When I tell people that our son is on medication for his ADD/ADHD, I usually get some kick-back. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need others’ approval. I do want the people who inquire about it to know that our 7-year-old is on medication because we thought about it…a lot. We weighed the pros and cons. A lot of research and praying on our parts went into him taking his first dose. We had to put away our judgement of medication and do what was best.
Our son started showing signs of ADHD around 4 years of age. He was a very calm baby and BOOM…he turned 4 and never sat still. When he started kindergarten, his inability to focus was very apparent. He would randomly walk around his classroom. He went the long way to get things from the other side of the room. He was a 35 lb. bag of energy, and it was affecting his ability to get classroom tasks done. I would show concern to friends and family, and I heard in response, “He’s a boy!” and “It’s his age!” and “That’s just who he is!” Inside I knew it was more than that.
First grade was trying for Jax. His conduct was horrible due to his lack of control with talking and sitting still. He has never been a disrespectful child and we have never had problems with his temper, so getting C’s and D’s in conduct everyday was tough for me to witness. His teacher was amazing and she let me know, “He’s a boy. He will grow out of it.” Still something wasn’t right, and I felt it deep down.
Second grade arrived. By then his inattentiveness was off the charts. Nothing we did would get him to sit down, hush, and learn. I could tell he was trying but just couldn’t get it together. I read dozens of articles online about symptoms of ADHD and tips and tricks, task charts and reward jars. My heart kept telling me I needed to reach out for help.
I made an appointment with his pediatrician and I knew right away I was doing the right thing. At his appointment we talked about everything. I cried. I unloaded all of the guilt I felt for not taking him certain places because I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to handle him. I told her how hard bath time is for us and how he sleeps with every book that he owns in his bed. How he falls on the floor constantly and how he only stands up at the table and never sits down. She gave me a home assessment form for my husband and me to fill out and an in-class assessment for school. Everything was turned in and we awaited the results.
Jax was diagnosed as ADHD Combined Type, which essentially means he has combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive traits. His assessments also showed signs of anxiety and depression. To top all of that off, Sensory Processing Disorder was mentioned. Talk about a heavy phone conversation. All of these little quirky things Jax had been doing really meant something.
Here is the deal with Jax: he has Cystic Fibrosis (CF). CF is a pulmonary and digestive disease. He has trouble gaining weight and we had to address medication from a stimulant standpoint. We weren’t able to put him on just anything. We had to take his CF into account as well. Ultimately, with his doctor’s help, we settled on a non-stimulant to try.
My husband and I sat down and talked it all out. What were the pros and the cons to medication? Could we just handle this from a natural approach? Is this something WE caused? Is there something we need to change in our parenting or in his environment? I knew this for sure: Jax wasn’t my Jax anymore. He was struggling. He wasn’t happy and man did that hurt.
Ultimately we decided on trying the medication. If we didn’t see that it was helping and/or if it was doing more harm than good, we would stop. We decided to medicate for one main reason: Jax wasn’t thriving. We needed to get it all under control as soon as we could. We sat him down for a talk about having to take a (yet another) pill every day. We told him that if he ever felt funny or weird after taking it, to let us know. He seemed okay with it so we started.
Here we are 5 months later, and while he still has issues with his attention and sitting still, he is SO much more happy and mild-mannered than he was at the beginning of the school year. The medicine, combined with weekly occupational therapy, has really been beneficial for him. We have had to make some adjustments with his dosages but so far so good. There haven’t been any adverse reactions.
While I wish that this wasn’t a battle that he has to face, I am happy that there are options. By facing it early, I hope that we have avoided some of the difficulty that ADD/ADHD can bring to a child’s learning. Making the choice to medicate wasn’t something that I thought I would have to do, but when it came down to it, that was the best thing to do for Jax.