  At the end of his kindergarten year he finally was evaluated and was put on an IEP.  An IEP for anyone who is not familiar with such things is short for an Individualized Education Plan.  His particular one focuses on his ADD and his behaviors.  My son has Attention Deficit Disorder so badly that he doesn't exist on the same plane as the rest of us.

It all went down like this:  We went to the doctor's office, the doctor asked 5,000 questions that we had already answered on the form we had to fill out. Then he shooed me out and let my son take a test on a computer.  Afterwards I was called back in, and what I got from the doctor was that he could be ADD, and that my next step was to consult with our pediatrician.  I left the office thinking “Fabulous, I wasted personal time from work to let him play a video game.”

The following week we met with his pediatrician.  She has been his doctor since infancy, and she has had some pretty unique experiences with him.  He was hospitalized for a week for dehydration from a horrible stomach virus the previous year.  She just happened to be the doctor on call.  She's one of those rare doctors that will call you at home to ask you a question when reading over his records.  

She's awesome.

I wasn't prepared for what happened next.  She informed me that the report that came from the evaluation said that he was off the charts ADD, needed to be medicated, and may need an one on one associate because his behaviors were so severe.  

HUH?  She seemed surprised that I was surprised.  Did I miss something here?  Did she consult with the wrong doctor?  Oh, and he was possibly on the spectrum, but we would have to do much more testing.  This wasn't going to happen, because our insurance would only foot the bill for the one test.
The ADD and Asperger's possibility, not surprising.  Everything else, yes.

And then she pulled out her prescription pad and wrote him a prescription.  I took it and walked out.  I never filled it.  This was not without debate.  Evil Genius said no.  Absolutely no.  There had to be other alternatives to it.

The week after that we had his IEP meeting. I don't think they were thrilled, but understood why we chose not to put him on medication.  They created an IEP for him with a plan that included working on following directions, behavior modification strategies, etc.  He is in the regular classroom, but makes frequent visits to the resource room to work with that teacher on his behavior.  He receives a sheet every day outlining his behavior and whether he was able to follow directions.

First grade started out great, then went downhill as the year went on.  Still much better than kindergarten though.  Now we're in second grade and on the downward slope to the end of the school year.  Also on the downward slope behavior wise.  Same poop, different grade.

Yet he is a GREAT kid.  He's cute as can be.  He is super intelligent, reads well above grade level, loves science and math.  He's bright, and curious, and inquisitive.  He's funny.  Anymore he's a fairly good brother to his little sister, which is good because he needs to work on his tolerance of other kids.  I'm happy when other people compliment me on what a fun kid he is, because I don't think the people at school necessarily get to see that side of him.

What’s going on at school?  He’s distracted to a fault.  He’s anxious.  He has Obsessive Compulsive tendencies.  He has sensory issues.  He repeats words over and over or whispers them to himself.  He gets angry easily.  He shouts out in class and refuses to do things like complete his assignments.  And he has social issues.  When other kids try to be friendly with him, he does something inappropriate like hitting or yelling at them because he thinks they are "bothering him." He can tell you exactly what was wrong with what he did, but he can't apply it to himself. He loses control and hits or pushes another kid, and he can tell you why it happened and what he should have done, but is more upset about getting in trouble than he is about the fact that he hurt his friend.

Now don’t get me wrong-he does have good days.  But it’s impossible to predict how a day will go and if anything will set him off.  He can go a week or two having few to no incidents.  Then he’ll go a month with tons of outbursts and physical aggression.

I feel like apologizing over and over to his teacher for having to do so much work when it comes to my kid.  I feel like I should apologize to my husband for having this to deal with when he's been at work for 10 hours that day.  I feel like I should apologize to him, for failing him as a parent. I hesitate to call him special needs, because he is so high functioning.  I also don't feel like I have really earned the label of special needs parent, because I know what parents of children that I worked with in special education have gone through.  He is relatively easy outside of school.  He has always slept well, a little too well in some respects.  He spends most of his time at home with his nose buried in a book, or rolling around on the couch, which is a little annoying but otherwise harmless.

It seems like the one consensus everyone seems to have is to medicate, medicate, medicate.  Give little Johnny a pill so he’ll behave.  Give Sally some medicine so she can concentrate.  What’s the right answer here?  My husband vehemently says no.  I just want to do what’s right for my son, as well as give his poor teachers a break.  Homeschooling?  Not an option, at least not one that I WANT to consider.  

I love my son to pieces, but having these issues makes it so hard to be a parent.  Do you have a child who has issues in school?  On an IEP?  Does your kid have trouble relating to anyone his or her age?  Have you medicated your child-why or why not?

Sarah The Sadder But Wiser Girl usually feels more funny than this.  Currently she is trying to make a comeback as a functional member of society, one who likes wine and chocolate but loathes doing the dishes. When she’s not tearing her hair out about her kids or solving mysteries involving feces she’s at home in her yoga pants, writing her blog that can be found at http://sadderbutwiser.wordpress.com  . 

17 comments:

  1. Both of my sons were ADD and had an IEP. The school my first son attended did a beautiful job and he excelled. The school my second son attended did a horrible job and he barely made it through. We did try medication, but the boys could not tolerate it. I don't think they really make drugs for the youngsters, or understand the doses. It's scary, but drugs were not a solution for us. I think it depends on the drug, the person recommending it and my advice -- check it out online. Reading about some of these drugs makes you wonder how they were ever approved.
    For my younger son the school segregation made him stand out -- made bullying easy, and made him feel like a second class citizen. It was very hard on him and he has few good memories of school.
    Have you considered homeopathy / meditation / acupuncture? Someting more natural? I understand that music may also help. Or do you have charter schools (online options)?
    Good luck, it's hard. Also, my oldest son is still seeking help -- ADD continues into adulthood.

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  2. I've been on both sides of it. I worked in special ed and have seen the meds work wonders and have also seen when they went horribly wrong. I'm on the fence. He has done better since I wrote the post, but it's always a struggle. Being an ADD person myself, I know all too well how it can impact you as an adult.

    The only thing that we have tried besides making a schedule and all of the routine/reminder things is that I try to avoid artificial colors with him as much as possible. We live in rural Iowa, so the alternative stuff is not very accessible to us.

    Thank you for coming over to comment!

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  3. I've worked in spec ed too and reg classrooms. Not sure if you've thought of this, but have you thought about homeschooling him? It would reduce the distractions and might help him focus. I applaud your not wanting to medicate him.

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    1. I have thought about homeschooling him-it's not an option I really want to consider! It's not that I'm being selfish, just in the past when I've tried to do school type things with him he has met it with resistance. It's not out of the question, I'm just not sure how well I could meet his needs intellectually. Does that make sense? Thank you for your comment!

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  4. My step-son was diagnosed with ADD in Kindergarten but his school didn't feel that his behavior was enough of an issue to warrant an IEP. My husband and his mother fought ALL the time about whether or not to medicate him and about halfway through first grade, he was put on Ritalin. Kids started making fun of him because he would have to go see the nurse at lunch to get his afternoon pill. Broke my heart.

    By the time he was in 4th grade, he was living with us full time and we decided to take him off the Ritalin. We developed a plan that included diet, exercise, sleep, scheduling, vitamins, sports, etc. and he did very well. It was a LOT of work but he became an honor student with no behavorial outbursts.

    Then, puberty hit and he was all over the map. He was put on Concerta, which helped to an extent but he grew and grew and grew. The medication kept him from eating and sleeping so again we took him off it. He struggled so much during his junior and senior years of high school that he wanted to quit school. They still said he didn't "qualify" for an IEP but he did have some amazing teachers to help us through it.

    He is 22 now and still struggles. He can't hold a job for more than a few weeks at a time and it's really taking a toll on his self esteem. My heart goes out to your family.

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  5. Anonymous5/06/2013

    Everyone’s journey is a different as the disorder. My daughter was diagnosed with severe AHAD in the fall of first grade. She was basically illiterate. She knew her letters, knew the sounds but could not put the sounds together to form words. Her handwriting was not legible. She was in a small, private Montessori school. We had her evaluated; both psychologically and educationally because her learning was so horrible I was convinced she had dyslexia. The diagnosis was severe ADHD. We were scared, but had a few spots of good news. First, my daughter is an absolute doll. She has the ability to get along with absolutely everyone and her compassion runs deep. The whole room lights up when she walks into it (and I’m not saying that because she is my daughter). The other positive was that she scored an IQ of 130 in verbal comprehension, so inside this jumbled brain was a very smart girl. My husband and I were afraid that she would become frustrated in school by being so far behind. Also, as a girl, we were afraid that if we did nothing, her self-esteem would suffer. After many conversations with several people (friends, relatives, educators, doctors, etc.) we decided to medicate her. We made an appointment with our pediatrician, just my husband and I, to have a very frank conversation about medicine without my daughter hearing about some of the potential horrible side effects. We decided on Concerta. The second day she took it, she read a full sentence by herself, seriously. I’ll never forget the moment. Her concentration was amazing. She has caught up with her peers in learning. She likes taking her medicine because she knows it helps her concentrate. She is happy, she is confident. These are all really good things. But the medicine makes her very serious. We have noticed lately that she is having some moodiness (it’s been about 5 months since we’ve started concerta). She is not pleasant to be around when the meds wear off at night. We are starting to miss our “hippy, skippy” daughter, which prompted me to call my doctor last week. We are switching to vyvanse today…I’m picking it up on my way home. Apparently, her mood will be more stable on this medicine. I don’t regret giving her medicine. I equate to someone having to take medicine for highblood pressure. If she has to take medicine for the rest of her life to be healthy and productive, so be it. I’d rather her be happy and productive. As for school, we got her a tutor and her teachers worked with her to bring her back up to speed. If it’s an option, Montessori is a great environment for kids with ADHD. There is some individualized learning in a compassionate environment where every child has strength. Plus, they get to move around the classroom and they learn at their own pace, not being compared to others. Don’t be afraid of private school either if it’s appropriate for your child. Many offer financial aid (trust me, I've taken advantage of it). As for our envionement, we don’t eat don’t eat fast food, cook with whole foods, eat organic when possible, try not to eat processed food. My daughter is in soccer, gymnastics, piano, brownies, plays outside a ton. My husband and I are educated, active, healthy, somewhat organic types of outdoor people. We’re open-minded liberal thinkers. I really don’t feel that alternative therapies would have worked for my daughter. Everyone needs to forge their own path on this journey. I wish you good luck and hope this open and honest description of my journey has helped in some way. I had to post as anonymous because I've never posted/commented before and couldn't figure out how to leave my name ;-)

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! I agree that it is really something that is an individual thing. Every family and child is different. I certainly would never judge anyone who put their child on medication-I've seen it have wonderful results and I have also seen it not work worth a damn. As you can probably tell, I'm on the fence at the moment. Of course, I have been in numerous situations on different sides: as the classroom teacher, as the one on one aide, and as the parent.

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear about your boy's struggles. I believe a means to an end is education about these disorders and an understanding that EVERYONE is affected differently. Hang in there, Mama!

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    1. Thank you! I hope we figure out what is best for him soon. :-D

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  7. I feel your frustration. We don't medicate my son for adhd either. My son struggles with school, not sure if he is bored or just hates school. He loves to lie, do what he wants even though he knows the consquences, takes hours to do about an hours worth of homework. He also has oppositional defiant disorder tendencies.

    We tried meds and often times it didn't help much and when they finally found something that would work it would make him a zombie, which also defeats the purpose of getting help.

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    1. Right-I've seen both sides of the medication issue. I can't decide where I stand. My husband knows where he stands, but he is a math and science person, not a child and education person like I am! Thanks for commenting!

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  8. You are right, our kids do sound an awful lot a like. I think you know that I choose to homeschool. Not so much because of his issues, but once becoming accustomed to his issues, so glad I did. I would be lying if I said we didn't want to kill each other some days. But so many of the social issues you talked about my son has too. His OCD tendencies, his extreme loudness, his tic disorder, all of these things I know would make school a difficult place for him. My husband has severe ADD, he is medicated, it helps. I wish someone had discovered it sooner. I can't tell you to medicate, especially since it is such an addictive drug.... but thinking about it never hurt, and you can always take him off.

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    1. Unofortunately, medication is something my husband will only consider as a last resort. I feel like they gloss over a lot when he's present, because they know that there's no way in hell that he's going to go for it. I would like to maybe just see if it helps, but then I'm worried about the side effects. I've been medicated for it, and I can't say that it was all roses. I was able to focus on things better, but it made my heart race and kept me up at night! Thanks for coming over to give your opinion Jen!

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  9. I needed a few days to process this post and formulate my response. I have terrible ADHD. I still can't sit in one place for 37 seconds and look something shiny! I have never, ever taken medication for it. In fact, with time I learned how to make ADHD my bitch and make it work for me. I can multi-task with the best of em. I have tons of energy to accomplish what needs to be done and keep up with my kids (most of the time). As long as I have a list of things I need to do - everything gets accomplished. Who cares if it happens in 27 different sessions because I went into one room to fold laundry and walked out 3 seconds later with something else got my attention. First - DONT HOMESCHOOL HIM FOR THIS REASON. He needs to learn how to cope with his challenges in the real world otherwise he will tweak when he gets older. Second - give him some coping techniques. If he can't sit still in his chair at school, put a giant rubber band around the legs of his chair so he has something to bounce on that won't distract the rest of the class. If he's bored because he is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the class - talk to the teacher about giving him a task to complete when he is done (best if it gives him mobility and can burn some energy like running an errand or handing out paperwork). Make him lists of what he needs to accomplish BEFORE he can do something else. I have tons of methods that work for me I can share with you. But, you know your child. Work with him to find out what works best for him. Is it a weighted vest? Is it a tight pair of socks? Is it a dry erase board that he can erase tasks when completed? There are other alternatives. You can beat this!!!! Now, what was I saying....squirrel!

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    1. Some great ideas. The whole clothing thing did come up in kindergarten. His teacher noticed that on days his clothes weren't so loose that he was able to function. I've brought up the weighted vest idea, but I often feel like my ideas are poo-pooed by the team involved.

      Luckily, he is not ADHD as opposed to ADD, so it could be a lot worse. There is also his inability to relate to his peers, which is not only due to the ADD but to another issue entirely that we have yet to have diagnosed (He has been suspected of being on the spectrum for years.)

      I agree that homeschooling is not an option I WANT to consider unless absolutely necessary.

      As you can see I am so ADD that I completely forgot to come back and check for comments until now, and that's because One Funny Motha twittered me to tell me she left a reply. SQUIRREL!

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  10. My son has an IEP and has been diagnosed with ADD. He is not on medication, but I am at the point of considering it. Next year he will enter the middle school (5th grade) with no teacher or anyone else to look out for him, and I fear he will be eaten alive. He is a smart boy but lacks the ability to concentrate for any length of time unless it's on video games. I had been resistant to meds b/c the answer always seems to be to medicate. Just medicate them b/c it will be easier for everyone involved despite all the side effects and the fact that nothing is known about the long term effects or damage these drugs can cause to children who are still developing (they've only been tested on adults). That said, I started to adjust my position with the workload and responsibilities the middle school will bring. My son also has anxiety, and I feel like if we can tamp that down a little bit, the other pieces may fall into place. Although I had been opposed to meds, a few years ago, my son's private speech teacher put things into a new perspective for me. She said what if medication could make him feel better? What if it could lift a weight from his shoulders, make him feel more comfortable, make him a bit freer? I'd never thought of it that way. I'd only ever thought of it in academic terms. While I don't think medication is the answer to everything, if it helps it may be one tool in an arsenal of many to help my son cope. There are other areas to consider as well like diet and exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy.
    I wouldn't feel bad about your son in school or with your husband. It's not your fault and as long as you are holding up your end of the bargain working w/ your son, they should hold up theirs. I'd also say w/ the school you are your son's only advocate. The school may appear like they are trying to help and maybe they are but they have plenty of other kids to worry about. Your son is not their only priority. Also, my husband gave an unequivocal "no" to medication, which rather irritated me b/c I thought, well, he's not the one dealing w/ our son on a daily basis and he's not the one communicating with the school & his teachers and he's not the one shuffling him to all different doctor's appointments and he's not the one doing homework with him. I am. While you both have to be in agreement, I feel that often the dads aren't seeing the whole picture.

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    1. All good points... I appreciate hearing from people who have been in a similar situation!

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