Saturday, July 23, 2011

My "Not So Typical" Son..

My oldest son Jake has ADHD. I think that word is so overused in our society that people shrug it off as no big deal. It's a a big deal in my world. I first took Jake to see a Behavioral Therapist when he was 3 years old. He seemed to have absolutely no impulse control and there were other quirky behaviors that worried me..hitting his head against the pillow to fall asleep, hitting his head against the back of the car-seat every time we drove, lining up objects that looked the same, etc. The Behavioral Therapist said "Hyperactivity" was the main issue and assured me I would be back when he started school. She was right; 2 years later Jake began Kindergarten and made 3 visits to the Principal's office in the first quarter. It was during that difficult period of time that I realized I had always been grateful to God for healthy children, but it never occurred to me to be grateful for "typical" children. My oh my is that something we take for granted!

Jake ended up going through the full ADHD screening at age 5 and medication was recommended. I struggled enormously with this. I felt like I would be selling out to medicate him; to fit him into that perfect little box. I also felt like if I did this; he would question me one day saying "mom--how could you give me pills when I was only 5?" The guilt was enormous. On the other hand, I had the therapist and the teacher pointing out that Jake wasn't happy. His self esteem was low from getting in trouble so often and it was affecting his peer relationships, etc. Alas I sold out and medicated. Like most parents of ADHD children; we tried many different medications searching for that perfect that wouldn't create a zombie effect, one that wouldn't cause rage, one that wouldn't keep him up at night, one that wouldn't completely deplete his appetite, and mostly one that would still let Jake be Jake. It's been 5 years and I don't know if that perfect pill exists? At some point we settled on Concerta because it had the least side affects and that's been the routine for a while now. We are used to Jake on this's the Jake we know. He's able to be productive in school and to stay focused through the homework hour; he eats fairly well (minus lunch) and he sleeps fine. These are all golden things in the world of ADHD meds, but there are bad parts too. Jake on meds is a quiet Jake; he's shy and not one to make eye contact. He's anxious, worries over small stuff and can be very uptight and obsessive about things. Again this is the Jake we've come to know and accept.

So..2 months ago my neighbor who has a son with ADHD told me she was taking him off meds for the summer so he could gain some weight. I told her I didn't think I could do it. Being at home with 3 kids all summer and an unmedicated Jake would drive me crazy! She said to me, "when you first take them off medication I honestly believe it's the worst it's ever been; truly crazy, but if you just stick with it and give their body a chance to adjust, it gets better." Her words really stuck with me and a week later Jake was off his medication. I'm not gonna lie; it was tough at first but just like she said, it got better. Well--did it? I'm not sure if his behavior got better or we just got used to an unmedicated Jake. Here's what I do know…Jake has put on 15.5 pounds; he's chatty, he's social, the anxiety is gone, he makes eye contact and he has been styling his hair into a Mohawk. Who is this kid?? It's been such a radical transformation, it truly blows my mind. I love this kid--exactly as he is with all of his loud noises and his lack of impulse control and his inability to sit still, etc. Yes it scares me when he goes to someone else's house--especially for a sleepover and yes he gets in trouble more at home but it's worth it.

And now I stand at the fork in the road starts in 18 days. Jake will be entering 5th grade where they prepare for middle school. This will be a tough year academically. Do I do what I know works in the classroom setting and medicate again? According to his therapist, school counselor and pediatrician; this is a no brainer.. Jake needs meds for school. But as a parent of a non-typical child; I question my need to stick him in that box so that he fits in just like all the other children. Isn't it my job to help him be as comfortable in his own skin as I possibly can and isn't this the skin God chose for him?

1 comment:

  1. This is such a powerful post! And I feel for you and your situation right now... wow, my first impulse is to say.. "no meds" but Iv'e never been in your shoes.
    Could you try and start school off medication, keep structure at home, get lots of activity through sports and keep more rules and charts to help him notice his behavior?
    Does he personally feel different on and off the medication?
    Maybe you can find a parent support group and talk to other parents that have decided to skip on meds and hear their advice?
    Good luck friend! Thinking about you guys and sending positive thoughts your way...
    Very interested and wanting to learn more about this ....