Thursday, August 30, 2012

Re-visiting the Decision to Medicate

My rose coloured glasses are firmly in their case and tucked into my purse today. The new school year is only one long weekend away and that prospect makes me feel rather unsettled. In fact, it almost scares me. I believe Jonas is going to do well this year, but I also believe that it's going to be a war to get us to that positive outcome.

Much to the dismay of some of our family and friends, we've decided to put Jonas back on his medication. He hasn't been taking it all summer and it's been a pretty good one. He's put on weight and we didn't have too many days that were write-offs because of his ADHD&ODD. Some of the people that spent time with him this summer said "See! He didn't take that "horrible" medication and he was fine."

In their rush to judge based on their own experiences with him, they fail to recognize some pretty significant facts. Namely, that it was summer vacation, which meant that some very key things were at play:
  • These visits are usually treated like special occassions when adventures are to be had, special treats are plentiful and lots of slack is given because "he's just excited".
  • Bedtime and morning routines were barely existent. He didn't have to get up and get ready for school in the morning, which is an incredible battle when and ADHD&ODD kid is up against the clock.
  • Breakfast and lunchtime was flexible. He could have breakfast and lunch when he felt like it, snack throughout the day, and he didn't have to make decisions beforehand about what he was going to eat.
  • He didn't have to go to school. No sitting quietly at his desk. No trying to organize his thoughts and get them down on paper. No struggling with his handwriting. No recalling what he just read. No tests. No homework. No clock.
  • He gets a ton of outdoor and play time during the summer and that is severely restricted once school starts. Sure there's recess, lunchtime and after school time but that's not the same as spending most of the day playing outside.
We're confident in our decision but fully expect to have to defend our decision to medicate him. (In fact it came up several times throughout the summer.) I'm rambling a little today, but I'm trying to get my ducks in a row for that inevitable confrontation. Well-meaning family and friends, who see him for a day or two or maybe a week a few times a year, only want what's best for him. I totally understand and appreciate that. They love him and I love them for that.

One of the biggest challenges with advice from most family and friends is that many of them have very little knowledge about ADHD&ODD, other than heresay or one attention getting headline on the news. Likewise, those times they see him are not really in-context with the rest of his life. What they fail to realize is that the school year is a completely different beast than summer vacation. We lose the flexibility we have during summer and break times. We can't always adjust on the fly as much as we need to and it's not fair to him to make him have to make adjustments that he just isn't capable of.

It's true that this medication he's on takes away his appetite. It's also true that we can make accommodations for that and make sure that he gets the nutrition he needs. (His pediatrian has monitors him closely and has assured us that so far he's completely healthy.) It's also true that he just can't function in school without this medication. It would be wonderful to live in a world where his school could be completely tailored to him but our world doesn't work that way and my rose coloured glasses aren't powerful enough to make those kind of changes. At the end of the day, what matters is that he does well in school, academically and socially. His meds are helping him do that.

Notice that I say helping. This medication is not the be and and end all. It is not a magic pill. Trust me, it's not a cop-out. There's still a lot of work to be done by him, his teachers and us. That includes constantly searching for new and more effective ways to manage his ADHD&ODD. Maybe some day we'll find a combination of things that works well enough to take him off his medication, but for now that just hasn't happened. The truth is that it takes more discipline, attention and energy for us to accept the realities of ADHD&ODD and try to deal with them than it does to write off his behaviour as a boy or bad kid thing. Now that would be a cop-out! I wish that the naysayers would respect us enough to at least believe that.

A war of words with naysayers is nothing compared to convincing Jonas that we're not making him take this medication because he think he's a bad kid who can't control himself. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the side-effects of the naysayers spouting their opinions when Jonas is around is that he's now convinced that his ADHD&ODD is totally within his control and that he's a complete failure when he can't manage it. That's mostly a bunch of hooey. (Notice that I say mostly. Some of his behaviour is simply because he's a 9 year old boy. When it comes to ADHD&ODD and medication, we're not talking about those things and when you spend as much time with him as we do, the difference between the two is pretty stark.) I really wish that those naysayers could be around to hear those conversations with him and see the true effect his ADHD&ODD and the management of it has on him. They might sign a different tune if they had to deal with that.



  1. You are a great human bean, having never met Steve I can only speak in terms of yourself. Jonas is a great kid. He has educated opinions and can think in terms of triangles and octagons where most kids are thinking in terms of circles and squares. How far advanced would the human race be if not for these unique individuals?
    We unfortunately live in a "fit in" society even if geeks now rule and bullies are no longer "cool" we can only be different within the confines of societal parameters.
    While I don't believe in medicating I think that a child reaching their full potential is worth whatever compromises must be taken. Think of what the world could loose if Jonas is graded on his behaviour (and lets face it we are all judged and graded on our personality no matter how objective a teacher may try to be) instead of on his actual abilities.
    At this stage and age a child's developing sense of self confidence and self esteem is paramount. Why anyone would discuss his being medicated in front of Jonas is beyond me. I really do believe basic sociology or parenting classes should be mandatory in high school.
    You are phenomenal. Your family and friends should see that and leave you to doing what you do best and that is taking care of Jonas. The reason people may believe that Jonas doesn't need to be medicated is because you and Steve are the perfect parents for Jonas, you make his labels look undefined and unsubstantial.
    Be proud of yourselves and of Jonas because you are changing the world.

  2. I'm in tears, Vanessa. Thank you so much for this. It really means a lot to me. I appreciate you more than you'll ever know!

  3. It is all true.
    At the end of the day we must all raise children who can be proud of who they are and look upon themselves with happiness and love despite what society may say. We have all seen the tragedy that happens when we fail in this one task.
    We still live in a society that looks at the parents of unique children as if they must of smoked crack while they were pregnant. Who cares? Some days we all do. On bad days I like to smile at these people because I imagine THOSE parents being grandparents in their forties.
    Embrace the weirdness now and we'll go out for drinks when our kids receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

  4. I like the way you think, my friend. Cheera to the weirdness!!

  5. There's a lot of skepticism if O.D.D. should be considered a legitimate disease or not. Primarily boys ages something like 9 to 13 have it. So it leads many to say "...It's a boy turning into God's most wretched creations. The Teenager." I think it's a bit of column A and column B.

    As for the medication thing. You have to ask yourself "Am I doing this so I get a moments peace or for him?" Clearly you're doing it for him so don't worry about it. It's always a bummer when we have to wake up and take a pill to get through the day. But that's life. Sadly it's getting harder and harder for each generation. The days of letting your kids out to burn off all that energy after school till the sun sets have come and gone.

  6. I'm confused about ODD myself. Pre-pubescence has all the hallmarks of it, that's for sure. I just keep reminding myself that I don't have to show up to every argument I'm invited to.

    One of the things all us parents need to remember, no what alphabet soup our children are diagnosed with, is that they are still kids, and prone to all the same age-appropriate stuff as the rest of them. It's hard to decipher the difference sometimes.