4 Reasons Why I Chose to Medicate My ADHD Child

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It was time. I knew the exact moment I had to call the doctor. My son was straddling the door, standing with one foot on either side of the knobs and swinging back and forth, then leaped off of the door, onto the couch and crash landed on the floor.

“That’s it, he needs meds,” I declared in defeat.

In kindergarten it wasn’t even Thanksgiving before we were called into the school to discuss his hyperactivity and distractibility. Through a school-based social skills group and a strict behavior chart, he was able to make progress academically and socially although he still struggled to maintain control (read: bit a child).

First grade brought another behavior chart, outside occupational therapy and incentive plans. We were convinced that he would mature and grow out of this.

This year was different. The behavior plans were not as effective, he was becoming emotionally volatile, he was short on patience and was recommended for academic interventions he didn’t really need.

I met with the teacher and asked this very simple question: “Do you think he is more distractible and active than the average student in your class?” She simply replied, in a very kind and gentle manner, “he’s a great and happy kid but he is a complete and total distraction to himself.”

Ouch.

I asked our pediatrician to intervene and she provided ratings forms for the school staff to complete. The results came back solidly on the side of an ADHD diagnosis. Knowing we had already tried behavior plans, occupational therapy, natural supplements and diet changes, we felt like it was time for us to acknowledge that things were not getting better and the medication option had to, at the very least, be a consideration.

4 reasons why i choose to medicate my adhd child

Below are four reasons why we decided medication was a good option for our family:

1. We exhausted all other options. As I detailed earlier, the year of occupational therapy, two years of behavior charts and our attempt to eliminate artificial dyes and sugars from his diet all did not produce any positive lasting effects.

2. His behavior was negatively impacting our family dynamic. We felt as if we were disciplining and yelling at him for things he had little control over. He would verbally snap at his younger sister. He would have meltdowns for hours over a small bit of homework. If you asked him what happened if his sister was crying, he’d immediately start bawling and become incredibly angry. No amount of consequences were working and he would just appear completely unregulated.

Crying child
Homework: Not only was he crying, we wanted to as well.

3. He wasn’t learning up to his potential in school. In first grade he tested in the 92nd percentile for cognitive functioning. This year he was coming home with 60s on math tests and recommended for reading and math interventions because his scores were so low. The same kid who taught himself to tie his shoes at 5 and “writing” Minecraft chapter books was now regularly not passing reading assessments.

4. We avoided certain social situations. I became reluctant to let him go over people’s houses because I knew he could be impulsive, inadvertently bossy, loud and regularly invaded others’ personal space. I was beginning to limit his social interaction with those I knew well and were understanding of his struggles. An invitation to a birthday party excited him and produced a huge amount of anxiety for me.

The issues I have with the decision to fill that prescription are now MY issues. I’m worried that people will think that he was just a brat and I lack important parenting skills. I worry that people will think I took the easy way out instead of trying other therapies. I worry that I have failed him in some way, that if I were more patient, creative or persistent, maybe we wouldn’t be here. But, I also know the dangers of not addressing ADHD. At this point in time the risks of leaving his condition untreated are greater than my concern about the stigma of him requiring those medications. If he’s fine with it, I need to be, too.

Do you have a child with ADHD? What were your reasons behind using medication (or deciding against this option)?

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Kristen is a wife, mother and full-time special education teacher. Born in Connecticut, she has lived in Washington, DC, North Carolina and now happily calls Columbia home. Her children, the tortoise and the hare, were adopted from South Korea and are now 7 and 4. This “Dawson’s Creek” enthusiast was convinced if she scored a spot as an extra on the show, a famous actor would fall in love with her and whisk her away to pursue a life of parties and Prada. She scored the spot, but not the actor. With a chronic case of Wanderlust, she can be found day-tripping throughout the Carolinas and planning excursions to visit family across the US. She could be a contestant on "World's Worst Cook" as she has ruined instant pudding not once...but twice.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think your kids behaviors or your choice to medicate makes you a bad or lazy parent. I do wonder why removing dyes and sugars was the only diet change you tried, or at least the only one you referenced. Lots of kids have ADHD symptoms who aren’t at all sensitive to dyes but could still be helped with other diet changes focusing more on adding healthy fats.

    • Hi Belle! Thanks for your thoughts! We did try to supplement with Omega 3 and limit dairy as well. I didn’t go into each and every diet change because we did try several so I just highlighted one as an example of dietary changes we tried.

  2. As a speech pathologist who works in the schools, I applaud your article and tough choice. I see everyday the damaging effects of parents simply refusing medication because they are not informed. It’s equivalent to if your child needed glasses and you did not provide them simply because you of misinformation. Children with ADHD cannot control their behavior, yet teachers and parents everyday expect them to. Please keep spreading the word that medications are not bad, they are needed.

    • Hi Hillary! Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. It took me awhile to get there because it is not something we jumped right into. You are right how damaging ADHD can be to a child’s educational performance and it was something that was weighing heavily on us.

  3. I am no expert and I don’t judge you for choosing to medicate and know this was not a decision you took lightly. I was just wondering if you looked into chiropractic care? I have read some great testimonials and medical literature about how this works. Along with diet changes. Everyone has to choose a course of action they are most comfortable with but you hadn’t mentioned it as something you had tried so didn’t know if you were aware of it.

    • Hi Lorrenda! Thank you for your suggestions! I have not looked into chiropractic care yet. I will be researching this treatment this week. It is absolutely worth trying if it means it may help my son!

  4. THANK YOU for being brave enough to stand up for medication as a legitimate choice. We too decided to medicate, after a long list of interventions too numerous to count. The medication worked well, immediately, and with minimal to no side effects (thankfully). It even improved our son’s handwriting (a “side effect” I’m told is not that uncommon.) I’ve known many people in my life whose parents didn’t medicate. Some did well, some eventually “self medicated” with alcohol, drugs, and tobacco or failed to ever reach their potential due to the burden of their disorder. Bottom line: As parents, we should be doing way more supporting and way less judging. Your child is not my child and my life is not yours. I would no more tell you to medicate than someone else not to do so. What I do know for sure is that being a parent is hard and we need to be able to lean on each other, whatever the struggle. Good for you for being your child’s advocate and deciding as only you and your spouse can what is best! As for any judgment, well…that can just be left at the door.

  5. Hi Renee! Thanks so much for your kind words. You are absolutely right about as parents just supporting more and less judging. I am always happy to hear of other possible treatments and/or supplement that may help and appreciate everyone that shares their thoughts with me. But, for now, this is where we are with his condition. No two children are the same and no two solutions will be the same when tackling these difficult issues.

  6. Hi Kristen. I produce “Conquer – A Parenting Podcast with Americ McCullagh”. We would love for you to be a guest on our upcoming show about medicating our children. If you are interested please let me know. Thanks

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