Should I Medicate My Child For Attention Deficit Disorder?
How do I know if my child has ADD? When should I have my child tested for ADD? Should I medicate my child for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)?
According to helpguide.org, “When many people think of attention deficit disorder, they picture an out-of-control kid in constant motion, bouncing off the walls and disrupting everyone around. But this is not the only possible picture. Some children with ADHD are hyperactive, while others sit quietly—with their attention miles away. Some put too much focus on a task and have trouble shifting it to something else. Others are only mildly inattentive, but overly impulsive.”
ADD was something “other” kids had; not my kid. They were the spastic kids who couldn’t sit still, who couldn’t follow instructions, were always in trouble at school because they were always disturbing the class with their outbursts.
I regret that I didn’t know anything about ADHD. I made assumption about it and the children who had it.
I assumed my child was perfect, she just needed a little extra help with just about EVERYTHING. I thought this was normal and it was my job as her parent to teach her.
Besides, I had the perfect pregnancy. I ate fruits and vegetables, exercised, drank tons of water, got a lot of sleep, minimized stress, only gained 29 pounds with my pregnancy.
When she was born, I fed her only the healthiest foods, I limited processed foods to things like cheerios, etc. She didn’t have her first taste of sweets until her first birthday, we didn’t set foot in a McDonald’s until she was 7 years old, I started reading to her when she was 2 weeks old, we were active and took day trips to the park, library, museums.
Everything was about learning and being healthy because I wanted to give her the best start in life. My daughter having ADD was the an impossibility in my mind.
The Early Signs
I signed her up for Montessori school when she was three years old. It was super expensive but I had heard great things about this type of education during the early years. It allows a child to learn at their own pace, while the teacher matches appropriate lessons and materials when they feel the child is ready to naturally absorb new, higher level learning.
My researched showed that every child thrives in this environment. There was no limit to how much they can learn with the teacher's guidance.
Every day she came home with globs of clay. I would ask her, “Did you do anything else at school today sweetie”? “No”, she replied. The weeks went by and still globs of clay. Once in a while, she would bring home a drawing or two.
I thought “this is crazy”. All the money I’m spending on giving her this incredible opportunity and all she’s doing is playing with clay. I decided to observe her in class one day.
As I watched her rolling around on the floor and grabbing another classmate’s feet, I started to reconsider this type of education. Perhaps she needed something more structured? Perhaps I was being impatient? The teachers told me her playing with clay was a good thing and that it would enhance hand eye coordination, writing skills, typing skills, etc.
I, of course, thought "she can play with clay at home for free".
I didn’t realize it but these were the first sign of Claire’s ADD.
When I look back on all the signs I missed, I am astonished. I just thought she was lazy, and forgetful and she was choosing to be this way. I went through 11 lunch boxes before I decided that yelling at her for losing her lunchbox, yet again, was not effective. It was disposable Walmart bags from here on out.
As she got older, forgetting her homework, on a daily basis. Forgetting assignments, not being able to focus in school, forgetting to do things 5 minutes after I told her.
I figured repeating myself over and over, all day, every day was just a normal part of parenting.
By the end of eighth grade, I was at a loss. Her grades were plummeting, she was constantly tired, and overwhelmed. I was beyond frustrated.
When I sat in the psychiatrist’s office and answered the questions she asked, the light went on. Claire’s not lazy or disinterested, she has ADD! It all made sense. She wasn’t purposely trying to piss me off.
Symptoms of inattention in children:
- Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted or gets bored with a task before it’s completed
- Appears not to listen when spoken to
- Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions; doesn’t pay attention to details or makes careless mistakes
- Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
- Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items
Symptoms of hyperactivity in children:
- Constantly fidgets and squirms
- Has difficulty sitting still, playing quietly, or relaxing
- Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
- Talks excessively
- May have a quick temper or “short fuse”
Symptoms of impulsivity in children:
- Acts without thinking
- Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem or blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
- Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
- Often interrupts others; says the wrong thing at the wrong time
- Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
My decision to medicate
I’ve had attention problems all my life. I've often joked that the reason I struggle is because my mom smoked and drank throughout her pregnancies. Hey, it's not her fault, they didn't know any better back then.
I thought I was just a slow-reader, slow-learner, and "a little slow on the uptake". It just takes me longer to process information because of all the distractions. I definitely feel I've had to over-compensate for my inability to focus and it's held me back from achieving a certain level of success. I've struggled in school, work, and relationships has caused a lot frustration, anxiety, and fatigue.
I want a better life for my daughter so I decided to get her help.
Claire was diagnosed with ADD and started on a small dose of Adderall XR. This is the extended release version which helped her throughout the day but it was causing sleep problems which was making the problem worse.
She was battling depression at the same time so we had to change medications a few times to find the one that works best for her. She takes 15mg of regular Adderall every morning and it seems to help her until the end of school.
Deciding to put her on medication was the best decision for us. It’s a night and day difference. She still needs help remembering but she’s more alert during school and is able to focus for a longer period of time.
Like I’ve told her, “It’s not a magic pill. You still need to train your brain to stay on track. The medication just makes it a bit easier for you to do so”.
We've also purchased these fun items to help her focus (I find them helpful too):
If you think your child may have ADD (or ADHD) have them see a psychiatrist. Many people also try homeopathic remedies and I totally believe in that, but in our situation, I think I caught it too late. It was a very stressful time in her life with ADD and depression that I needed to make a quick decision. I chose medication.
I’m hoping she will not need to be on this medication into adulthood, however, that decision will have to come from her.
This website is a great resource:
My other post: Should I Medicate My Child For Depression?
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