At Impact we take a neutral stance on the use of medication as an intervention for ADHD treatment and management. Whether or not to medicate is an individual decision to be made between parents and physician. As coaches, we give parents a framework for making those decisions, and support them through the process. Our purpose is not to give advice or recommend solutions, but to encourage parents to explore different perspectives.
We feel strongly that families benefit when parents are educated on many aspects of ADHD, including brain health. Understanding how medications are used in ADHD treatment, with advantages and potential risks, is part of that education.
Why I Chose to Medicate My ADHD Child
The pros and cons of medicating ADHD kids is a hot topic that weighs heavy on the minds of our clients and other parents.
I generally take a holistic approach when it comes to my family's health. We prefer to eat organic whenever possible, and I tend to choose more holistic remedies for managing illness.
In third grade, when my son was first diagnosed with ADHD, I was adamant that I would not medicate him. Even though I had been working in healthcare for many years, the idea of putting an 8-year-old on a maintenance medication seemed extreme. I was convinced I would find an alternative, something other than what I assumed was a "brain-numbing" medication that I was convinced would turn my fun-loving daydreamer of a kid into a zombie.
Our Pediatrician was a saint. She was eternally patient with me, wanting to support my wishes. When I asked, she held firm on her perspective that medications have been proven to help most kids. Unless ruled out for some other clinical reason, she considered medication to be a significant part of “best practice” for ADHD treatment.
At some point in the process, after hours of research and hair pulling, something she said to me stuck hard. “It's clear that you want to do all you can for your son to help him be more successful. What if medication could work for him, but you weren't willing to try it? Yes, there are potential side effects, but typically they are not significant. He can always stop taking it if it doesn't work, or the side effects are a problem.”
Know Your Values
As a coach, we encourage our parents to use their values as a barometer for decision-making. Looking back, the values that were most important in helping me make my decision were: dedication to family, being responsible, striving for excellence, and being well educated.
I knew that I could always have my son stop taking the medication; but, if he never tried it, I wouldn't really know if it would help him or not. Bottom line: I was committed to doing whatever I could to help my son. For me, that meant letting him try the medication and see what happened.
We were fortunate. The process of finding a medication "fit" was easy for us. The first medication we tried worked quite well, and its effects appeared instantly. He was like a new kid, literally, in a matter of hours. His side effects were mild and manageable. After that first week, I never looked back. It was clear to me that I had done the right thing for my son. That is not always the case, and I've learned since then that there is much more to managing ADHD than medication. But when medication works, it can lead to immediate, dramatic improvements – and allow a child to be available to learn essential management strategies.
As my son became a teenager, we had many conversations about whether or not he "had" to take his medicine, particularly when he was not in school. Even though he knows that they help, sometimes he thinks that he would be better off not taking them. Ultimately he doesn't like to feel “different.” That's a big deal for most teens. I have compassion for how he feels. I also held fast to the medical decision that he take his medication (most of the time).
Why I Chose to Medicate My ADHD Son
- My son has a neurobiological disorder of the brain, and medication definitely helps his brain to focus and to work more efficiently. If he had diabetes, I would never question whether or not to put him on insulin if he was an appropriate candidate.
- To be honest, it made my life easier when he took his medication. Being a parent of complex kids is more than challenging. It's often overwhelming and highly stressful. Having a child that is a little more focused and a little less emotional took some pressure off. It helped to support me in staying out of crisis mode, and in being more of the parent I wanted to be. It also helped me feel like I was doing all I could to help him be successful. Yes, we can debate what it means to be successful, but that is a whole other blog.
- Like it or not, society rewards people for “fitting in.” If you know me, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of beating your own drum. I am also a realist. My parents always told me, “you attract more flies with honey.” I wanted my son to be attractive.
I'll Be His Mirror
Ultimately everything comes back to my son. I know that he felt better about himself and his life when he felt more productive and connected, and when things were less of a struggle. He did not always remember this – after all, he is a kid with ADHD – so I got to be his mirror.
Now that he's a young adult, he can make his own decisions. And while he was still under my direct care, I got the added bonus of knowing that I made a powerful choice to support my ADHD kid!