Always Crazy, Always Fun, Always Love

Ray Romano once compared life with twins to living in a frat house. As he put it, "no one sleeps, there is a lot of noise and a lot of throwing up." I find this very true with 4 young children, including twins. However, though things are always crazy, we always try to have fun and, most certainly, always love each other.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

As a Parent of a Child with ADHD

Today, as I was doing my normal browsing on Facebook, I saw several (at least 5) friends who linked to this article written by Marilyn Wedge titled, "Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD."   Having a son with ADHD, of course it piqued my interest, so I read it.  It really upset me and I found myself questioning the "research"- feeling it is mostly opinion based- as well as feeling a little offended that she implied my parenting was part of the problem.

My oldest son, Kenneth, has ADHD and was diagnosed right at the beginning of 3rd grade.  I never told anyone in early years but have opened up a little more recently.  You see, he is on medication for it.  I have never totally made peace with it and feared being judged for it.  Maybe because I was judgemental of the medication before then.  I still don't love it and I am beginning to learn of other possible options, but for now, it is helping and it is the only thing I know that for sure helps.  So, until I find what will work for him, he truly needs the medication.  I will explain more in a moment.

First, let me share what really bothered me about this article so you know what I am talking about.  

1)  "In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%. How come the epidemic of ADHD—which has become firmly established in the United States—has almost completely passed over children in France?"

One one hand, I do feel that America over diagnoses ADHD...... but can we really be sure it is almost non-exisitent in France or is it just way under diagnosed there? Are there children really struggling and therefore not getting the help they need- parents made to feel it is there fault for not parenting better so they don't seek help?

2) She describes the French parenting style that she believes helps fight ADHD.... "From the time their children are born, French parents provide them with a firm cadre—the word means "frame" or "structure." Children are not allowed, for example, to snack whenever they want. Mealtimes are at four specific times of the day. French children learn to wait patiently for meals, rather than eating snack foods whenever they feel like it."    So..... parents who let their kids snack might end up with ADHD? I have actually never let my children snack much between meals (not that I have a problem with that because I don't- just not my style) and yet, here we are....

3) And apparently, I must discipline wrong...." But French parents have a different philosophy of discipline. Consistently enforced limits, in the French view, make children feel safe and secure. Clear limits, they believe, actually make a child feel happier and safer—something that is congruent with my own experience as both a therapist and a parent. Finally, French parents believe that hearing the word "no" rescues children from the "tyranny of their own desires." And spanking, when used judiciously, is not considered child abuse in France."   - My children have always had consistent and enforced limits. I have never been afraid to say no and I even rarely spank.  Yet here we are....  But, it must be my fault- I must not be clear enough in limits.  It is very generalistic to claim that they parent better and that is why. Some parents don't set clear enough limits and that may be a cause, but certainly not for most I don't think.  As a parent who does my absolute best, this is insulting.  They way the French supposedly parent, is how I do as well and yet, here we are.

4) And another parenting insult.... I guess I didn't teach my child self control early enough?! Huh? 

"it makes perfect sense to me that French children don't need medications to control their behavior because they learn self-control early in their lives. The children grow up in families in which the rules are well-understood, and a clear family hierarchy is firmly in place. In French families, as Druckerman describes them, parents are firmly in charge of their kids—instead of the American family style, in which the situation is all too often vice versa."  While this is true for some, certainly not all.  I don't think there has EVER been a doubt as to who the parents in this house are.  Yet, here we are.  

5) "The French holistic, psycho-social approach also allows for considering nutritional causes for ADHD-type symptoms—specifically the fact that the behavior of some children is worsened after eating foods with artificial colors, certain preservatives, and/or allergens. not to mention parents of many ADHD kids—are well aware that dietary interventions can sometimes help a child's problem. In the United States, the strict focus on pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD, however, encourages clinicians to ignore the influence of dietary factors on children's behavior."   -So- a parent who chooses medication must be lazy if they are possibly aware of other options?!  When Kenny was first diagnosed, I had never heard ANY of this.  The doc we see is a firm believer that it is a true biological disorder.  Only recently have a begun to hear how diet changes and other things may help.  But it is hard when you have docs telling you one thing and the rest of the world telling you something different.  It is hard to find true- unbiased- information.  You certainly can't just go off what you find on the internet.  I truly and strongly do not want my child on medication and I plan on using this summer to explore some of these options, but I need real help (which may mean finding a new doctor) at how to try other things, how to tell if it is working (because you can't just stop the meds for many reasons) and how to work off the medication if other things do help.  And, while diet and other changes have shown to work for some, it is not totally proven and therefore may not work for everyone.  So, yes, while I am very very interested in learning of and trying wholistic approaches, it is a very blanket statement to say that many Americans are aware of these possibilities but just choose not to.  It is just not that simple. There are so many questions and it wouldn't really help the child to just stop medication and begin experimenting with them.  I feel like most parents- myself included- just do the best with the information we have.  We all want the same thing- for our kids to grow up strong, happy and successful.  

Life with a child with ADHD

I noticed that the author as well as all those who linked the article do not have a child with ADHD so it is easy to say when you aren't living it.  So, here is a little of what it is like.

-Before he was diagnosed- he was behind in school- more than a grade level behind in reading and falling fast and took a nose dive in 2nd grade.  I thought he was dyslexic but two tests confirmed he is not.  The idea of ADHD came up but I was resistant- I had my own misconceptions and didn't want to be part of a statistic and one of "those parents" who just medicate their kid.  Here are some of his symptoms that were part of the problem:

  • unable to focus to finish work- or would rush through his work causing poor quality- unable to slow down to focus.
  • very poor handwriting and horrible spelling.  Despite constant studying for spelling tests, he would often still do poorly- unable to retain the information.  Same with other subjects- he often tests poorly because it is hard to focus appropriately to retain information.
  • very active- not truly hyper active, but always very busy and active.  Hard to reign in sometimes once excited.
  • very impulsive.  Aside from academics, this is his biggest symptom- much more then the hyperactivity.  Kids with ADHD generally have a hard time thinking through things before they act. This gets him into trouble.  
  • immaturity and poor social skills.  ADHD kids often aren't able to focus and slow down to notice social que's in others making it hard for others to relate to them.
It took nearly a year of testing, having teachers do questionnaires and meeting with a psychologist before finally deciding to try medication.  It was not something that was decided quickly or lightly or out of convenience. Since he started, his grades have gone up, his confidence has gone up, he reads at grade level.  He still struggles with spelling, but it is much better and he can usually do well as long as he studies every single day.  It controls the impulsiveness- The only time he has gotten into big trouble for impulsiveness has been when he did not have his medication or it had worn off.  Each time he was fully disciplined (unlike what the article suggests)-maybe even more so then the other kids because it is harder for him to learn but he needs to. 

Here are some other thoughts.....

Imagine seeing your child try so hard to read but they get so frustrated.  Imagine meltdowns over homework and having no idea how to help him through it- both of you reduced to tears.  Imagine doing your best to reign in his activity while wanting him to be himself and yet having others judge you, thinking you let your kids just run wild (including some in your own family).  Imagine having to yell at your kid all the time for not thinking through his actions and yet, despite discipline, they do something else impulsive 5 min. later.  Imagine they make noises, or distract others at inappropriate times and continue to do so despite constant reminding not to.  Imagine seeing your child struggle wanting a friend so badly but getting continuously looked passed, ignored, or even down right bullied for not being like the others.  If you saw your child struggle like this, and medication would help, is it so horrible to try that medication? Does that make someone a bad parent, or maybe just a parent that will take help where they can get it?

Every year, the school year starts out rough and his grades drop as he adjusts to new teachers, new routines, new expectations.  By the end of the year, he gets A's and B's. Every. Single. Year.  Frustrating for all of us!  Every year, I start out with this sense of hope because the last year ended so well and then am surprised when it is rough. That happened again this year.  The last half of 5th grade was great so I thought 6th grade would start out well, especially with a more welcoming environment. It was as tough as ever!  But, now this 2nd half of the year, he is on the honor roll!

Imagine it taking until the 6th grade for your child to make their first real friend- a true friend who wants to come over and play and invite you to do things.  Kenny just this year has made a real friend.  This is something I have prayed for for so long and one of the many reasons we moved to a new town.  A real friendship just wasn't going to happen in his old school- he was too different from the other kids.  Every child needs friends and it is so heartbreaking when you know your child doesn't have any.  Especially when you hear about big parties or sleepovers other kids are having and knowing your child wasn't included.  

But here are some other things about Kenny that everyone should know.  He has the biggest heart and more compassion then any other kids his age I know.  He is gentle and kind.  He is very helpful and rarely complains about work that needs done.  Even in 6th grade, he is still not embarrassed to be seen with his family or to hug his mother in public.  He has yet to reach that "too cool for you stage." Definitely one advantage to the immaturity!  In so many ways, he is still my sweet boy with so much innocence.  It is hard for him to read- but he CAN and at grade level.  It is hard to focus and get things done, but thanks to medication and hard work, he CAN.  It is hard for him to make friends, but he CAN.  It is hard for him to control his impulses and activity, but with hard work and his medication, he CAN.  He is learning and growing and hopefully learning that if he works hard he CAN do anything.  That is the key -working hard.  He CAN do anything, but he needs to work at it.  He has always had to work harder than his siblings for things and probably always will have to. But, even that can be an advantage because he will grow up knowing how to work for what he needs and wants.  

He is an amazing kid and, as a parent, I am doing my best to help him grow and reach his potential.  I will do that however I can- whether that be through medication or wholistic approaches.  I am truly hoping to find a working wholistic approach, but that will take time to find the right doctor and the right method at the right time.  I think it is important to remember to not be too quick to look at a child struggling and say the parents should have done things differently, or that other people in other places do it better.  I just wish this author- and everyone- would stick to true research and not generalized opinions that do no one any good accept to spread information that isn't necessarily true, and hurt feelings of those involved.  

I love my son and I know him well.  I know what he is capable of and I will do whatever I can to help him reach that potential in whatever way I can.  I will never give up on him or any of my children because they are all such beautiful spirits and are truly children of God that I have been entrusted with.  I am thankful for every minute of every day with each of them.  I want them to know when they grow up that I did the best I could to help them with whatever their needs were- that I was there and never gave up.  

That is all that matters, really. 


Abby Bowman said...

I haven't read the article, but i agree with you 100% in the points you made here. You are doing an excellent job! :)

Milana said...

This brought me to tears Amanda. Watching your child suffer or hurt is one of the most difficult things to have to go through. You are an amazing mom and your children are equally amazing!

Tonya said...

I am so glad you opened up and shared. We all do what we can, with what we know, with what experiences we bring to the table. We, as mothers, all do our best, and I certainly know that about you. I think medically (if we do not have the training ourselves), we really just have to trust the doctors and studies out there and do what we think is best in our own hearts and minds. I don't blame you for any decisions you make. I do hope you can find something that works that you can find peace with...and it sounds like you are very close. Again, thank you for sharing.

Kelly said...

This was so good, Amanda. I know you do all you can do- and then some- you are an amazing mom with such patience and dedication. You read my thoughts on that article- so poorly written and judgmental. Sadly, that is how the majority of people without a child with ADHD see it. I have some in my family that are on medication and I know her parents struggled with the medication too, but if you could help your child succeed in life with one little pill everyday, of course you would do it. I certainly would too. She is doing so much better in her life now too- not that meds are always the answer, I know, but they do help when necessary.
P.S. I think Kenny is awesome!!

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