This is kind of different for me. I haven’t written anything this personal on the blog before and didn’t really want to but last week this was brought up and I wanted to point out a few things. Also, many people called me or I talked to them and they wanted me to share some of their feelings as well.
As most of you know, I have two sons. Both of them had/have ADD. This was before the H was added and it was just plain old Attention Deficit Disorder. I have a nephew and a grandson with this also.
I realize this post will be long so I apologize in advance and if it’s not your cup of tea, you can just skip this one if you want to but there’s no way to make it any shorter. I’ve already tried to condense it but some things need to be said if I’m going to talk about it at all. I’m also not going to put in any “statistics” or any “studies” or “professional” opinions. I’m just a mom, aunt and grandmother and I’ve lived it and that’s going to be good enough for me.
I’ll start with my first born son Jason. Jason was a very well behaved child and never really got into much trouble in school. At home he was a pill at times but never really “bad.” He pretty much flew under the radar at school. He got by “okay” with his grades. Just your “average” kid. Paul and I went to a conference once and I swear to you this man didn’t know know he was. This was Jr High by then and I really think he sat through that conference thinking “who are they here to talk about?”
I really believe I had/have ADD as well and Jason has “my” symptoms of it. He would start one subject and get stuck and move on to the next and would continue that way and never really finish any of it. I can remember thinking I could go back to it later which I never did. Jason was just like I was. If you’ve ever read my Looking For My Checkbook post, you may have chuckled and thought “oh, I do those kinds of things” and so you may kind of know what I’m talking about. Certain things I have a hard time finishing. Reading is really the only thing I do finish. Jason was this same way.
When he was 15 someone must have had a “lightbulb” moment and suggested that I take him and have him evaluated. The doctor looked at all his records and thought maybe medication might help him. So we talked about it and being he was so old already, I wanted him to make the decision and he decided if it would help him he’d give it a try. But he got bad headaches and an upset stomach and no appetite. So we only did it for a few months in the summer and it wasn’t for him. Jason couldn’t afford to lose any weight and he couldn’t eat so it just wasn’t an option at this time. He would just have to work a little harder.
Enter son #2 Toby. As far back as I can tell, Toby could always read. It was nothing I did special, he just seemed to always know how. I’m just convinced that he was born knowing how. He also seemed to know things that I never knew “how” he just knew them. He was very bright. When he went to Kindergarten I knew his teacher personally and she suggested I put him in second grade. Paul and I talked endlessly about it and came to the conclusion that it was to much of a jump socially. Jason was in third grade which would put them only one year apart in school. It would also put him in all sports, church and all outside activities with no peers that he went to school with since it’s all about your age not what grade your in. The only thing that went by ability was swimming. So, we said no. They asked if he could go to second grade for subjects like reading and math and we did say yes to that. So many kids leave the classroom for all kinds of things so it wasn’t that noticeable. All is well.
OR SO WE THOUGHT.
When they did that “testing” on him and suggested we move him up all those grades, he was tested by the special the Ed Department which now unbeknownst to us, he was now in. Things were fine in 1st grade and he had a great teacher who was very consistent and very fair and warm. She never had any problems with his behavior. 2nd grade came and he got the “one more year and I’m retiring” teacher. She didn’t like him and thought he should be medicated. At this point he had gotten straight A’s and academically did very well. But he could be very antsy and squirrelly. He was also very bored and this teacher didn’t believe he should be leaving the classroom to learn in the higher grades. She wanted to smother him and wanted to be right and thought we should do what she told us to do. She didn’t know me very well. He would do things like sharpen his pencil a million times and would play with things. If he were to wear a hoodie to school he would try and make people laugh by putting the hood up and take the strings and closing it to the point of just showing one eye or poking his tongue out that little hole. Nothing earth shattering but clowning around none the less and with an old teacher that had no tolerance. I’ve also got to be honest here too. He knew he was irking her and did a lot of it on purpose. Things did get out of control though and we had no choice mid year to move him into another classroom.
Things with the new teacher were wonderful and she wondered what the fuss was about because he blossomed with her. Third grade was also okay. Forth grade seemed to be go downhill right from the start. He was put with an egomaniac man who hated Toby on sight. I have no idea why. Being he’d been labeled “special ed” but not on “services” for almost 2 years they needed him to “use” the services or lose the funded money they were receiving for him from the state. I know this to be true because I worked in his school and had many teacher friends. I knew exactly what they were up to.
So now we have this big meeting with all the “top brass.” School psychologist, principal, all his teachers, school health aid and Paul and I. What they told us curdled my blood. They wanted us to medicate him. WHAT??? I was furious because I didn’t see it in any way. He got perfect grades and had done well for a year and a half with no problems. So I took all the paperwork to his pediatrician for a complete physical. This had been his doctor his whole life and he knew him. He told me in NO UNCERTAIN terms that he would never prescribe medication for him after his evaluation and what he’d read from the school. He was a straight A student with literally nothing other than typical little boy behaviors. So off we go back to the school. I went to the school psychologist first.
He agreed with the doctor and told me he found in his interviews with Toby that he found him extremely bright and nothing he’d seen would warrant medication. Long story short, no medication but I had special ed and his classroom teacher out to get me.
I got a call from one of his other teachers who told me I had to call a meeting with all the “top brass” and not be aggressive with them and ask them “what can we do to help this child?” She was on our side but couldn’t go against her co-workers but thought what they were doing was awful. She had Toby for all his major subjects and he was fine with her but but his classroom teacher and special ed teacher were out to get me and wouldn’t let up. So I called a meeting and was sweet as honey. His doctor even came. With his medical doctor along with the school psychologist saying they didn’t see any evidence of medication being useful here, those two teachers were left pretty speechless. The year passed and it was a relief for it to be over. It was the last hard year we had. As he got older the subjects didn’t come as easy to him anymore and I now truly think he was really just bored. Once he got older he was more interested in school and didn’t act out (much). I never said he was perfect.
Now we come to my nephew Eric. Eric had a lot of the same characteristics as Toby. He was always very happy go lucky and always sparkled. But he had the type of ADD that you could almost see his blood going through his veins. An uncontrollable pulsing. He would act without thinking and was sent down several times a week to the principal’s office. He acted remorseful but kept doing the same kinds of things over and over. Eric was almost between Jason and Toby. His grades were failing like Jason’s but he also had the “clownish” behaviors that Toby had. Bottom line with Eric, his learning was being affected by this. He was also diagnosed at a much younger age than Jason was. Had Jason been diagnosed at this young of an age, I would have highly considered trying the medication because his learning was defiantly affected. Darryl was at a loss and didn’t really know what to do. He could see that Eric needed the help. Medicate or not, it’s such a big thing and many other things were tried first. Eric needed this and it did work for him.
I talked to Darryl last night about this post and he told me he couldn’t even take Eric golfing without his meds. He said it did change him and while he wasn’t sure he always like the change, he needed it or he couldn’t have done anything. He was still the same happy go luck kid in love with the world but he could actually concentrate now. The only thing I would change if I was able to go back would be to wean it off him a year sooner. With most kids back then they liked to wean them off this stuff when they start adolescence as the hormones are all changing and the bodies are changing. But like Darryl said last night, he needed it for some things. Not for all things anymore but for some. But you can’t just give it to them when you feel like it. It’s got to be all or nothing. Maybe that’s changed somewhat now but back then, that’s what it was like. You couldn’t give it to them during the week and then just take them off it for the weekends. Their bodies grew to need it.
Now for my grandson Bailey. He’s like his dad. He’s got a very quiet and sweet personality but he’s like Eric in the way that you can almost see his inner body parts working under his skin. It’s very hard to explain but it’s like an electrical current running under his skin. It also affected his learning and his ability to concentrate. He’s been on medication for two years and it’s dramatically helped him. Not for behavior, for learning. Had it been up to me, I’d have done the same thing. The reason I didn’t agree with it for Toby was because his learning wasn’t affected nor was anyone else’s. He wasn’t disruptive that way. I really feel he got put in the middle of a power struggle and I couldn’t see a reason for it at home or school.
It’s all fine and well to say as an adult to try meditation and try all the “fung shui” types of things to curb these behaviors but you can’t do this with kids. A lot of these kids outgrow this or learn to live with it. But I feel to make a blanket statement or to tell other people that their decision is wrong is a terrible thing to do to another parent. We will never all agree but I do feel if a parent is trying to do the best they can and they make this choice, a lot heart-wrenching thought has gone into it and we should respect those parent’s. We are all different as are all kids. Some need it, some don’t. I’ll bet we all know those with ADD. I can count many people I know as having it in one way or another. We also have to remember it’s like any other disease and has many different characteristics and symptoms and they are not all alike.
Which leads me to my closure and if you’ve read all this I applaud you. We can’t “blanket” this issue. I know all to well that this is diagnosed far to often and a lot of kids are being put on these drugs with not enough thought behind it but some some kids, they really need it. It’s up to us as parents and our pediatricians but it’s NOT UP TO THE SCHOOL. We have to know our kids and be involved and know what’s going on. But to say no kids should be put on any of these medications, I feel is very wrong. I feel if a parent makes this decision nobody should tell them they were wrong or they should try this or that. It’s up to them. We don’t know their kids.
What’s your opinion on this? Do know adults as well as kids like this?