From the time my son was just a toddler, as a mother, I had concerns over some of his behaviors. I remember taking him to the doctor when he was not quite two and asking about hyperactivity. The doctor felt my son was a “highly active child.” From that point on, I questioned his activity level, his lack of sleeping patterns, his inability to sit still. Even when the other children in the day care seemed to be able to listen during story time, my son was wandering around, picking up toys, totally disinterested in what was going on in the room. But over and over, physicians told me that his behaviors were within normal levels for his age and that there was nothing to worry about.
Throughout the next ten years, my son was referred to the school psychiatrist, the school psychologist, and the guidance counselor and yet none seemed to feel there was a problem, until, at 12 years old he was diagnosed with ADHD. In some ways, the diagnosis helped, as it let me know that I had been right all along. It gave a name to the actions that I knew were not “normal.” But in other ways, the diagnosis brought even more questions. Did I do anything wrong? How could this have happened? What do I do now?
At that time, there was a limited amount of information available on ADHD. There were books, of course, but there was also a great deal of conflicting information. Television shows claimed that ADHD was a fictitious condition and that medication was making children into zombies. Some doctors believed that the diagnosis was real, but was over-diagnosed and so they were hesitant to provide medication or give a definitive diagnosis, instead adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Some teachers were not much help, insisting that he would grow out of it, arguing that boys matured slower than girls. Some teachers were not even familiar with the term ADHD.
As a parent, this was immensely frustrating. I had been given a diagnosis and medication and told that behavioral strategies such as charts worked well. But that was about all the information I had to go on. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it; all I had was my determination to help him. I searched for parent support groups but only found two, the closest 45 minutes from my home. With school work taking hours each evening, taking hours one evening a week to attend a support group so far away just wasn’t an option. But still, I needed information, not just from medical professionals, but from other parents, those that had experience, those that had similar problems. I needed to know what to do and how to do it. I needed someone to talk to that would understand. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.
The internet became my research medium and evening after evening, I sat and looked up information on ADHD. I talked to other parents in discussion groups. To my amazement, there were so many other parents in the same position. There were so many other parents asking the same questions as I was. There were so many parents feeling worried, isolated and ashamed. Using my background as a writer, I dedicated myself to helping others and myself. I began to take the information I was learning and created a website for parents in an effort to educate parents and to help them find solutions to everyday problems. It astonished me when I began receiving emails from parents around the world, thanking me for my efforts and asking questions. Writing about ADHD became my new mission in life, letting others know they are not alone, that there are ways to help themselves, help their children and help their families.
One question I have been asked, as well as wondering myself, was what to do about medication during the summer months. Do children need a break from medication or should they take medication every day, even during school breaks?
After many discussions with parents and doctors, as well as reading various articles on the subject, there seem to be three distinct thought patterns on medication during school breaks: