Choosing to put my child on medication was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. We’ve been through a lot with medications.
First of all, the decision to even try medication was a hard one for me. I was always one of those people who swore I’d never put my child on medication. You know those people? The ones that say things like, “I’d never put my child on medication, but I’m not judging!” I’m ashamed to say that was me. Perhaps that is why I was given the burden of that decision.
When Squeaker was almost 3 years old and at a developmental daycare due to his deficits, he started getting in trouble because of impulsive behavior. He couldn’t sit still for more than a minute, he didn’t listen, he couldn’t stand in a line without pushing whoever was unfortunate enough to stand near him, and he would go up to another child and just hit him/her for no apparent reason. I noticed that, at home, despite immediate time-outs for hitting, he still had his moments of impulsivity where he’d hit one of us for no reason. We’d gotten rid of his hitting when he was angry…it was the hitting when he wasn’t angry that was the problem.
I headed to the doctor and talked with him at length about what was going on. I’m talking about more than an hour-long conversation about what he was doing, activity level, sleep habits, learning problems, etc. He was diagnosed with ADHD (this was long before the diagnosis of Autism) and the doctor suggested trying medication. He saw the look on my face (horrified) and told me that he would support my decision, whether I decided to medicate or not, but went over the pros and cons with me there in the office. The one that got to me? The possible effect on Squeaker’s self-esteem when he was rejected by his peers because of his behavior and when he had trouble academically. With him already being behind and with me already hearing some of the kids in his class talking about not liking him, I left the office with a prescription, but without having made the decision yet.
The Manager and I spoke at length about the medication issue. He felt the same way I did. He hated the idea of medication, but also wanted to see Squeaker meet his potential. Up to this point, Squeaker was resisting learning anything and his behavior was definitely getting in the way of progress. After mulling it over for a day, looking up side-effects, and talking to other people with children diagnosed with ADHD, we decided to give it a try.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as giving him a pill and calling it a day. There are a gazillion medications out there, and, I kid you not, we’ve been through a ton of them. Our selection was vastly narrowed down by the fact that Squeaker refuses to swallow a pill. This means he cannot take anything long-acting. We tried one long-acting medication once. He bit into it and was zonked out and zombie-like most of the day. That was the scariest moment of my life. I remember thinking that day that I was done with medication. It was just too hard to find the right one.
But, we weren’t done. We kept going through the medications. Squeaker would do well for a while, metabolize the medications, and then we’d have to switch again. We’ve found a good combination of medications now, but none that really help him sleep through the night or keep him from having his mega-tantrums (which happen the most on days preceded by poor sleep nights) There is still quite a bit of work we have to do, as parents, to deal with his behavior, and you’ll see me post on here that I often don’t know what the heck I’m doing.
We continue to reach out for support from professionals and try to come up with strategies to work with him at home. We don’t rely on the medication to do our job as parents. We don’t expect the medication to make him “be good.”
I’m saying all this because, if you are a parent who doesn’t have a child on medication, I want you to realize how hard a decision it is to make. It’s no cake walk. There’s no happy pill that makes children magically behave. You have to weigh the benefits against the risks. And for us, personally, we’re very picky about the effects of the medication. If they take away Squeaker’s personality, we don’t continue the medication. We love our son. We want him to be him, not a zombie-child. If they make him moody, we don’t use it. And if we feel the medication is too risky, we won’t accept it. But it’s not easy. It’s not something we do because that’s what all the cool kids are doing. We do it out of love for our child. So don’t judge. Because until you’ve walked a mile in our shoes, you have no idea why we’ve made the decisions we’ve made about our child.
It can be a bitter pill to swallow, but sometimes medication is the right decision (and sometimes it’s not). The end.