Friday, September 3, 2010

On having a child with ADHD...

Allow me if I may to venture outside of my usual domain for a minute.

I keep reading articles/websites/tweets about the supposed over diagnoses and treatment of ADHD, particularly in little boys. The argument goes that little boys are supposed to be energetic, rowdy, full of life, and that parents, unable or unwilling to manage them, are quick to jump on the ADHD bandwagon, and eager to medicate,  in order to bring their boys under control.
I have no doubt that children are wrongly diagnosed with ADHD, as people of all ages are regularly misdiagnosed with all sorts of things. ADHD symptoms can also be attributed to any number of other issues, and ADHD often appears co morbidly with issues like ASD, or SPD. It's complicated. I'm no doctor.
I have to say though, that I resent the tone of these statements.
My son has ADHD. He's not merely an energetic, lively little boy, and I'm not taking the lazy way out, medicating him into submission so I can have more energy for watching talk shows and eating bon bons.
Before seeking treatment for my son, he was virtually unable to carry on sustained play, unable to carry on a normal conversation. Words and activity seemed to come exploding out of him, like water from a fire hose. He was helpless to control it, even if he wanted to.
After waiting several years for him to outgrow some of his issues, a period in which things got worse instead of better, we finally resigned ourselves to the idea that something was really going on. We had him evaluated, and found that among other things, he has ADHD. After discussing treatment options,we consented to trying him on a low dose of medication, and were frankly amazed when he showed an almost unbelievable level of improvement.
Contrary to what what these articles would imply, he's not a little zombie, vegging out in front of the tube, drinking soda and eating ding dongs. He's still an incredibly active little boy.
The fire hose is more like a water hose now. Manageable.
He's able to play now, able to listen, able to learn, able to take advantage of all the God given smarts he already had, but wasn't able to access before. Now other people are able to see what we already knew: how funny, and smart, and sweet he is.
I hope that some day he'll be able to discontinue the use of his medication. It has known, and probably unknown side effects, it's expensive, it carries a stigma. My hope is that as he grows older, he may be able to learn some behavioral strategies to help him be able to overcome his challenges. This may or may not actually be realistic.
Until then, we'll keep doing what we think is the best thing for our son, in a world that isn't willing to accommodate the differently abled, and yet is full of suggestions about how we should parent them. (How many times have I heard that "what he really needs is a spanking," or "what he really needs as an organic, GFCF diet," or "what he really needs is more time outside." And on and on. What he really needs is for his loving parents to do the best they can with the information, and medical advice that's available, depending on God for the rest. And that's what he's going to get.)

By the way, if you're wondering what inspired this post, it was this article at the Huffington Post, and this flippant Tweet by the National Wildlife Federation, (whose Tweets I usually enjoy.) There have been many others along this same vein.


  1. Thanks for sharing your opinion. As a mental health professional, I too think ADHD is overdiagnosed (along w/ other disorders) but there are some people who truly suffer from ADHD. I often hear the same type comments about discipline, more play time, just being a kid/boy, etc. ADHD is very real and often persists in to adulthood with different symptoms.
    Just do what you know you should as the person who knows your child best.

  2. Thanks, Ocean for the thoughtful comment. :)
    I admit I was a little wary of of posting about such a hot button issue, as that's really not my style.
    I don't think that anyone is going to argue against healthy food, lots of excercise, and time to mature for children with ADHD, as well as children in general. Clearly those can only help.
    On the other hand, I think it's a dreadful oversimplification to assume that that's all that's required to have healthy, "normal" children, and that conversely, if your child has any issues, it's clearly because you haven't provided those things.
    My son eats a decent diet, is allowed to play inside and out, and I have gone to great lengths to allow him to have a happy childhood full of books, blocks, and hugs. I didn't cause him to have ADHD, unless you count genetics (which are unfortunately not on his side,) and I hate when people imply that maybe it's my fault.
    To me, it would be the same sort of awful nonsense to imply that a mother with a more "traditionally" disabled child was somehow responsible for their disability.
    I'm constantly looking for non pharmaceutical ways to help my son with what is, I believe, a very real disability. Medication is a teeny, and admittedly distasteful part of the puzzle, but for now, at least, it's working, and its necessary.

  3. Your families story sounds very similar. I waited for my son to "outgrow" his issues. Finally at the 4th grade, I knew it was time to seek help...he wanted it. He knew things weren't right. We also started on a low dose medication. He is so much happier on his medication. He too can play, concentrate on his studies, and can listen when he chooses too (now 13 and doesn't always choose to listen).

    Personally, there is a difference families when seeking a diagnosis. Are you doing it for your child, because a teacher suggested, or because you just don't want to cope???
    Teachers need to get out of the business of diagnosis kids. Parents need to step and make sure all medical decisions are in the best interest of their child, not for the parents on selfish reasons.

  4. Good, quick read recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

  5. Good post. I like to read/hear/see things on both sides of a topic like this. And your experiences trumps a lot of peoples 'thoughts' on it for sure! I have seen one of my friends children struggle with it for years, she finally did meds low dose like you and researched it and the child (now in teens) is totally different. Before it was chaos. Its not fair people would lump you in with others that do over medicate and under research a topic before diving into it, but you seem to be handling it well. Hope you have a wonderful, peaceful, inspiring and full of learning school year!!

  6. Very logical viewpoint. I'm interested to see what that tweet was. Off to check.

    Found you over at oka's blog.

  7. I just happened across your blog and loved all of the sensory items you have because i have a little girl with CP which stemmed from a stroke inutero. You have such wonderful ideas for working with your little guy. I hope you don't mind if I use some of those they are great. And how blessed your little guy is to have parents that love him enough to work with him that hard! Good luck with him and all your efforts!