My son has ADHD. I am fine with it, Damien is fine with it, he takes his Ritalin every day including weekends and we have both seen some incredible changes in our relationship as well as in his school performance. He is now bringing home certificates for his research and artistic capabilities; he gets silver awards for the speech festival (which he loathes); he has qualified for his gymnastics provincial colours three years running (this year he even qualified for the national competition); he gets merits for his class work; he does his homework; he completes and hands in projects on time and I no longer dread school parents evenings! Granted, putting Damien in a private school with nice small classes has made a world of difference too, but even BEFORE we changed schools we started seeing a difference. Yet I am still hesitant to mention it to anyone. The one time I decided to broach the subject openly in conversation, I was questioned ruthlessly as to whether he ACTUALLY had ADHD or if his teachers and I just couldn’t cope with him. I was totally gobsmacked to say the least! That ANYONE could look me in the eye and ask me if I had a reason for medicating my son. I should have said “I did it for fun” just to see how she reacted. That I am a single parent has nothing to do with my decision or with Damien having ADHD. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone that we tried everything and anything else first. The (non-existent) ADHD diet, very specific multi-vitamins that are supposed to help, countless psychiatrists, psychologists, OTs, speech therapists, GPs and specialists were consulted. We even had his hearing tested! That Damien was poked, prodded, ECG’d, tested, examined and analysed until he wanted to have a fit if I mentioned seeing a doctor. He started developing a complex about himself- the fact that he had to see so many doctors when he wasn’t feeling sick started making him think there was something wrong with him. Then we discovered the doctor we have been seeing for the last three years. He prescribed Ritalin, and one of the huge differences between him and the other doctors we’ve seen, is that he actually monitors the dose and Damien’s performance using input from me and from his teachers. One of the aspects I battled the most with, was convincing family and friends that he couldn’t always help his behaviour. That the connections between action and consequence didn’t exist for him most of the time. I mean, bad behaviour is bad behaviour right? Wrong. In Damien’s case (and many children like him) he just doesn’t think because he can’t, he doesn’t know how. Plain and simple. He tricky part of course is where to draw the line between what he can’t help and when he’s misbehaving. I have to keep reminding MYSELF, several times a day; that he doesn’t think before he acts or speaks, that I must look him in the eye when I give him an instruction (and even make him repeat it). Make no mistake- our life is far from being a picnic- but having a decent doctor and the correct, monitored dose of medication means that we can actually have a conversation now. That he can visit friends and go to birthday parties alone without me panicking about him driving the other child’s parents insane! That I can leave him to read books while I browse elsewhere in the shop without me worrying that he’s going to be climbing the shelves or opening all the packaging. The level of trust in our relationship has gone up a thousand-fold! Obviously there are lots of things we still argue about- like keeping his room tidy, that he shouldn’t be borrowing or exchanging toys with friends, remembering to pick up after him self and wash out the bath when he’s finished- but these are the same things other parents have to argue with their children about. Every disorder or illness must be treated when it can be. No-one gives you grief for prescribing anti-depressants or chemotherapy when it’s necessary* so my point remains this: Why do I have to justify putting my son on medication to treat his disorder?
There Is Never An Excuse
One in three is not a statistic - one in three is a crying shame.