Monday, November 26, 2012

ADHD - the reality

I've been a bit absent here of late - been working a lot at the library, we are making some REALLY BIG decisions (which I may share if they look like becoming a reality), and I've been overhauling my lifestyle to be serious about losing some weight (check out my other blog if you wanna).

But last week (or was it the week before?), Video Boy had his checkup with the developmental paeditrician. All is going well - he has grown 6cm in 6 months!! I kid you not - the kid is turning into an adult before my very eyes. He has put on 3kg. And things are going well with his medication, which seems to be having the desired effect and helping him concentrate on his schoolwork and settling him down in many way. He is on a low dose for his body weight, and we will have to pay attention (ha! did you get my little ADHD joke?) to the effectiveness of his medication as he grows (even more).

I wanted to include this post and not shy away from this aspect of our homeschooling lives, because I not only do I want to demystify homeschooling and gifted kids, but I also want to demystify the controversial topic of ADHD.

I can't tell you the number of negative, thoughtless comments I come across from otherwise well-meaning people that belittle and demean this very real, very impactful condition. Things like "change your kids diet, and then they won't have ADHD and you won't need to drug them". Things like "labels are hurtful to children".

Things like this:

I think those comments and jokes come from a place of ignorance, rather than any malice, and for sure, there are some aspects of our modern lifestyles that could do with a bit of questioning, but I wonder if they would stop and think for a second how the parent who has researched and read and journeyed and consulted with doctors and has "drugged" their child might feel. I also get the feeling those comments perhaps come from a place of Facebook and YouTube research, rather than from peer-reviewed scientific information.

You see, although for us the drugs do not make a momental difference in Video Boy's everyday behaviour and we don't need them to keep our sanity intact (unlike many other families), they do actually have some benefits that help him and without them, he would struggle in many areas and perhaps not be achieving as much as he is. As he commented to the specialist: "I don't really notice the difference when I take them, but I do notice if I haven't."

Those drugs allow him to focus on work he doesn't find intrinsically interesting (maths, writing, comprehension, etc). They allow him to gather his thoughts and hold them in his head, instead of watching a dust mote float by. They minimise his reliance on the emotional centre of his brain to do his executive functioning - this means less tears, less stress, less anxiety. They allow him to manage risk better and make better decisions and to delay gratification (a very useful thing heading into the teenage years!). They allow him to make the most of his (not inconsiderable) gifts. They allow him to start to reach his potential in one piece, physically and emotionally.

Video Boy has Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder. It is part of who he is. I don't want him to feel ashamed about this or the fact that he takes medication that helps him manage better. Much in the same way his contact lenses help him see normally, the Ritalin helps him think and process normally. 

That is our reality.

Do you have kids or know kids with ADHD? 
What about twice-exceptional (gifted/learning disabled?
Do you have strong feelings about not giving young kids medication?
Have I made you stop and think (even just a little)?


  1. You always make me think, Ingi. I have learned so much about what gifted really means from you.

    My feelings are that we, as a society, in a very broad generalization (especially here in the States), DO tend to overmedicate our kids. I look at my own son, who is perfectly normal in that he hops around, talks a lot, and couldn't sit still for 6 hours a day without going nuts. If he were in public school, I have no doubt I'd be getting pressure to medicate, pressure that is relatively common in the US.

    On the other hand, I think that there are kids who have real issues that medication can help with. Deciding to put your child on medication is a big one, and if that's a choice you made, I will assume that you did as much research and soul-searching as I would do in your place.

    You are the mom. You love your kids more than anyone. You know them better than anyone. You will make the decision that has their best interest in your heart more than anyone else. So whatever you decide is fine with me.

    1. Ah Deb - thank you so much for your thoughtful reply! I knew you were so much more than just funny.

      I think I neglected to point out a significant difference between the US and Australia - in Oz only a Developmental Paediatrician can diagnose and prescribe medication for ADHD. It cannot be done by your run-of-the-mill GP and teachers certainly can't. In Australia, there is perhaps a chance that it is underdiagnosed as you have to jump through so many (expensive) hoops.

      Having said that, I do believe that a lot of what is normal "boy" behaviour does not suit the classroom (another great reason to homeschool) and that the true signs of ADHD are distractability and inability to focus on subject matter that is not 'interesting' - hence why nearly all kids are able to focus on video games. And how ironic that Video Boy is not in the least bit hyperactive - if anything he is overly cautious physically, yet he has ADHD (without the H).

  2. Ingi
    I had a close friend who tried many different routes for her sons for years, so many unusual diets, supplements, learning paths etc etc. She was quite adamant that she didn't want to medicate, eventually her ped. put it like this, "You've tried so many other avenues and they haven't worked, (well they did to a small extent but took sooo much work) so what have you got to lose?" She tried it and for the first time in years her boys could think without a fog! They are slowly making some progress, unlike your boy they aren't gifted, learning is slow for them. I learnt so much travelling this journey with my friend.

    1. Thanks Erin. I guess I didn't really want to go down this path either, and as VB is not hyperactive, it was never suggested as a cause for many of his problems by the teachers, but many other things were (autism, dyspraxia etc). And yes - I tried the many other things too - the diet, the books on unmotivated children - and they kind of worked, but yes - it was a ridiculous amount of work.

      I should also point out that we don't "just" medicate. I use a lot of behavioural stuff, scaffolding etc with the view to improving those all important executive skills whilst the medication is doing it's thing.

    2. Not the same thing at all, but we have a gifted teen with serious anxiety and depression issues and we are using medication as one of the tools for helping her manage and eventually thrive.

      I understand. Glad things are working well for you and your boy.

  3. You know I do Ingrid and you know I sit on the opposite side of the fence. I won't medicate him. He is who he is, he's making great progress despite all his quirks. Even though he drives me to distraction he's well above peer level in everything except writing. He still hates writing, one day he won't. Maybe one day I'll need to medicate, but I hope not. I'm just not a drug taker, I was prescribed all sorts of rubbish for anxiety and depression, they're still sitting on the shelf, I got out and ran myself better instead. I had an adult ADHD brother in law who made such a mess of his life and did some terrible things. I say had, because he's now severely brain damaged after getting himself beaten up. That scares me, that this will continue into adulthood. For now he's containable, I just hope he'll grow out of it, he's improving with age. The diet comments really annoy me too!

  4. I am going to be honest and say I myself don't like medication. Like mentioned above meds is pushed here in the states to solve every problem. A child is disruptive put them on meds. You are overweight here take some meds. I want to add that I will only take over the counter pain meds only as a last measure and even then I take half a dose.

    Now saying all that this is what I choose for our family. What you choose to do for yours is not up to me and unless you ask me for my opinion personally it is not any of my business how you raise your family. :) I don't understand why people feel the need to be nasty just because they have a difference in opinion. If you are like myself (being that I have never met you in person ;))you weighed all the options and made the best choice for your son. I mean who knows maybe in the future you will change your mind, maybe you wont but that is up to you and only you.

    Ps I have been getting serious about my weight too.

    1. I appreciate your honesty. My hubby doesn't particularly like meds either - won't take a headache tablet unless it's excruciating. Doesn't particularly like me taking meds for my high blood pressure or VB's meds.

      And yes, I looked at everything and made the best decision I felt I could at the time. The situation may change. I'll be the first to let you all know!

      The weight thing is an ongoing issue, isn't it?


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