Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) impacts a person’s ability to focus, control emotions, and control impulsive behavior.
Check, check, and check. My son, almost eight years old, was given this diagnosis when he was six years old.
Many factors led us to the decision to seek medical help for my son. Between the ages of two and four years old, our family experienced many common and uncommon characteristics of ADHD.
My son frequently had “crazy time,” in which he would just run around, screaming for no reason other than he clearly needed to release energy. When he was learning to talk, he frequently stuttered, unable to speak as fast as the words were forming in his mind. Not to mention, the endless tantrums filled with defiance and aggression. On a daily basis, I had to assure other people, “I did not raise my son that way,” in reference to his impulsive, often defiant, and rude behavior.
I watched on as he struggled in VPK, a teacher even stating, “he makes me want to quit my job” because his behavior had reached an overwhelmingly critical point.
Trust me, we did everything by the book. If there was a book on how to manage your child’s behavior effectively, we read it. We were consistent with consequences, routine with our schedule, posted behavioral charts on the fridge, watched his diet, lathered him down with oils – you name it, we tried it! But as the years stumbled along, I had to come to grips with the fact that there was more to my son’s behavior.
As school began, I observed as he struggled to sit still, frequently missed directions, was often not doing what the teacher asked, constantly made noises (and I do mean constant), and rarely completed even a simple task, let alone his work. But, deep down, I knew my son was in there. I knew he was smart, that it wasn’t because he didn’t know how to do it, but that he wouldn’t do it. My son was locked away behind his ADHD.
Because let’s be honest, when your child has ADHD, that is all people notice.
They notice your child being “uncontrollable”, “hyper”, “annoying”, “emotional”. My heart broke for my son, knowing from personal experience with ADHD of my own, how difficult it was going to be for him growing up with symptoms of ADHD. The struggles he would have in school and with friends, ultimately laying out a path for the rest of his life.
So, after months – well years – of guessing that my son had ADHD, at six years old, we made the arduous decision to move forward with medical help. Weeks of tears were shed over the prospect of giving my son medication. Then my prayers for answers came in the form of a colleague, who is now a close friend.
“You’ll never know unless you try. It’s important to understand all your options and have all the necessary information, in order to make an informed decision on something as serious as giving your child medication.”
Therein lays the second leg of our journey.
Instantly, I noticed the calm that settled in on our family. Without realizing it, my son’s ADHD symptoms were affecting the entire family. My boys, who frequently struggled to play together, suddenly spent hours together on an activity building a brotherly bond I so desperately wanted between them. My husband, who frequently found himself the disciplinarian, was now able to enjoy spending time playing with our sons. Myself, who was frustrated with feelings of inadequacy as a parent, realized that my son could be the child I was raising him to be.
The revelation that ADHD had trapped away this compassionate, smart, well-mannered, and creative child of mine was paralyzing. While I finally had what I felt to truly be my son, I also had to deal with the fact that he was taking a simulate drug, presumably long-term, that could have harmful side effects and long-term developmental consequences.
What did I do?
I have to admit that I question my choice every day. We’ve even gone through periods, for various reasons, of not giving the medication to my son. Within days though, my son transforms into another person, one that is impulsive, unkind, and frankly an emotional wreck. So again, no matter how much he begs to not take the medication (“it tastes bad”), I look into his tearful eyes and force him to take it. As much as I want to believe he has a choice, the heartbreaking truth is that he does not.
As parents, we hold the choice in our hands. The choice to give our child medication or not, just as we do in what goes into their lunchbox or the house that they live in. I’ll never be sure that I made the right choice for my child. All I know is that right now, my son has friends, enjoys going to school to learn, and last year was placed into the gifted program at school. When I look into my son’s eyes, I see what I know to be my altruistic, creative, tender-hearted, loving child who was trapped by his ADHD.