Medication for ADD is an emotional topic for many parents. We faced this dilemma with our oldest son, Jed. He was our first son, and parenting was a new experience for us. Jed was a bright, active little guy. When he went to pre-school, we found out that he was different from other kids.
Jed would wander around during circle time. His peers would be sitting in the circle engaged in their story time. Jed would roam about the room. He always knew what was going on and could answer questions correctly. His teachers were concerned about his differences from his peers. Pre-school was where we first heard the word “inattention” associated with Jed.
This seeming inattention continued into grade school. The grade school counselor started trying to get my husband and me to put him on medication for his inattention in third grade. I resisted because of my fears surrounding stimulant medication. Also, with prompts and individual attention, Jed could complete quality work. Finally, at the end of his fifth grade year, we made a decision and went to the doctor about having him evaluated for medications for ADD, also known as ADHD.
This was not the short dash to the pharmacy line to get Ritalin that some magazines talk about. Getting ADD/ADHD medication was not easy for us, nor has it been easy for anyone that I know of. Most physicians in our area don’t want to prescribe ADD medication. This is true even if the child is having great difficulty in school.
As parents, we needed to do our homework and find competent and caring mental health professionals. Jed needed to have a physician’s exam to rule out physical causes. We gathered Connor’s Rating Scales from school and home to rate his behaviors. Jed needed an evaluation ($600 at that time) by a psychologist. There was a visit to a second psychologist who specialized in ADD. Jed still didn’t have medication.
Then, we got a referral to a psychiatrist who would prescribe medication for ADD. First, he wanted to rule out depression. Our son was seriously depressed about school. After a Zoloft trial, Jed was finally given Ritalin. This process lasted from March through August. He started medication in time for 6th grade.
The reasons that we finally decided to get medication are numerous. Jed was really sad about his problems in school. He had trouble getting organized. A wise person told us that kids with ADD who do not get medication may self-medicate when they are older. This struck a chord with me.
I know that I have ADD, too. Looking at my elementary grade cards, the teachers’ comments tend to bear this out. Most of them talked about how smart that I was. They finished by discussing my inattention and the fact that I didn’t finish my work or try hard. Sound familiar?
In the 1970’s, I was prescribed Dexedrine for my weight. There was no trouble getting prescriptions in those days. I always felt more able to concentrate and do good work when I was taking Dexedrine. Jed doesn’t have a weight problem. I could visualize him going to the street to get his meds when he was older. So, we decided to get him the medication that he needed.
ADD is such a pernicious disability. In its inattentive iteration, it masquerades as laziness and lack of caring about tasks. People believe that the person with ADD should “buckle down.” The person should just do that good job that he is capable of.
Sometimes there is a golden day for the person with ADD; the stars, planets, and the neurotransmitters all line up. The neurons fire correctly. The person with ADD can do it all with ease. He can attend, complete work, do tasks flawlessly, and fulfill his potential. People say, “We knew he could do it if he would just try!”
Later, the chemical balance falls out of alignment. Things are back to the normal state. This person with ADD becomes his old disorganized, impulsive, or hyperactive self.
For children who get the right medication in the optimal dose, most days are like that golden day. Often getting ADD medication prescribed accurately for a child is an art and a science. The doctor needs to find the correct medication that has minimal side effects for that particular child. Too much medication may make the child listless. Especially with stimulant medications, the time of day that the dose is given is important. Children need regular medical checks when they are taking ADD medication.
Emotions run high when people consider giving a powerful medication for ADD to their child. After years of considering our son's needs, we decided that ADD medication was the right choice for Jed. It was worth the time, money, and effort that we made. Parents need to do their homework and make an informed decision based on the needs of their child.
Below is a book that presents information about various forms of treatment, which includes medication. This book is filled with information about living well with ADD/ADHD. It is worth your time to read it.
Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
Whether your child takes medication, or not, this book will help you raise a child who flourishes with their ADD.
Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child