This blog is not FDA approved
by Janice Lindegard of Snide Reply
I knew my son was different than many other children long ago. Even before he was born, he was bouncing to make his presence known. His father and I happen to be rather tolerant people, so we accepted a range of behaviors that others found unacceptable and even outrageous.
When our son ran down the hall and flung himself against a wall, we saw this as sensory-seeking behavior. Same with climbing to the roof of the car. At six years old, when the seat next to his best friend was taken, he sat on the child sitting next to his best friend. The logic was beautiful. Should he do such a thing? No, of course not. Should he be labeled with ADHD, like his teachers wanted? Not our boy! Instead, we substituted a range of our own labels: gifted, spirited, sensory-seeking, creative.
All of those things are true. And he has ADHD. Diagnosed at age seven, we would have had years of developing schedules, routines, coping strategies. I would have had years of devouring every word I could find about ADHD. We would have been ready for middle school.
Instead, middle school smashed into us like a truck. Our gifted, spirited, creative soul could no longer rely on his gifts alone. He needed organizational skills he simply didn’t have because he’d gotten good grades without them in the past. Though he still did well on the tests, he couldn’t get the hang of homework. If he remembered to do it, he forgot to turn it in.
We’d avoided labels so long but now they were being piled on: lazy, unmotivated, disrespectful, dishonest, defiant. We tried rewards and praise. His school tried detention and suspension. Neither worked very well. We nagged, we cajoled, we praised. We assisted him in every way we thought children were supposed to be supported, from hugs and praise to tough love to family therapy.
We landed in hell the night my son threatened to harm himself. The particulars are his to share. We were arguing—really, more like raging—about his grades. Who cares what the words were? The only way he could communicate his anger and frustration was threatening to hurt himself. He only backed down when I left the house, taking his sister with me. We watched from the porch as he slammed his way to his room.
Two psychologists, a plethora of tests and one psychiatrist later, we had a diagnosis—ADHD with co-morbid depression—and a medication, Welbutrin. It’s probably not a good sign that both my husband and I have taken Welbutrin at some point. Familiarity made it easier to make the decision to medicate our child, though. I applauded the shrink’s two-birds-with-one-stone approach and patted myself on the back for finding a skilled pediatric psychiatrist.
Welbutrin worked. My son got happier, his grades got better, life got easier. So we discontinued the meds. We spent a summer drug-free.
Then school started again and the grades did a Greg Louganis, soaring gracefully skyward then falling with a head-cracking thunk. Back to the shrink; back to the meds. Lacking any depression, this time it was Concerta.
Concerta worked. The grades got better; the impulses were manageable. But the good grades came at the cost of six pounds of flesh and sleepless nights. My son lost two pounds for every month he was Concertized. “You’re taking away the only thing that’s helping me,” he cried when the doctor didn’t refill his prescription.
He hasn’t been medicated for three years now. He got through the rest of middle school thanks to a very talented special education team running interference with a gifted/talented team that puts the asshole in inflexible, intractable and insensitive.
My son is in high school now and wanted to see how he did on his own, no drugs and no educational support. He got terrible grades for busy work, like homework and reading notes. He continued to ace tests, but it no longer makes up for the hole he digs not doing the things he hates to do.
We don’t need to go back on meds, though. Now that his friends are driving, he wants nothing more than to get out and go. Grounding his butt as long as he’s failing works better than any drug or intervention ever did. Finally, we’ve found a way to get the self into his motivation.
I am an atypical suburban American mom, trying to parent a 16-year old with ADHD and a nine year old adopted from China all while dealing with my own bipolar disorder. All three of us are immensely grateful for the kind, generous, thoughtful man who supports us through life at the fun house. You can read more of our adventures at Snide Reply.