Medication for children is a hotly debated topic. I am not an expert. I cannot tell you if medication is right for you, your child or your family. I would like to share our personal experience.
I grew up eating healthy and avoiding medication whenever possible. Antibiotics were only taken as a last resort. Vaccinations were spaced and I received them at a time when the standard vaccination schedule was much lighter.
On the other hand, my father was a juvenile-onset and insulin-dependent diabetic. He took shots daily. We were not opposed to medication but the goal was to try to let our bodies deal with life as naturally as possible.
I have vaccinated all of my children. I have spread out all of my children’s vaccinations instead of strictly following the prescribed vaccination schedule. One child is on the spectrum but unlike some parents’ experience, I cannot link Daniel Asperger’s Syndrome to a specific vaccination event.
We eat healthy. We focus on a Paleo/Primal Diet with lots of healthy fats, quality meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts. I tried GFCF when Daniel was young but it made no impact.
Shortly after Daniel was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADD, we tried Ritalin for a short (several months) time. There were no observable advantages.
My ongoing stumbling block to medication for ADD has been primarily philosophical. The primary reason many parents tell me that they medicate for ADD is to allow their children to function in school, often taking them off the medication on the weekends.
To me, the school system is largely a situation of “it is all made up”. The school structure does not represent real adult life in either its expectations (being good at a wide range of subjects), nor in the flow of activities. There is little flexibility for wide variety of learning styles, personality types, etc.
I think the real world has options for nearly every type of individual and brain configuration. I believe that ADD, like high-functioning Autism, is a neurodiversity that has advantages.
I am not here to argue the validity of the education system. I understand there are reasons it has developed as it exists today. However, I struggle with the idea that I should alter my child’s brain chemistry to fit an artificially constructed system.
My Turning Point
This school year has been terrible. Daniel was making little to no progress. Every other day, or so, I received an email about how he was forgetting supplies for class, homework assignments or struggling to stay on task. He was having weekly meltdowns. He had checked out of school. He was failing. He came home angry, frustrated and depressed. He stopped trying to make friends.
I researched. I supported. I reviewed homework with him. I advocated for him with the school, insisting that they continue to look for resources for my son and to ensure he wasn’t dismissed as a “behavior problem”.
My cousin, a blogger and author, also struggles with ADD and shared her story regarding medication. I saw the idea of medication from a different perspective.
It was evident that as a person with ADD, the stress of trying to deal with the requirements of school were pushing Daniel to his limits. He was always on a sensory tipping point. It did not take much to push him into a full-blown meltdown.
Finally, Daniel and I sat down with his doctor. Changing the school or the educational system was and is obviously not an option. I cannot afford specialized schools. I cannot home school. The most accessible option was medication.
Daniel was very concerned about what the medication would do to his brain. We discussed the physiology of the medication. The medication would stay in the body for a max of 10 hours. Daniel was assured by his doctor that if the medication was not functioning in a way that helped, it would be completely out of his body by the next day.
Additionally, we outlined the goals of taking the medication. This would be medication to treat the ADD. The idea was that if we could relieve some of the stress of trying to function in spite of the ADD, maybe Daniel could focus on addressing the struggles related to his dyslexia without meltdowns.
Daniel began taking Vyvanse on a Thursday. He came home at the end of the first day talking a million miles a minute. He told me about the friend he had made that day. I asked him if he had noticed any difference with the medication.
“Jesus Christ! It’s awesome!” he exclaimed.
He reported that he had started his homework while still in class. He had finished assignments early and had even helped other kids in his group complete the work. By the following week, I was receiving notifications regarding positive behavior.
A month later, he is getting 2 C’s, 2 B’s and an A. He completes his homework without my assistance. He is on track to be promoted to high school. Additionally, he has been improving in reading, even voluntarily trying to sound out words and hand-writing his own stories. I have not received a missing homework notification since he started on the medication.
We have watched Daniel closely, paying particular attention to the known side-effects. To date, Daniel has not suffered any significant side effects.
As with everything, I think the intention is what matters. I do not medicate my child to make him “normal”. I do not medicate my child because I am unwilling to put the time required into working with him. Together, he and I choose medication as a tool.
I do not know if this medication will be a forever part of his life. I do not know if it will always work like it does today. I do know that the medication has removed the hair shirt of dealing with school everyday. Additionally, Daniel takes the medication on the weekends as well because he has found that it helps him work through weekend chores, homework and responsibilities with less stress.
Daniel is more optimistic about school and feels more successful. For us, to medicate was the choice… for now.
If you start using a medication in a person with autism, you should see an obvious improvement in behavior in a short period of time. If you do not see an obvious improvement, they probably should not be taking the stuff. It is that simple. – Temple Grandin
Do you or your child use medication? Why or why not?