ADHD - Why One Parent Chose to Medicate

As parents we make choices, doing the best we can with what information we have. A century ago doctors thought PMT was hysteria and dyslexia stupidity. Things change and if I made the wrong choice for my child I will answer for that in the future, but only to him.

A label demanded by lazy parents looking to scrounge more benefits. A disease made up by incompetent parents, who feed their kids crap and leave them in front of computer games. Incapable parents, who can't care for their unintelligent children.

These were all comments posted following an 'expert' article on ADHD in the Daily Mail claiming the 'disease' doesn't exist. This is true. As the parent of a boy with ADHD I agree that it doesn't exist as a disease, because it isn't one. It is a behavioural condition, like autism, dyslexia and other 'hidden disorders' that are not contracted, but with which you are usually born. It cannot be cured and will not go away but can be managed.

The outpouring of vitriol about ADHD and its treatment fascinates me. It verges on popular in some quarters to stand in judgement over 'nasty, abusive children and their inadequate parents'. I wonder is it the idea that a child truly cannot control themselves, or that a parent truly could not force a child to behave that causes such consternation amongst the judging classes.

By fascinate, I mean sicken. I am haunted by the derisory tone of the article, the denigrating nature of the comments.

image copyright authors own

My son is eight, in top set for all of his classes and shows talent in judo. Last week he took the lead in his school play, delighting the audience with his humour and ability. He is kind and loving and I feel more proud of him daily, not least because I know what it took to get here. He is also a medicated ADHD child.

For the first year of his life, everything seemed fine. He slept, ate healthily and delighted everyone who knew him. At one, early cracks began to show in tantrums and the hours he could stay awake. At two it worsened. Although clever, he became destructive. Quick to share, he was quicker to destroy. Socially he struggled. Attempts at age appropriate discipline failed.

By age three and a half I lost job after job as childminders quit and nurseries called me out daily. I gave up trying and set up at home, hoping that being with me would settle him down. We read every book going, attended any parenting class we could and culled anything artificial in his diet in attempts to calm him and help him sleep. Television was restricted, we didn't have a computer. Exercise happened daily, reward charts went everywhere and the naughty step wore away. Hospital visits became routine as his inability to gauge risk meant being five steps ahead at every turn.

My sense of shame and failure was brutal as I tried to control and calm him and failed. I loved him desperately but in my darker moments I wondered what I had done so terribly wrong to create this beautiful, deeply challenging boy.

Starting school bought the issue to a head. I was called in daily, and despite working closely with them, nothing changed. My bright little boy fell dramatically behind. He was judged and ostracised by his classmates.

He started to call himself bad, nasty, and on very bad days would scream that he hated himself, punching himself repeatedly, leaving us both sobbing.

The pain for him and for us often felt unbearable. I would torture myself with all the things we did wrong, why it was our fault.

I must be clear, it was never all bad. There are moments of brightness and brilliance you see. Ciaran has always been animated and adventurous making him delightful company. It was just that the constant roaring in his head meant he couldn't stop moving (his words at four) rendering self-control impossible.

Exhausted we begged our doctors for help and with the support of his brilliant school, we endured a lengthy and rigorous assessment procedure. We demonstrated dietary changes with diaries, showed evidence of our attendance at parenting classes and after the hundredth call we finally got the appointment we needed.

We agonised over the decision but we chose to medicate. After the first time I hid crying with guilt. But within the space of one term, Ciaran went from failing to flying. His teachers called me in to tell me how fast he was advancing; what a warm, polite child he was turning into. The child that he always had been underneath.

Three years later, here we are. He still has moments where he can do random, destructive things, usually when lots of people are around. Fortunately our lives now contain friends and family who know him and love him enough to be supportive and patient, dealing with situations with compassion and humour.

Medication wasn't a miracle cure. We continue to work on the confidence issues, the frustration and the social skills. We found sport, surrounding him with men who accept him and provide boundaries. His teachers are adept at calming him. The medication clears his mind long enough for the behavioural work to sink in and take effect. It's a tool, not a magic wand.

I won't lie, the long term effects of the medication still scare me, but not as much as the alternative. Mainstream education would fail, filling him with more anger and shame as he aged. I refuse to imagine what adulthood would hold for him - untreated ADHD children often have little hope.

We chose to do what we felt would allow him to grow into adulthood confident in his education, our love for him and most importantly confident in himself.

As parents we make choices, doing the best we can with what information we have. A century ago doctors thought PMT was hysteria and dyslexia stupidity. Things change and if I made the wrong choice for my child I will answer for that in the future, but only to him.

I will never answer to ignorant, judgemental and prejudiced troglodytes lacking any ability to cope with difference. I would rather be a crap mother, then a failure as a human being.