A Hail Mary Pass Thrown into Swirling Gust of Wind: Medicating AD/HD

I paced back and forth in front of my son’s first grade classroom, waiting for his teacher to finish talking to another child’s parents.  My husband tries to come to as many parent-teacher conferences as work permits, but I’d scheduled this one for 10 A.M. on Election Day, so I was going into the breach solo.  And while I didn’t want to feel scared and worried and a little sick to my stomach, I did.

Too often, these conferences hadn’t gone well in the past.  At the very first one, when Ben was still in preschool, his teacher glared at me with this serious, disapproving look.  “You know, you’d better get a handle on this sooner than later, when there’s still time.  Otherwise, he’s going to end up in jail.”

I glanced at my husband in shock.  “Jail?”  I gasped.

“Jail,” she repeated.  “At this rate, with this much oppositional behavior, this much anger, jail.”

In case you’re wondering, we switched preschools after that.

Things got worse before they got better.  When Ben was in kindergarten, I would jump when the phone rang.  If it wasn’t the school calling, I breathed a sigh of relief.  When I visited Ben at school for lunch, his classmates told me that my dear son was “bad.”  As I have written here, this hurt like hell.  I felt powerless and not a little clueless.  The last thing I wanted to turn to was the medicine cabinet.

But we did it anyway, both for our son’s sake, and for our own.  The payoff was not immediate because we had him on too low of a dose: 10 mg of Metadate, which is a generic form of Ritalin.  But once we got the dosage right (20 mg), the turnaround was immediate.

And yet, as I stood in front of Mrs. X, I wasn’t sure.  It had been about three weeks since we’d increased Ben’s dose, and we hadn’t heard from her except for one phone call, which I received the day after we increased Ben’s dose.  It had been a really weird call.  Mrs. X called for the sole reason of telling me that Ben had behaved well all day.  Was this an anomaly, or a new beginning for our troubled six-year old?

Before I even sat down in front of Mrs. X, I knew the answer was the latter: Ben had gotten a fresh start.  A redo, a do-over.  “You know, I’ve been looking forward to this meeting,” beamed Mrs. X.  “It’s been like night and day, like a sun rising, ever since you made the brave step of getting him the help he needed.”

“Really?”  I couldn’t breathe so I tried to sit down without smashing my knees into the tiny table in front of me.  I’m clumsy like that.

“Yes.  Really.  The transformation has been the biggest one I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of AD/HD kids.  Sometimes the meds help a little.  Sometimes a lot.  In his case, he’s gone from . . .”  Mrs. X paused to find a tactful way to say it.  “Well, from struggling, to being helpful, and attentive, and funny and . . . oh so kind.  I mean, he was always sweet and affectionate, but my gosh.  Now he gives me flowers, tells me how much he loves me—“

—“He’s always been so affectionate and sweet,” I murmured, my heart hurting.

She nodded.  “The great thing is that you made this change for him early in the year.  So his classmates won’t always remember him getting in trouble.  I mean, they all struggled to figure out the rules in the beginning, so he didn’t stick out as much in their minds.  And now he’s getting along with his classmates.  He’s funny and well-liked and . . .”  Her voice trailed off and she smiled at me.

Some decisions, when viewed from hindsight, seem obvious.  Other ones seem divinely inspired, like small miracles.  But the decision to medicate our son was more like a Hail-Mary pass thrown into a swirling gust of wind: a combination of savvy quarterbacking, divine guidance and a tad of blind luck all in one.




48 Comments on “A Hail Mary Pass Thrown into Swirling Gust of Wind: Medicating AD/HD

  1. This piece in so many ways reflects exactly what we went through, in the end….I believe it’s a combination of prayer, hope, drowning out the noise from outside and following your gut when a decision like this has to be made!!!
    Thank you for your posts!

  2. I am covered from head to toe with tingling goodness!!! It makes my heart so happy when the gifts we know are present in our child can come out and shine for the whole world to see! What a brave Mama your son has. This is not an easy road that you have been on, fighting for your precious boy, but it appears that hope and light have been uncovered. Praying for continued peace. Thank you for sharing your story. As always, your writing is truly beautiful. A story-teller extraordinaire, you are. xo


    • It’s so good to see you Rachel! I’ve been thinking about you, meaning to drop you a line and ask how you are! Aww thank you for sharing my joy!! And thank you so very much for your prayers and kind thoughts!! Much love to you!!

  3. It’s so great when we can see light at the end of the tunnel and have confidence that it isn’t the train! My son struggled in Kindergarten with issues stemming from severe PTSD and his principal and teacher told me after Christmas that they didn’t foresee him passing. I kept encouraging him and working with him and somehow (Prayer, I believe) something clicked and a light bulb went on for him and everything turned around. Six weeks before the end of school I went to another meeting with the principal and teacher and she hugged me as she told he he was going to pass. He’s in second grade now and he’s doing great.

    I believe that we, as parents, truly know what our kids need because we know our kids. I’m so glad Ben’s spark has caught and set him aflame. There’s no stopping him now! Go, Ben!!

    • Awww I’m so happy to read this story about your son!! And PTSD can mirror so many other things, and really cause a child to struggle (and of course make our own lives so much more difficult as parents–speaking from experience of course) . . . I do think prayer helps a great deal. If anything, it’s given me grace, you know? Thank you so much for your kind thoughts!!!

  4. I am so very happy for Ben and for you! A true triumph that is worthy of much celebrating!! Xoxoxo

  5. We lived in Europe when our ADHD son was in elementary school. He struggled, we struggled. The Europeans don’t really believe in ADHD, they think it is all about behavior. It’s not. We spent 4 years struggling to help him with “natural” and “behavioral” tools. All failed. All increased our frustration.

    Of course we didn’t want to medicate. But Jacob was failing and it was our last hope.

    I’ve told this story before, but the day before he started medicine he was, at age 11, trying to talk me into letting him go to an R-rated movie. His argument was non-sensical. Instead of going from A to B to C to make his point, he wandered around the alphabet making random arguments.

    The next day he took his first dose of Concerta. He again tried to get me to let him see that R-rated movie. This time his argument was logical, sensible, had a beginning, middle and end. And while I still didn’t let him see that R-rated movie, I did reward him for his logic in some way I’ve now forgotten.

    The meds helped my son immensely. Had we had them as an option sooner, well, I think he would be much more confident and much more of a scholar (he is very bright but doesn’t apply himself). He’s 21 and a junior in college. Still on his meds, although he has taken breaks from time to time.

    • Aw Elyse, this is such an amazing story. I can only imagine how frustrating this must have been, living in a place that denies what really is a medical condition. It’s so painful to see our children suffer in any way . . . and to want to help them but not be able to. I’m so happy that Jacob did receive the help that he needed and deserved. I smiled in a big way when I read your comment!!

  6. You have me crying some real tears today, El. It’s a lesson to sometimes let go of control (a lesson for me, not you) and try some things you might typically dismiss on uninformed principle (again, me, not you).

  7. It’s such a huge struggle deciding whether or not to try medication, especially for your kids. We started our eight-year-old on Prozac last Spring, and it has helped SO MUCH in reducing his anxiety. Unfortunately, it did nothing for the ADHD aspect. So although he’s no longer in danger of getting kicked out of school (he was having regular outbursts), he still needs too much redirection to be able to come out of the self-contained classroom. I think we will probably be revisiting medication options later this month.

    • Oh indeed, yes, it really is a huge struggle. I suspect that at least one of my kids will, like yours, need an SSRI at some point, and given my own list of meds, I won’t hesitate to do the same for my children. But man, this was a difficult decision, once made, that seems much easier in hindsight! I’m so glad your son is feeling better as far as his anxiety–it’s heartbreaking when I see those sort of symptoms in my own children! I hope that it continues to get easier for him in the classroom!

  8. I am SO glad you found the right solution for Ben! We are still looking for an answer for the Maiden, since the three different meds she’s been on haven’t helped much or have had really bad side effects. It’s an ongoing struggle and it kills me to see her unknowingly sabotage herself every freaking day. Have you noticed big changes yourself? I know there’s a different level of “calmness” expected at school!

    • Thank you so much my friend! I hope you find an answer too, because for real, I know how painful and frustrating (painfully frustrating) this is as a mom. As far as big changes–yes. He can actually focus, and concentrate, and learn . . . and he’s not nearly so wild and out of control and oppositional as he used to be. The meds wear off by dinnertime, so the 6 PM-bedtime part of the day is still a bit annoying (cough–I mean, a lot) but at least we have more patience reserves when that rolls around, and he feels less persecuted than he used to feel after receiving constant corrections all day (before this higher dose of meds). It’s really helping our relationship with him, you know?

  9. I can hear the bravery behind your words. It must have been hard at first. I am SO GLAD to hear that things are going well!! You must have done a jig 😉

  10. Oh this left me feeling so triumphant for YOU! Every child needs a champion, and your son is so fortunate to have a mom like you that has to make such brave choices. I’m so happy that you got a good report. (I’d like to do something very wicked to that preschool teacher who cried JAIL.)

    • Right on re number one responsibility as parents, Stephanie!! And I will add “honor,” because as hard as it is to advocate, it’s something I’d do again in a heartbeat, as I know you would too! Thank you so much, my friend!!!

  11. I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been to hear this, El…
    and how much better Ben must be feeling about himself now, too! I think stories like this give everyone hope (as we all have different things we struggle with)…
    it’s just so very nice to hear about something so positive! Awesome!

    • Aw thank you so much my friend!! And yes! Ben does feel so much better about himself–that’s such a good deduction . . . it can’t feel good to be getting in trouble over and over again, you know? And yes, I’m smiling at the thought of giving other people hope, because sometimes, as a parent at least, that’s seemed like all I had!! Take care!!

  12. You are speaking for many moms out there, I’m sure. We all end up being advocates for our children at one point or another and I admire your courage and dedication to doing what is best for your individual child.

  13. Thank you for sharing your son’s progress with us. Your heart must have felt like it was going to leap out of your chest when you heard Mrs. X gushing about Ben. Sounds like everything came together at the right time. Your decision was not too late, not too early. Wonderful news!

    • Yes–that’s exactly how my heart felt!! And thank you so much as far as the timing of my decision. For a long time, I felt kind of defensive about that, but as time has passed, I’ve found that I’m at peace not just with the end result, but with the process we used as well!

  14. I cried with you today, El, because I know what it’s like to finally have other people see how amazing our guys are. For all their problems, they are good kids. Really good kids. 🙂 Don’t be discouraged if you see some regression in behaviour in a few months. Their little bodies often get used to the meds, and dosages need to be adjusted. We saw a huge difference when we introduced an SSRI to the mix. We hadn’t realized just how much of my son’s ODD behaviour was due to anxiety. What seemed like complete opposition was actually him responding the only way he knew how to situations he didn’t know how to deal with. You may also want to consider a Ritalin top-up in the late afternoon. It’s usually just a small, fast-acting dose that helps get them through until bedtime. It has made bedtime actually enjoyable around here (as opposed to sending me to my own bed in tears). Happy dance with you!!!!

    • Your comments always make me smile, Laura!! I’m so very grateful for your kind words and your wise counsel. And my gosh, what a great idea re the Ritalin top-up in the afternoon. I’d so, so appreciate enjoying easier evenings with Ben! Happy Dance right there with you!!

  15. What an amazing person you are, El, sharing your stories, your vulnerability – see what good comes from that. I’m so glad your son got the help he needed – so glad to hear the relief and hope in your words.

  16. Your blog hit close to home! I have two kids with ADHD and I can relate to the hard decision to medicate or not. I spent endless hours in the doctors office and unfortunately also in the principles office. It started as you explained as an almost unbelievable change in behavior. But I write this to you as a warning that there are some down the road effects to consider. I truly am happy you are at a good place with hope renewed, just be careful to not give the pill to much power. I believe with all my heart my son would be better off today had I taken a different road and stayed away from the meds.

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  18. I’m so glad to hear medication helped your son with this condition. What a great parent-teacher conference. 🙂 You wrote about it so beautifully, I felt as though I were right there beside you the entire time!