True story –
Our neighbor came over twice the other day. Once mid-morning, and once in the evening. When she came over in the morning, our kids were calm, doing their chores, being productive, and then working on school. When she came over later in the evening, they were bouncing off the walls, climbing, running, jumping, being loud, talking over each other, disruptive, and just frustrating to be honest.
I said to her “see the difference now? They had their meds this morning, and we didn’t give them a second dose this afternoon like we may do sometimes.”
“Well, yeah I guess if that’s the difference I can definitely see that.”
And finally, someone saw a glimpse into what our life is like every. single. day.
I’ve been told everyone has a little ADHD and that some people are just able to cope with it. I have also been told, it’s because parents aren’t strict enough, kids watch too much TV, they don’t get enough time outdoors, they need to be playing sports, too much sugar, try cutting out gluten, or food dyes, don’t let them play video games, you name it I’m sure I’ve heard it all.
Maybe some just need to see it more to believe it? Most probably don’t realize it truly is a difference in the way individuals brains are wired. And maybe some just want to believe what they want to believe no matter how much evidence there is to back up the fact that it IS real, and NO, not everyone has a little ADHD. And NO, not all of those work, to help kids and adults with ADHD.
Let me start with my family.
*Disclaimer: Medication is not for everyone, I am in no way a medical professional, and can not tell you what you should do if you believe you have ADHD. What I can do, is suggest that to find what works best for you, talk with your doctor about options. I am just here to tell you what it has done for our family. And why the stereotype of “drugging” our kids and “medicating” our kids because we can’t handle them is complete ignorance, lack of understanding, it’s rubbish, nonsense, and saying only bad parents or parents that can’t handle their kids, use medication is absurd, etc. People need to be aware that it CAN be a good thing!
My husband was diagnosed with ADHD in the 4th grade. Back then it was ADD, nowadays they don’t differentiate between the two. Other than subtypes. So was he hyperactive? No. Inattentive? Yes. He went from a failing student struggling in school to an A, B student once he was diagnosed and his parents started him on medication.
Did he grow out of it? Nope. He still needs medication when he needs to focus on things, while going to college, and if he has important things to do, but can’t afford to be distracted by every little thing around him. Does that make him a bad person? Absolutely not. Is it necessary to be medicated? For him, it is. But he doesn’t need it every single day. And he is not dependent on meds either.
Next, my parents, brothers and 1/2 sister all have ADHD, with some hyperactive, some inattentive and some both. That’s 2 parents, & 4 siblings all with ADHD. And, how were they diagnosed? Because you know, it’s over-diagnosed and maybe the doctors were wrong. Well, it was a looong drawn out process, requiring a pediatrician for my brothers, family doctors, psychiatrists, neuropsych evaluations, and several counseling sessions that I remember going to as a kid to get the proper diagnosis. So, do I believe they truly have ADHD. Sure do.
Fast-forward. My husband and I get married and begin to have a family. Our family starts out with 3 boys, born in 2004, 2006 and 2008. They were and are typical boys, rambunctious, full of energy, silly, sometimes trouble makers (2009 Father’s Day I will never forget, more on that later). Did we suspect ADHD? Not really, because boys will be boys, busy running around, super-heroes one day, dinosaurs the next. Fun times. Our oldest begins kindergarten and is very smart. Then first grade, then 2nd grade and our next begins kinder. When our oldest hit 2nd grade his teacher noted that he was way above in math. So they began sending him to a 3rd grade advanced class to do 4th grade math. He was extremely smart, but in 3rd grade when sent up for 4th grade for math he struggled to keep up with getting homework turned in. He would do it, and then lose it. Or he’d forget his books at school, or not write down assignments. It was a HUGE struggle because we know how bright he is.
This is when we began evaluations for Inattentive type ADHD. And not surprisingly, he was diagnosed with it at nearly the same age my husband was and we decided to give meds a try (I don’t remember which one at the time). And within 2 weeks, we and his teacher saw DRASTIC improvement. I mean, he went from failing classes to straight A’s.
Our second son, Jordan had various health concerns from the time he was a baby. He was diagnosed with failure to thrive, asthma, he started walking considerably late, he was terrible at sleeping. We later found out he had severe obstructive sleep apnea, and hypoventilation. He also has 2Q23.1 Microdeletion syndrome. He also was diagnosed ADHD hyperactive and inattentive. 2 kids now. Ok, well we can manage. Meds or no meds? We first began diet changes, we cut out sugars, and red dyes (and still do not buy food with dyes), we scaled WAY back on grains, we don’t have TV on most days of the week, our kids have very little screen time and almost no video game time, they are busy and expend a lot of energy outside when possible. But, it just wasn’t enough. So we started him on one medication, and guess what. It was awful. I mean, eyes glazed over, zombie like, no wonder parents don’t like medicating their kids awful. But I wasn’t ready to just give up. I believe we tried 3 other ones, before we found what worked for him.
His first counseling appointment after he tried a 4th medication went something like this:
Counselor: So, Jordan how was it starting medication, does it bother you, do you feel different? Is there anything you can tell me about it?
Jordan: It’s amazing, I mean before when I didn’t have meds I had like tons and tons of thoughts running through my head all at once. And then after I took this medicine, it was like I could have just ONE thought at a time, and think about one thing at a time!
That right there, is powerful. He was 7. At 7 he could describe so perfectly what it was like to have ADHD. And he could put into words what a particular medication did for him. Communicating, what it did for his brain. Wow.
It hasn’t been a cake walk from this point on though. As kids grow, their needs change and the need to change meds arises. So, we’ve had to constantly work to figure out what is best for our kids. At the same time, we are fully invested in making sure that our kids have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We don’t want our kids to be “drugged” as some would say. We find a medication that doesn’t alter their personality, doesn’t make them zombie like, and just gives them the ability to focus, be successful, and not struggle as much when their brain doesn’t work the same way as everyone else’s.
Imagine how we felt, when our 3rd son, was diagnosed with ADHD?
Another kid? Is this for real? Our life and theirs is not going to be easy. With this kiddo though, we’ve still not got everything figured out. He may have anxiety as well, or maybe he JUST has anxiety, so we are working with different professionals to help him.
Our daughter, she’s 6. Do you think we really wanted to have her evaluated for the same thing? I actually dreaded it. Because I know the stereotypes all too well. I know what people might think if they found out I have 4 kids with ADHD. Or if I chose to medicate all of our kids.
“The genetic evidence for ADD/ADHD can be ignored but not argued away. Studies of twins and families make it clear that genetic factors are the major causes of ADD/ADHD, says Russell Barkley, Ph.D., author of Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. In fact, an estimated 75 to 80 percent of variation in the severity of ADD/ADHD traits is the result of genetic factors. Some studies place this figure at over 90 percent. ” ADHD News feed | Wayne Kalyn
The evidence that ADHD is hereditary, does not shock me, and in fact, I’ve know for a long time it was hereditary. Growing up we would always joke about my brother marrying someone else with ADHD and how hyper their kids might be. Jokes on me though. He’s not married and doesn’t have children right now, and I’ve got 6 with the oldest 4 all being thoroughly evaluated and diagnosed with it.
Child number 4 was diagnosed with hyperactive and inattentive ADHD. But, she’s 6. And I don’t feel the need to give her medication right now. It’s what works for our family. Does she struggle to sit still? Absolutely! You know what? We work around it right now.
We also homeschool. And found relatively quickly that homeschool was a good fit for our family for a number of reasons. I can share those at another time. But for kids that are way above, or way below (because we have both) a public school setting is just not going to set them up for success. And we want the best for our kids.
It wasn’t until we began to homeschool that I realized I really needed to be evaluated myself.
When we began to homeschool, I quickly realized that every single thing around me was distracting, and getting in the way of me teaching the kids. And not just that, but I began a blog, I started a YouTube channel, I needed to sit down and be consistent but it just was a major major struggle. Looking back, I was terrible in High School too. I never turned homework in on time, I graduated with a terrible GPA, I failed math my senior year, and so on. I asked my parents what they thought. “Oh I’m sure you have ADD, but we kept you as busy as we could, and we also had your brothers that were a big challenge”
Yes, they suspected I had it, but did not have me evaluated. Boy, that was news to me! I completely understand why, I have a special needs brother that took a great deal of time and attention on my parents part.
So, now as an adult, I decided it was time to help myself, so I could help my kids and husband better. Off to a neuropsychologist I went, after speaking with my family doctor. I went through a whole slew of tests, evaluation, talking with him etc.
Here’s what he came back with:
“You did much better on the tests than I was expecting. Your IQ does not correlate with your academic history though, you are an extremely bright individual, but I can see how you have struggled. Through the testing we were able to identify that it’s very likely you have ADHD but you are intelligent and have learned to some ways to cope in different environments. You also have a bit of OCD (yeah…. I knew that one), and some mild depression” (Post-Partum relating to my last baby. You can read about that here.)
He suggested I talk with my doctor again and we could decide if medication is the route to go. Honestly I was hesitant. But, I knew that if I wanted to give my kids the best, and be the best Mom I can be, I needed to do SOMETHING. What I’d been trying to do wasn’t working. I’m dairy free, we don’t buy junk, we eat mostly veggies, lean meats, I don’t eat most grains, we’ve tried essential oils, I never watch tv, and so on. That left me basically with the option of trying medication. And I did. 1 day. I tried a medication that actually doesn’t work well for my kids. And you know what? I could not believe the difference! That very day, I could sit down at my computer in my office and get all the work done that I needed with out being distracted. My brain fog (that I had just blamed on having 6 kids) gone, completely. I wasn’t tired, I was attentive, I was able to really enjoy my kids and teaching them. I honestly felt like an entirely new person. It was THAT big of a difference.
So I take medication now for ADHD. So what?
My family is much better off because I do. And you know, if we find in the future that there are other things that work better for us? We’ll make changes. We are constantly making changes.
Our family has already made changes over the last several years. We don’t eat processed food often at all, we almost NEVER watch TV, and we own a Wii but it doesn’t even come out monthly. Our kids spend a lot of time outside playing, exploring, riding bikes, being active. We’ve made a point to be active and eat healthier, but those changes don’t solve all our ADHD struggles. It is entirely possible and likely that our brains are just wired differently than the average individual, and we need a little help to get to a point that gets us to a place where we can be most successful. Right now, we are choosing what works best for OUR family.
Find what works for you and your family. Take the time to research, try new things, talk with your doctor. If you find that medication works best, great! There should not be shame associated with the need to take medication for ADHD. Your brain functions completely differently, and lacks the ability to focus when needed. Medication can help with that.
It’s not a lazy way of living. It also isn’t a poor parents way of parenting. It’s not weakness. It’s quite the opposite. Doing what works best for your family despite the negative stereotypes associated with it, is a strength. And can be a lesson to others.
Keep on keeping on. And set yourself and your family up for success!