ADHD is already a diagnosis surrounded by stigma and misconceptions. Making the decision to medicate your child is extremely hard. As parents we want the best for our child but it can be so hard to know exactly what “the best” is.
Medicating my son wasn’t a decision I made lightly, but I confess I didn’t feel as prepared when discussing the topic with our paediatrician as I would have liked. I wish I had asked more questions and understood more, before I left with that script in my hand.
When I came home and started researching I felt even more overwhelmed and conflicted. After all, there are so many opposing views in regards to ADHD medication, both from parents and professionals.
It made me realised that the best thing we can do to help our kids is to make informed decisions. We know them best and see their struggles first hand but we also need to be armed with knowledge so that we are in the best position to advocate for them.
So with that realisation and some research under my belt, here’s what I SHOULD have asked our doctor that day:
NB: this isn’t medical advice and you should always consult your own medical professional in regards to your individual situation.
What medication options are there and how do they work?
Most of us have heard horror stories of children turned into “zombies” or bombed out on ADHD medication. No one wants that for their child. A lot of parents also worry that medication will change a child’s personality. Understanding how a medicine works goes a long way to reducing these concerns.
Giving a child prone to hyperactivity and impulsivity a stimulant medication seems counter-intuitive but it works. I really like the analogy I found in this article explaining how stimulants help ADHD.
Your doctor is likely to have a preferred type of medication or recommend one specific to your child’s needs. Ask about the specific type and why that’s the best one. They should talk to you about graduating the dosage to find out what is optimal for your child. Remember, if this medication isn’t the right fit, there are others that may work better.
What are the side effects/long term effects?
The list of side effects for ADHD medications is long and rather off-putting. After all, no one wants to subject their child to any physical or emotional discomfort. However, like all medications, side effects vary widely between individuals.
I found this article has a very good explanation of side effects and how they can be managed. Of course, your doctor should be closely monitoring your child’s progress when they are starting any medication so keep them informed of any concerns.
Due to the nature of ADHD meds, many parents worry about their child becoming addicted or it giving them a predilection for substance abuse later in life. Here is an overview of research done in this area that dispels some concerns.
Will medication work straight away?
Working out the best dosage for your child can take some time as every individual metabolises the medication differently. Don’t expect your child to be focused and settled on the first day!
Over the weeks it took to build my son up to a full dose, I nearly threw in the towel several times. Watching him adjust to the medication and seeing him deal with side effects was extremely hard. However, we persevered and now that he is on a consistent dose he is doing well.
Don’t expect instant results but also keep in contact with your doctor regarding any concerns.
What are the alternatives to medication?
This is a HUGE point as medication isn’t for everyone, and even when used, is best used as part of a holistic management plan.
There are so many things we can do to support kids with ADHD, at home, at school and using the help of professionals. As each child is unique, these treatments will vary but here is a good overview of non-medication accommodations and therapies. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne also has a great information sheet on how to help your child at school and home.
In our case, I can happily report that a medication regime, while not easy to begin with, is working well so far. My son tells me he can concentrate better and he is more enthusiastic about doing activities he previously avoided, including homework!
It’s wonderful seeing his true personality shine through, unclouded by his ADHD symptoms. Things like his eagerness to help, his love of animals and creative mind are so much more evident.
We start work with an OT soon and also regularly see a psychologist; things that will help him to continue developing skills and strategies in addition to what we are doing at home.
I am determined to do my best to ensure my son thrives and lives his best life. If medication needs to be part of our journey, I’m ok with that.