What Not to Say to the Parent of a Child with ADHD
I was reluctant to put my son on any medication for his ADHD. In fact, I resisted the ADHD diagnosis altogether. "Couldn't it be just that he's a kinetic learner?" I asked the doctor hopefully. He stopped writing the prescription, put down his pen and said patiently, "Ms. Gray, you and your husband have ADHD and ADD respectively. You told me that your mother had ADHD and your stepson had it when he was younger. The chances of your son not having ADHD are much smaller than the chance that he does have it."
So we went ahead with medication treatment, and I have to say it's made a huge difference. It has been a useful tool in helping my son to focus and control his impulses, things that most other children don't even have to think about. He gets grades that would be awesome for a kid without ADHD and he rarely struggles with his classwork and homework. I can't remember the last time I got a call from his school or the afterschool program asking me to pick him up because he got into trouble.
There's only one problem with him taking medication, and that's other people. I have no idea why some adults think that they have a moral imperative to educate me about the dangers of ADHD medication and point out that I really should be taking a different path with my son's treatment.
The situation is akin to people who ask me if I've tried bee stings as a treatment for my Multiple Sclerosis. For some reason, being stung by bees multiple times sounds like a more palatable treatment than the shot I do once a week. I'm always tempted to say, "You try it first and let me know how it works." Of course, no one with MS has every asked me if I've tried the bee sting treatment.
Q. "Couldn't he do without it?"
A. Could he live without medication? Yes. This isn't insulin. Would his quality of life be the same? Definitely not.
And to anyone who thinks that he "should" go without the medicine for some strange character building exercise - are you serious? Forcing my child to experience frustration during the learning process when there's an alternative doesn't seem like a character builder or an effective teaching tool. That's like making someone eat chili with their hands, even though you have a spoon for them. What's the point? All that would do is make him equate learning with frustration. Good way to encourage him to drop out of school at 16.
Maybe people who say this see the medication as some kind of crutch, but to me the ADHD medication is like the spoon for eating chili. You could do without it, but why? You can choose to call something a crutch or an aid; it's all in the interpretation.
Q. "Have you tried eliminating sugar/Red Dye #40/caffeine from his diet?"
A. 1) Yes, 2) Yes and 3) What do you think I feed my kid, anyway?
When my son was a baby, I actually made his baby food myself. He drank, and still mostly drinks, milk and water. For the most part we don't allow soda or even juice, just water and milk. He doesn't actually like candy, except for chocolate. We usually have to throw out his Halloween and Easter candy because it gets stale. We rarely eat junk food.
It's not his diet. Really.
Q. "Have you tried exercise?"
A. Yes, we have. He jogs with me every morning. Yes, exercise may make a difference in his hyperactivity, but not a perceptible one (although it does seem to help with his mood). In fact, sometimes I think that exercise revs him up even more.
ADHD is not simply an excess of energy. If you take a child without ADHD and subject them to a long car ride, they're going to be fidgety, but running around at a rest stop for ten minutes usually takes care of it. My child is fidgety five minutes after we finish jogging.
I guess what really ticks me off about these questions is that they imply two things - my child is deliberately behaving badly and/or my husband and I are lazy, careless parents who just want to medicate their child into being a perfect Stepford child. And that's just horse hockey.