My eight-year-old son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And I am one of ‘those’ parents who give their child the stimulant drug Ritalin.
Forget all you have read about this drug and what media has convinced you to believe. I too have read those articles, but I’ve also read a lot more other articles and papers; the ones that don’t get published because they don’t have enough media hype.
He has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD. He was born that way. As a newborn he had to be wrapped tightly and vigorously bounced for about 30 minutes to get him to sleep. He constantly craved movement. He started walking at nine months, and running at nine months and one day.
“He’s just a busy boy!” was the popular comforting phrase for my toddler. Sure, he was busy, but when his kindergarten friends could sit through a 12 page book and my son lasted two words before needing to get up and climb the walls, it was obvious to all, he was more than busy, he was hyperactive.
I am a well-educated, well-read, fairly tuned in mother. I was so used to my son’s hyperactivity that it was just the norm. I managed to tolerate all of the signs for ADHD until my son was about to start school and a speech therapist gently mentioned we should look into his “impulsivity”. Although he now lasted to the end of the first page of a story before moving away, his activity levels were far from “normal”. But my son was not a naughty child, just a ‘busy’ one.
Being dutiful I obtained a referral to a psychologist and had an assessment completed. My son, at five years of age, tested in the Clinical Range for ADHD. There was no doubt, no grey, no denying, my son had ADHD. But surely I could fix this, right?
Step 1 – His Diet. No sugar, no artificial colours, no salicylates, no dairy.
Step 2 – Lots of exercise, jumping and breaks running “errands” carrying heavy items.
Step 3 – Occupational Therapy. Desensitize to movement, heavy weighted vest, wobble cushion, sensory play items.
Step 4 – Behaviour Modification Therapy. Floor Time Techniques, reward charts, intensive parenting courses.
After all of this intervention, he still had uncontrollable symptoms of ADHD.
We tried everything. Thousands of ill afforded dollars later, nothing had changed; other than I was becoming an expert on ADHD “treatment” techniques. One day I was on yard duty at my son’s school and saw my little man, my sweet natured, would normally kiss you and cuddle you to death, little man, kick a boy in the back. I was flummoxed.
“Why did you do that!?” I asked.
“He didn’t move out of my way fast enough and I couldn’t control my arms and legs,” was his response.
Exasperated I asked him: “Well then, would you like some medicine to help you control your arms and legs?”
“Yes please,” was his answer.
Had I done the wrong thing by my son by listening to what the media had told me of this evil drug rather than listening to what my own son needed?
How did I feel? Media preconception: 1 – Mummy instincts: 0.
Within a couple of weeks we got in to see our paediatrician, and a couple of days later we had a box of Ritalin. At the end of trial day number one my son, then 6, was exploding with pride. “Mummy! I had a good boy day!” I cried, I was so happy for him. At the end of the two week trial he had made two friends and been invited on a play date.