Yesterday I remembered why we use Medication as part of our family toolbox.
We had a picnic with friends at 11 am and I was already frazzled and done for the day at 9:30! Standardized end of the year testing was creating meltdowns and small requests were forgotten before they could be completed. I kept wondering, why was the day so off?
We were getting ready to ride our bikes to the picnic and C wasn’t following directions and not thinking through his actions. When we left home there was no turning back, we would be stuck out and about with only our bikes. Was I ready for this today? Did I have the energy to manage whatever was going on and still enjoy my day too?
He was getting frustrated and felt it, too. He felt dumb that he couldn’t focus on his testing. His little brother was getting to him more than usual. Then I asked him the question:
“Did you take your medicine today? I know I gave it to you.” “Yes” He responded, “Oh wait let me check… doh I forgot!”
We had already started the day 3 steps behind and now we were running late for the picnic. Quickly we got a cup of water and took his pills and we ditched the bikes for the minivan. We found the missing piece to his best day. At the park we had success, he had a great time running and playing with all his friends and even making some new ones. We were able to end the day with a win. But we needed our focus medicine to make it great and that’s OK!
Medication is a hard choice
Medication is a hard choice to make for a differently wired kid. There are so many variables and side effects to consider. I was put on anxiety medication as a pre-teen that, in 20/20 hindsight, was probably not the best option, because other variables were not considered. From that experience, I had been suspicious of anxiety medication for myself. Fast-forward to 4 years ago, and we were surprised when along with Autism we were given an ADHD diagnosis. It wasn’t something I felt like I saw has a challenge for him. So i just took the information and put it in the back of my mind.
A few years later we began to see it. During school time he needed constant reminders to stay focused and finish the task at hand. It was exhausting to sit with him just to help him focus when I needed to also spend time with his siblings. I didn’t want to do medication if we didn’t have to. We changed up the room, moved his desk, gave him fidgets, we tried many things to help him focus and accomplish his work. Occasionally yes, there was screaming.
One day on the couch during a heart-to-heart when I was trying to figure out his little mind and what we could try next, he told me he didn’t know he should be able to focus. He felt dumb since he couldn’t stay focused, like it was something his brain just couldn’t do. It was affecting his self-image that he couldn’t do what I asked him even though he desperately wanted to, because something outside of his control would often distract him. That was when I knew it was time to try some medication. We knew he was smart, we knew he was capable, but he needed some help to see it for himself. It wasn’t that his brain wasn’t capable, it was just that he was hampered by an imbalance of something in his head, just like some people struggle with an imbalance of blood sugar or iron.
It doesn’t change your child
I still remember the first day we gave him a medication, it was a low dose, but the Doctor said we would see it work right away, it didn’t need time to build a tolerance. That first day he cleaned the room he shared with his brother by himself with no additional reminders. He was actually focused and stayed on task until the end of the project! We knew he was capable but he now had some help in his brain to stay on track. He also still read his Star Wars books while upside down in the hammock and he still fought with his brother later that day: it wasn’t a magic bullet.
The longer he took his medicine, however, we saw a consistent change. He was less frustrated with himself, and more confident because he could keep up with his own thoughts and ideas. The doctor told us we could choose to take the medicine only on school days when he needed to focus the most. But we noticed that it helped him 7 days a week because he wanted to focus on his own projects 7 days a week. It was never about doing it for our comfort or convenience. It was always about doing it so he could do his best and do the things he wanted to do. If he wants to be able to focus on his Star Wars Encyclopedia on Saturday afternoon, that important to me. It’s equally important as him learning his math facts on Tuesday during school.
A Key to Success
If you had the key to helping your child succeed, you would want to give it to them. Medication doesn’t fix everything, and it doesn’t have to be a forever thing. But it can be an important tool to help them for a time while they learn other strategies to manage their quirks and challenges. When it helps a child be their best self, it’s worth it.