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.
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.