Thank you so much for this! My daughter was diagnosed 1 1/2 yrs ago with ADHD and ODD. There was no questioning medicating her. I knew that her brain needed the help. Her father on the other hand is just now starting to accept the fact that the medication is needed for her benefit. I received a heap of backlash when I decided that medicating her was what was best. The main concern everyone had was that they didn't want her to loose her "spunky personality"....and believe me she hasn't!! We have had a lot of "fun" figuring out which medication and dose works best for her but I believe we are finally on the right track. We also have been in behavioral therapy for the past 3 months and have made leaps and bounds improvement. Being a parent with a AHDH child is a tough job but I will do anything to help her live a more 'normal' life! I especially loved your post Insensitive things people say when you have an invisible condition!!
Kids ADHD explained.
An insight into your child’s ADHD experience.Let me ask you a question. If you found out that your child had Diabetes, would you deny him Insulin? If he was short-sighted, would you deny him glasses and tell him to just sit nearer the front of the classroom? Well, then why – if your child was diagnosed with ADHD, would you decide to withhold medication? Since I wrote about my own ADHD diagnosis, I have been overwhelmed with private messages from distraught parents whose children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Their distress is exactly the same – they are afraid to medicate and are certainly not going to share the diagnosis with anyone, for fear of the negative stigma. Their relief upon reading my post was almost palpable – for most, it was the first time someone had spoken about medicating ADHD in a positive light. This really made me sad. Incredibly sad. All I could think was “Those poor kids.” Before you judge me as a drug-peddler, let me begin by saying that I absolutely understand the fear of the scary monster ADHD drugs that are out there. Hell, if you Google it, you’re led to believe you’re a selfish parent who wants to zombiefy her child for her own convenience. You’ll believe ADHD drugs are only used by lazy, inept parents and teachers to tranquilise naughty children who really only need a good old-fashioned spanking. In fact, if you take all the online literature at face value, there’s no way you’d agree to administer any ADHD drug. Giving your child Medication would be tantamount to child abuse. Right? In my humble (but educated opinion) you’d be wrong. Let me be clear – ADHD medications are extremely dangerous when administered to children without ADHD. Herein lies the major issue. I believe that there are masses of children wrongly diagnosed with ADHD and to medicate these kids would be highly irresponsible, to say the least. If a ‘normal’ child took Ritalin, or any other ADHD drug, it would be as if he had been given cocaine. Yes, these ADHD drugs are not safe in the wrong hands. Guess what? If you gave a ‘normal’ child Insulin, it would be dangerous too – but would you deny a Diabetic child Insulin because it’s dangerous to kids who don’t have Diabetes? OF COURSE NOT. I think the issue with kids and ADHD is twofold. Firstly, the disorder is misunderstood. Public awareness (or lack thereof) is horrendous, making it a disorder associated with ‘bad’ kids. Secondly, ADHD is too often misdiagnosed (often by a teacher or a GP – horror of horrors!) and therefore inappropriately medicated.
Myth #1: Kids with ADHD are always hyper and badly behaved.ADHD manifests in two distinct ways – a hyperactive body and a hyperactive mind (and obviously, there are many people with ADHD who are somewhere in the middle). The hyperactive kind of ADHD child cannot sit still. No amount of stars on a chart or smacks on the behind will change that. Again – the Diabetic analogy: try offering a Diabetic child a star on a chart for every time he successfully keeps his sugar levels where they need to be by using his just his will-power. Ridiculous? Of course. Yet, every day, parents and teachers are expecting kids with ADHD to do just that. Newsflash: He is not a naughty child. He is not a stupid child. He is not a disrespectful child. He has ADHD and cannot sit still for long periods. As for the ADHD child who has a hyperactive brain (this is known as Inattentive ADHD), this child is often not diagnosed at all. I was one of them. This child is well behaved, bright and looks like a perfect student. She tries extremely hard, is always ‘busy’ with her school work and is eager to please. This child is also in a very painful and hateful internal war with herself. She knows she is intelligent, she knows she has the ability to do what is asked of her, yet when she is faced with a complex task, she is overwhelmed and often can’t even begin, let alone complete the task. She is frustrated and anxious. She is a people pleaser who hates herself (yes, hates herself) for all the times she forgets to do something she said she would/struggles to organise herself/fails to complete tasks. She is the kid who is always smiling, always helping others. What you don’t notice is the fear that motivates the smiles and generosity – they are her subconscious way to compensate for the myriad of times she knows she is going to mess up and inadvertently upset others. These kids are often overlooked because they do well at school, they don’t cause act out and they try hard, so teachers and parents think they are fine. They are not. A child with ADHD lives in a whirlwind. Imagine if someone took your diary and tore out all the pages and threw them into the tumble-drier and then asked you to tell them what you’re doing next week Thursday. You’d know that the information is there somewhere, but getting it would be virtually impossible. Now, imagine if you could snap your fingers and suddenly that diary was magically bound together and in your hands. That’s the effect of correct medication on the ADHD brain. When children with ADHD are tested (properly, by a registered clinical psychologist and a pediatrician – not by a teacher or a GP) and given an accurate diagnosis and if their parents agree to medicate them, they soar. I know how they feel. I understand how liberating it is to get medicated and finally be able to accomplish things I knew all along I had the intelligence to achieve. A child, properly diagnosed with ADHD (either end of the spectrum) and medicated appropriately, has a chance. He can think straight. He can sit still. The same child, unmedicated, will have a brain that feels like it’s in a constant spin-cycle. He will feel like a failure. He will struggle to follow a simple chain of commands – not because he is stupid or disrespectful, but because his brain can’t hang onto the list long enough to follow through. He will live in fear of disappointing someone, he will be constantly reprimanded for not listening and he will be profoundly sad because he knows he is capable of better. I know this. I lived with a chaotic brain for 36 years and lost friendships over my inability to focus on conversations and remember dates and appointments. This lead many people to conclude I was simply uninterested and self-involved. I hated myself for letting them down and lived in abject fear of the next time. There was always a next time.
Myth #2: ADHD drugs turn kids into zombies.Yes, if wrongly administered. Again, give a Diabetic child the wrong dose of Insulin and you’re not going to get a good result. The problem is not the drug! When a person is diagnosed with ADHD, most specialists will prescribe their recommended medication, in the lowest dose possible. The patient then has to start with a half a pill, building up day by day until the drug begins to work. Parents, children and the prescribing specialist work together in this process until the child is on the exact right dosage. Trust me, it is as clear as day when the dose is right. In my case, it happened the day we had a family gathering. I sat at the table with tears coursing down my cheeks because, for the first time, I was able to talk to the person next to me without using every ounce of my effort to not be distracted by other conversations, the trees outside and the sounds of the kids playing in the next room. I was shocked that this was how other people experienced life – that it could be this easy. It was like I had been given glasses and I could see clearly for the first time in my life. When medicated correctly, people with ADHD are amazingly productive. Since my diagnosis, lists don’t terrify me (I still hate them, and still mess up A LOT but the difference is huge). I can actually be trusted to get things done. I am alert, positive, energetic. Zombified? No way. Sure, if I upped my dose, that could happen. Take any drug incorrectly and you’ll suffer horrible side-effects. I am not telling you to medicate your kids. I am asking you to educate yourself before you make that choice. I am begging you to not buy into the negative and uneducated hype associated with ADHD medication.
DO go get a second opinion.
DO question everyone.
DO educate yourself.Whatever you decide, please educate the people around you. Kids with ADHD do not deserve the negative stigma attached to the condition. They are good kids. They are intelligent kids. They deserve a chance to thrive. Whether they are medicated or not. Let’s start a conversation. Have you or your child been diagnosed with ADHD? Have you decided to medicate/not to medicate? Please share your experiences.
If you liked this post, click the thumbs-up button at the bottom of this post.I’d really love to hear your comments, so please don’t be shy (comments make me do a happy dance). You can also join the fun on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
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Posted on J July, 2012, in ADHD, Family, Gratitude, Life, Motherhood, Parenting, Self-esteem and tagged ADHD, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, child with ADD, child with ADHD, Do ADHD kids just need discipline?, growing up with ADHD, learning disabilities, mental-health, negative stigma of ADHD, parenting, Pharmaceutical drug, pros and cons of Ritalin, Ritalin, should I medicate my ADHD child?, What does ADHD feel like?. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.
I have 4 children, 2 with ADHD, 1 with ADD, and 1 with OCD/ADHD.... life is not easy. ADHD can be hereditary. My kid got it from me :( But there are also many ways to control it. Diet (same as with some variations of diabetes) can be a large influence of their behavior. They need routine, schedules... Once we established what some of the triggers were that made their (and my) conditions worse, we worked to eliminate those triggers as much as possible. None of my children are on medication. We are diet, exercise and routine controlled and it does work wonders. My kids are old enough to know which foods make them worse (red dyes in kool-aid, preservatives, large amounts of sugar) and they avoid them. Medication would be wonderful, but it doesn't work for everyone. It didn't work for mine (they were all hypersensitive as the Dr. put it) but making a LOT of changes in our everyday life worked miracles!
My kids have not been diagnosed, but I know many kids who have. Most parents don't want to share their children's diagnoses for fear of being stigmatized or receiving idiotic advice from well meaning but uneducated people. I should refer them to this post!
The overdiagnosis has been such a detriment to those with ADHD. I guess it is like the overuse of antibiotics or other meds - it is hard for doctors to stand up to the pressure parents put on them to write scripts. (I came from the Hump Day Hook Up.)
Thank you for being brave and sharing this. Information is power. Thanks for hooking up on the Hump Day Hook Up too
THANK YOU...someone who cares enough about the adhd kids NOT to *guiltify* parents into opting out of giving them the meds they need...
Thank you for writing this. My 6 year old has been on Vyvanse for 2 years now. We had him evaluated by the pediatrician and a psychologist. Both diagnosed him identically with ADHD hyperactive, in attentive and impulsive. The psychologist was worried because my son was unable to focus on things that interested him. The change in him at pre-k was amazing once he started medication and I thank The Lord everyday for giving him the teachers he had in pre-k and kindergarten. They were amazing with my son. We are having issues thus year with his attention and impulsiveness. Playing with dirt on the floor, laying down in puddles during after care and hitting other kids. I realize each and every day is a struggle but I will make all sacrifices for my son. Again thank you for this article.
FINALLY! An article that states what I have been trying to say for years...but I am not so eloquent. I have four boys. Two are diagnosed wit hADHD. One severe with anxiety issues and the other mild. Both use a medication and both have thrived in part because of it. Just like with diabetes, the medication is just part of the puzzle. You also need to address diet, sleeping, excersize etc. Both my ADHD boys also have dysgraphia. We have been fortunate to have had teachers who understand and work with the boys and I also have a tutor for one who works one on one with him. Their self esteem is so easily broken..... it is heart breaken to see them think they are stupid and not like others. It's easy to judge... I point out that two of my boys excell in school and do not have ADHD.... if it was environmental/parenting... how is that possible? Thank you for a well written article!!
What an excellent article! After a few years of hemming and hawing about ADHD (does he have it? Does he not have it?) we got our son tested by a pediatric neuro-psychologist at age 8. He was diagnosed with ADHD and based on the recommendation of 3 medical professionals we decided to medicate him. What a huge difference it has made in all of our lives! He can clean up his room without us having to stand over him and direct his every move. He can complete tasks much quicker (like eating, doing math). ADHD is so misunderstood.
In Belgium, it's obviously that every child has a mental disease when being diagnosed. And if they don't, they will get one... I believe that every child will be diagnosed ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) after taking Ritalin for a while, which proves that they needed Ritalin anyway. It is BIG business in Belgium and I am afraid of the long-term effects... knowing that two good friends from my childhood are in psychiatric treatment for the rest of their (miserable) life because of Ritalin!
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Hi, I read this and it brought tears to my eyes.... We dont have ADHD issues in our family, but we are dealing with Aspergers Syndrome. Your article hit home to me more so around the stigma that is attached to the disorder. As you are probably aware, there is no medication for Aspergers, just behaviour managment and lots of therapy and training. My daughter was diagnosed 3 months ago with it and as a result I was also.... .. and I cant help but compare my experience to yours. Not everyone with Aspergers is like Rainman or Sheldon cooper from the Big Bang Theory, and I think that is a difficult thing for many to deal with. My diagnosis explained so much of my lonely, stressful and depressed childhood, but I too was just seen as the kid that did her school work and was coping really well. I dont blame anyone for missing a diagnosis when I was younger, Aspergers is still not commonly diagnosed in girls, and I was very good at hiding how I really felt. Thanks you for posting your article, I found it an interesting read to see how ADHD can be similar to an ASD diagnosis.
This is an excellent post! My 17 yr old son is on the autism spectrum and has some ADD behaviors that are part of his diagnosis. A lot of what you shared applies to kids/adults on the autism spectrum as well where it applies to meds. Your description of trying to focus on having a conversation was spot on! I also think whether your child is ADHD/ADD or on the autism spectrum, meds MUST go hand in hand with counseling and teaching organizational/communication skills as well. Great perspective. Thanks for sharing.
We do need to be careful though. ADHD is massively over-diagnosed in Western Australia compared to the other states of Australia (not sure where everyone else is). We also need to not have absolute faith in medication - Psychiatric medication in general is not very "good" - side effects are common and we don't really know what we are doing - the science behind it all is quite new. I am saying this as a Psychologist (more than 12 years experience), who fits the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, and from conversations with the head pharmacologist at our states largest mental hospital. So I would say we should all proceed with caution, and use medication only when it is obviously necessary and yield very good results, that outweigh the risks (and unfortunately we still don't know all the risks). Judgemental attitudes don't help anyone though and I love your explanations and descriptions. I'm not medicated and haven't been, so I don't know how good it can be, but I've made the decision in my life that it is not a good time and that for now, the risks outweigh the benefits. All the best to those struggling with it.
This is a very powerful post, thank you! I've been teaching for 25 years, and I have seen so many kids who just feel much more successful on medication. I had one little boy say to me, "My brain fuzz is gone." That's the best; when you see a child who is able to relax and thrive and blossom! Once a child is diagnosed and on medication, the teacher should be working closely with the family to help report any side effects and to keep modifying the classroom so that the child feels successful. I have been the one who has noted the overmedication effect and reported it to the parents. And I really feel strongly that even if children are not medicated, the teacher needs to be supportive of the family and needs to work with them to help that student to feel good about him or herself.
Hey Mich, Thank you for this post. I am going to forward it on to all the people around me who have had "opinions" on giving my child Ritalin. The results of giving him Ritalin - he's passing Grade 1! He's more confident, he's keeping up with the rest of the class, his work is finished each day, he's excited about going to school, he is proud of his "concentration" pills. He doesn't get medicated on weekends and school holidays, but that's a choice he and I made together. The results speak for themselves. Happy Monday Lots of love A
Thanks for this article Mich. We are on the verge of having Tris tested. His teacher wants to be absolutely sure though so we are going through every option. This really made the whole process a little less daunting - in the back of my mind I had the thought - what did I do wrong as a mum. I realise it wasn't me causing all of this but the thoughts that go through your mind as a mum make you even more frightened. Like you say the evidence apon research makes you think you're turning your kid into a zombie. Thanks again xx Di
Thank you so much for sharing this with me. I am so happy for you that you and your precious, spunky girl are figuring out how to LIVE this adventure we call Life :)
Nicky, I admire you immensely for advocating so strongly for your kids, for trying everything and finding what works. Absolutely, diet and exercise, as well as other external stimuli can have a massive effect on ADHD. I know this firsthand! For me, the combination of lifestyle change and medication works incredibly well. I am certainly not saying everyone with ADHD should be on medication - far from it, in fact. I think too many people are medicated and the doses are insane a lot of the time. All I ask is that people don't fob ADD/ADHD off as 'behavioural problems' and deny medication when there's the possibility that it COULD be life-changing. Thank you so much for your comment and your input. I would be fascinated to hear more about the natural ways you've found to calm the symptoms. Would you mind sharing? Please click the FOLLOW button, so you'll receive the next post. You've inspired me to work on a post on natural ways to calm ADHD symptoms :)
Overdiagnosis is terrible for wrongly diagnosed kids AND properly diagnosed kids. NOBODY benefits. Thanks for visiting :) I've been following you for ages - I love your blog.
How did taking Ritalin cause them to have long-term psychiatric problems? I'm interested to hear actual details, please. It is important to be educated on both sides of the discussion. Were your friends properly diagnosed before going on Ritalin? I am all for open discussion, but scare-mongering without substantiated facts is harmful and certainly not helpful.
I'm happy for my followers to use this as a tool, but by no means should they use it to self-diagnose. If they believe that they or their children have ADHD, I strongly recommend they see a specialist psychiatrist or paediatrician.
Alla, I am sorry you had such a hard childhood, but I am delighted you've managed to get answers. I absolutely GET the sense of a burden being lived when you realise it's not "you". You are absolutely right - the issue is not ADHD...it's the stigma associated with whatever mental-health 'glitch' someone has. It's supposed to somehow be shameful. Well, I am not ashamed and I sure hope you aren't. Well done for advocating for your child and giving her the support she needs. I salute you, as a mother.
Thank you, Joelle! I agree 100% with what you say, regarding life skills coaching and meds combined. Thank you for your comment.
Thank you, Louise, for your perspective. It's so valuable because it's one more piece of education and perspective to add to the decision making process.
Thank you for this beautiful feedback! I think you are spot on. Regardless of whether the child is medicated or not, the parents and teachers need to be in constant communication so that these kids can thrive.
Adrienne, I am SO happy for you and for David. I salute you for your courage - its hard to make this controversial decision but the results speak for themselves. Sending you lots of love.
Di, I wish you the best of luck. Make sure he is tested by a psych who specialises in ADHD and if you can, get a second opinion. There's no shame - hold your head high and know, whatever you decide to do, you're a great mom because your decisions are loving educated ones. x
It is really different for each child. I have 2 that have problems with certain brands of canned goods (preservatives), I have one that cannot eat "Hamburger Helper" cause she is in a fog for days! I actually started keeping up with what they ate and what their behavior was the next day (that was when it would really show). I practiced by completely taking things out of their diets to see if there was an effect. Dyes and high amounts of sugar are the big ones. Artificial sweeteners affect it as well. It is amazing how much what you eat can affect you. We all LIVE for summer and our fresh fruits and veggies:)
I agree completely. This is a tool to help them get an assessment. It is by no means meant to replace a specialist.
This has been a good raising awareness discussion and i agree with getting a range of opinions. As a step mum of an ADHD child our family was nearly torn apart and it can be challenging even having family and friends over. Our daughter was diagnosed by Dr Serfontein who wrote "The HIdden Handicap" ( mid 90's) which was the first instructional book around. he had 5 or 6 ADHD kids himself. what he did was a brain scan which when our daughter did certain tasks and was rescanned doing the same tasks after taking Ritilin was visibly clear. She went from being a failing student to getting high B's ( she had much to catch up on by 15). we struggled with the "You dont love me unless i take my ritilin" and i guess we all had to adjust. She was at an age when she was in control of her medication- guess what she knew she would take before sitting her Drivers Licence test, or making up with her boyfriend. She doesnt take medication now as she has relearned a lot of new behaviours. Its a big journey and one where support groups are so helpful.