Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My ADHD Sweetie After Two Months on Meds

In early September, my 5-year-old son was kicked out of the private kindergarten where I had enrolled him when I re-entered the workforce a couple of months previous. (Memo to me: Private school is not necessarily the solution!) This was a terribly emotional and difficult time. The day before his first day at his new school, he asked why he had to change classes. I told him he was smarter and more special than all those other kids, and they didn't know how to teach him at that school. "I'm not special!" he cried. "I'm just like all the other kids!" We cried together for a long time that night.

The new school was better -- back in the good old public system. After a couple of weeks the new kindergarten teacher sent him for evaluation. Our pediatrician diagnosed him with ADHD, as we expected, and prescribed Adderall XR. I had been hesitant to have the diagnosis made by a regular pediatrician, but in our small town, seeing a specialist would have meant insurance hassles, long drives, and time off work I could not afford to take. We agreed to try the prescription--assuring ourselves that if we didn't like it, we could just stop giving it to him.

Within the first week, his kindergarten teacher said she could see a huge change in him. At home it was rough with sleeplessness and what the doctor called "emotional lability" -- crying and anger -- as the medication wore off in the late afternoon. I thought, What is the point of this? I suffered through the ADHD symptoms during his first 5 years, and now when we finally get some help, all I see are the horrendous side effects!

But with some encouragement from friends and our pediatrician, we stuck it out. The side effects wore off. Things started to improve. After a couple of weeks on meds we realized just how much we have been in survival mode with this wonderful kid for the past couple of years. As my huband put it, there were things that parents would never normally put up with, that we were simply letting go because they were not physically dangerous or extremely destructive. We have been working on the way we expect Sam to treat others, respecting property, being self-sufficient, etc. I feel like the meds have allowed us to address these issues a lot better--finally, we are not too overwhelmed to parent the way we should! It's a great relief to be able to work on this stuff and my son has made great progress.

We eventually decided to use the meds only for structured school days, not weekends or daycare days. So yesterday is his first day back on meds in over a week. Yet we had an awesome Thanksgiving break. Nothing in the house was destroyed, not even the mini tree I made with grandma's antique ornaments on it. I have never dared get those out before. I can only be grateful!

Most of all my son is now, finally, happy with himself. Sure, there are times when he is emotional coming off meds in the afternoon. But we know what to expect and can help him work through those times. The learning he is doing now that he is able to sit and work and pay attention is amazing. He is on the cusp of reading, and it's very exciting and amazing to me how fast he is picking things up! He sits and plays and imagines more than he used to. He does things like making a book all by himself with illustrations and "words" (long strings of letters ... so cute!) or wanting to write a letter to Grandma. He comes home from school with adorable songs of three and four verses, all memorized. This all sounds like ordinary stuff, and I think for kids without ADHD it is normal and everyday, but for us it is new and very exciting.

I have to say, too, that I feel different about my son these days. It's like I can finally get my nose up out of my worries about him and my frustrations with his difficult behaviors, and see consistently and clearly how awesome he is and how much I just adore him. I always loved him, you all know that, but it is just ... nice to feel positive and optimistic about him and proud of him, all the time.


Jamie said...

I gotta tell you Ana, this entry had me bawling! Not because it is sad (because it is actually happy news overall for your family, I am SO excited for the progress Sam is making and ya'll are seeing) but because I could SO relate to your life parenting Sam. Maybe I will turn my own story/vent into my first blog post ;)

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