I just finished reading a friends’ testimony of God’s work in her life that was beautifully open and real. So I’d like to share some of what we’re going through right now.
My title is Open and Addled because right now we are dealing with ADD (or ADHD, whatever) with our son, Jonathan. We’ve been …suspicious?…for a few years now, although when I tried homeschooling him last year it was so bad that suspicion turned into “We need to figure out what is going on now!” He’s 6 years old right now. We went through the 6 month wait in Canada for him to be “assessed” only to have the assessment not even get finished because Jonathan just shut down…although, to be fair, it was supposed to be, like, 4 hours of testing – for a 5 year old! Not many boys would probably last – and not surprisingly, he tested with “ADHD and oppositional symptoms” but no clear diagnosis. I especially wanted to know if he had any learning disabilities like his father, Nathan (who was diagnosed Dec 2009 finally). We were disappointed to hear basically nothing that we didn’t already know.
Fast forward to California. We decided to try a traditional school environment because homeschooling had so obviously not worked. We just couldn’t go the public route for various reasons (read here) so Jonathan started at Escondido Christian School. We wanted to see how he did in a regular Kindergarten class. Jonathan obviously enjoyed the extra socialization but there were definite adjustment bumps. I kept in regular contact with his teacher (we were getting lots of notes home about his “unhappy house” days) but decided in January to help out in class to see how things were going for myself. We had been quite impressed that Jonathan was already starting to read and do math but once in the classroom, it became obvious that he was struggling much more than the other children (and since I was doing homework with him every day I was well versed in how much he struggled with me!). Months have passed…and finally, Nathan and I (and Jonathan’s teacher) have reached the point where, despite our deep aversion to giving drugs to our child, we are ready to try them. Anything that might help!
Last Tuesday Jonathan and I met with his pediatrician to go over the results of the questionaires that we and Jonathan’s teachers had filled out. She asked him all the questions again, and from what he and I said, she “confirmed” an ADHD diagnosis. This seems rather funny to me; I still want conclusive tests! But it was clear already to me that he needed some kind of help so I didn’t argue about labels. I had done some research on the medications used to treat ADHD and already decided stimulants and Strattera were not really options. Jonathan has a family tree with some mental illnesses and is already too aggressive; stimulants are not recommended in the first case and tend to worsen aggression and rage. What does that leave? Well, about a year ago an old drug (guanfacine hydrochloride – Intuniv brandname) for high blood pressure in adults got FDA approval as a treatment for ADHD in kids. It works on the brain connections and blood pressure. It has its possible downsides too (sleepiness, weight gain, bedwetting, etc) but it’s basically all that’s left. When I asked the doctor she said that of the 6 kids she’s tried it with, only 2 showed improvement, BUT she was willing to try. So we came home with a month’s supply.
We started Jonathan with it last Friday, about 3 days ago. It’s fairly quick acting, so we’ve been looking for any changes. He’s been sleepier (we give it to him in the afternoon, on a 24-hour cycle) and perhaps a little weepier when tired. BUT today at class, Jonathan finished all of his seat work! Normally he’s a page behind the other kids because he gets so distracted and can’t concentrate, but today he was done before a few other kids! Wow.
I have so many hopes for this medication to work. Jonathan is already starting to show some signs of thinking of himself as stupid despite all the positive comments we make. Nathan went undiagnosed and still struggles with low self-esteem when it comes to studying, despite currently working on a Master’s degree….and I really really don’t want Jonathan to suffer the same way.
So there it is. It feels like coming out of the closet to admit that our child is struggling and we’ve turned to drugs to try to help him. It feels like giving up….and giving in to pressure. Am I the only one to feel that way? I doubt it, and that’s why I’m sharing. If anybody else is out there struggling through this, I hope this helps – and if you like, share a comment or two. I’d love to hear it!