Back in the fall Ten was diagnosed with ADHD. We've been several years in coming to this, but we had him tested because, quite frankly, I was at my breaking point. His teachers' opinions over the years have ranged from "You need to have him tested for ADHD immediately," to "No way, he's just super smart and as long as I keep him challenged he does fine." His mom's opinion fell somewhere between "Holy crap this kid is smarter than I am," and "Oh my God if this child doesn't stop talking and stop wiggling and stop squirming I'm going to lose my frickin' mind!"
We had him tested for Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) a couple of years ago because there's a family history. It often goes undiagnosed and can cause hyperactivity in children. The blood test came back negative. We moved on with our lives.
He managed to skate along at a magnet school, making almost all As with the occasional B with very little effort until last year. In third grade came the homework. Hours and hours of it. Every single blessed night. With arguing. And weeping. And gnashing of teeth. It was Mommy Hell. I started to wonder if the magnet school's accelerated curriculum was too much for him. That worry was shot out of the water by his standardized testing scores: advanced in every single category, scores in the 99th percentile in nearly everything. He continued to struggle with homework, but he got by, made either Principal's List or Honor Roll, and still liked school. Most of the time.
Then came fourth grade. All summer leading up to the start of school I dreaded it. I used to teach fourth grade, so I am very familiar with the beast that is a fourth grade boy. Ten (still Nine then) was not. that. beast. I also have a lot of experience with ADHD kids and I knew that he was exhibiting many of the behaviors that those kids did.
He acted like a much younger child. In fact, his younger brother had to remind him to do things constantly, things other kids his age don't need to be reminded about: brush your teeth, clear the table, put away your shoes, coat, backpack, lunchbox, etc. He had trouble with peer relations because he acted goofy, was quick to anger, argued about every little thing. I was not looking forward to the start of school because I knew this would be the year I'd finally have to do something about my child.
This is a kid who, within the first six weeks of fourth grade, went from liking school (not loving it, but liking it) to a child who hates school. Not dislikes it, hates it. Intensely. Crying before school many mornings, crying during homework, calling himself stupid. Saying he hates himself. His self esteem is in the toilet. I have a dry erase board in the kitchen, where I write the date and what's going on that day. Look what he wrote there this week :
This just breaks my heart.
So back in September we had him tested and the psychologist says Ten has ADHD. There are subsets to ADHD. The first is the inattentive child--the daydreamer. The second is the hyperactive, can NOT be still, child. A child in the third subset has both issues. Ten falls into the second group. The psychologist says that he's not inattentive, but he's extra-attentive. He lacks an incoming information filter in his brain that tells him WHAT to pay attention to and what to tune out as unimportant. He's focused on all of it: the hum of the fluorescent lights, the custodian sweeping the hall, the kid sitting next to him whose foot is tapping, the kindergarteners down the hall, everything. He also lacks an outgoing filter that serves to self-censor, so every single one of his thoughts is expressed verbally. Think it, say it. He's also hyperactive so he truly cannot control the constant motion, talking, busy-ness that drive the people around him insane.
After a whole lot of arguments, tears, prayers, yelling matches, name-calling, research, multiple doctor visits, and more shouting, Dan and I decided to give medicine a try. Well, I decided and dragged Dan along with me, kicking and screaming the whole way. He's such a good dad. We started out with Strattera because it's non-stimulant, non-habit-forming, and both docs recommended it as a good starting point. The psychologist warned us, however, that this particular drug seemed to be more successful at treating the inattentive kid than the hyperactive, impulsive kid. He was right. After two months we saw no change in Ten whatsoever so we stopped giving it to him.
Now we've come to a place where we never wanted to be--giving our kid a controlled substance.
After we told our family doctor that Strattera wasn't working, he advised us to try Daytrana. It's a patch that has the same basic medicine that's found in Ritalin. I'm so divided on this. On the one hand, I hope it works right away and we see a huge, dramatic change in Ten's study habits. On the other hand, I absolutely loathe the very idea of putting a drug into my kid's system unless it's for some life-threatening reason. Although, sometimes I feel I might just threaten his life if I can't get him to calm down. That was a joke. Mostly.
What if the drug works and he has to be on it for years and years? When will he be able to stop taking it? Will he outgrow the hyperactivity when he hits puberty like a lot of kids do? Will he have side effects like insomnia? Or tics? Will it make him lose weight? This kid is so skinny--he doesn't have any to lose. He's already a picky eater--will this suppress his appetite to the point where he won't eat anything? He has sensitive skin and eczema--will this patch hurt his poor little skin?
How am I going to manage a doctor's appointment every single month (because there are no refills on controlled substances)? It's going to cost an extra $65 per month--$45 meds and $20 copay for the office visit. How can I afford to pay for this every month? How can I afford not to if it actually helps him?
We started the medicine today so Dan could be here with me to observe any side effects. I'm just a nervous wreck about the whole thing. So far we haven't seen any changes, but it did leave a little red square on Ten's skin.
Pray for him and for us to make the right decisions. This parenting thing isn't for wimps.