Monday, September 10, 2007

The medication question

Joseph is on medication. That's not something I say very often because the fact is that I'm not totally comfortable with it. Back when I was young and had no kids (and therefor knew everything there was to know about parenting) I felt very strongly that kids in this country are way over-medicated. In fact, I still feel that way. I think that a lot of time people want to use a pill to solve behavior problems that could have been handled other ways. That's not to say that I don't think medication is a valid option, it's just that I think some parents are looking for a quick fix and some doctors are all too happy to oblige.

I try to tell myself that I am not one of those quick fix parents. I know that we have explored other options with Joseph and that none of them have worked. I know that I have put a ton of thought and research and questioning into deciding to medicate him. I still struggle all the time, asking myself if he's on the right medication, the right dosage, if he should even be on it at all.

Joseph is on two different ADHD medications. He doesn't have ADHD but for him Asperger's has manifested itself in some very ADHD-like behaviors. Without his medication he can't focus, he often doesn't seem to hear us when we talk to him, he has huge melt-downs over little issues, he uses gibberish talk, he engages in repetitive behavior and he just generally seems like he's not the same kid as he does when he's on medication.

Sometimes I ask myself if we medicate Joseph so that's easier for us to deal with. Well, yes. I suppose that's part of the reason. Every morning before Joseph's fast acting medication kicks in, Jesse and I have a horrid time dealing with him. The time between when he wakes up and when his medication kicks in are some of the hardest times we have with him. Just the simple tasks of getting him fed and dressed for school become complicated and difficult and draining. Some mornings (like today) I feel ready to cry by the time he leaves for school. He's that hard to deal with. I can't imagine sending him out into the world like that without some help.

And that's the big reason, the main reason we medicate Joseph. It's not so that the world has an easier time dealing with him, it's so that he has an easier time dealing with the world. Doesn't he deserve to be able to listen to and follow simple directions from his teacher? Doesn't he deserve to be able to have a give and take conversation with one of his classmates without dissolving into silly nonsense talk? Doesn't he deserve to be able to sit in the lunch room and see someone eating a food he really doesn't like and not have it send him into a giant melt-down? (And no, it's not all about school, those are just the examples that popped into my head.) Doesn't he deserve all those things that other kids get to enjoy? And if medication is the way to get him those things, is it really so bad?

So why is it that I can tell myself all these things and know all these things in my head but then still not feel them in my heart? Why do I question it so much? Why do I worry and wonder and struggle? Why can't I be ok with it?


Anonymous said...

My 10 year old son has ADHD and Aspergers and has been on medication for 3 years now. As parents I think we struggle with this because while we are "normal" (subject to interpretation) we don't really know what life is like in our children's minds. When we were going through the diagnostic process with our son I spoke with a co-worker who revealed he found out he had ADD while in high school and started taking medication as a teenager. While kids have a hard time explaining how they feel, he had a great analogy of his pre- and post-medication days; he described his pre-medication days like listening to an orchestra warming up, where all of the instruments are playing their own miscellaneous notes, and while on medication he said that it is like listening to the orchestra playing the music all together and everything makes sense.

I don't like the fact that my son has to take medication daily but if this works for him and helps him be successful in school, with friendships and in life in general I will continue to take this road.

Jen said...

Now that's the kind of anonymous commenter that I like! Thank you so much for those words. Just knowing that other parents are dealing with this too is a huge help to me. And I really like that analogy about the orchestra. I want Joseph to be able to hear the music and if medication is what it takes to let that happen, I need to learn to be ok with it.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel like you are alone.

I question every move I make too...I am the campaign manager for Overthinkers Anonymous. Join me. Won't you?

(I'll have to re-post that rant one day)

No matter what, you are going to question yourself. That's what we do.

You care and you love and you feel for your child. You'll never stop that...


Grandma Judy said...

Jen, I like the comments from anonymous, too. I would just like to add that I am grateful for the medication that allows Joseph to experience the world in a harmonious way. And yes, Joseph deserves all those things you described and much more. I know that he will get them with great parents like you and Jesse looking out for his best interests. Judy

nell said...

I think what makes it such a hard decision (and I'm not speaking from experience with medicating children, just general experience) is that you can never really know what would happen if you chose the other option. Because the one cancels out the other one and even though you research and plan and think about it for a really long time, you can never quite know whether the alternative would be better in the long run.

But I think that you have to make the choice that is right for you and for Joseph and if the medication makes his life smoother and make more sense, then that's great.

I also really like the first anonymous comment here, well said.

Bananas said...

I think it's great that you're willing to talk about this just because it's a topic that tends to get polarized... medicating is "bad", not medicating is "good" when in reality every situation is unique. The best each parent can do is evaluate their child and his/her needs and make the best decision they can. That's what you've done, and you should feel good about it.

shyestviolet said...

you're thoughtful about it--the complete opposite of a mindless medicator--and you're giving the world opportunities to interact with joseph, too, which will teach both joseph and the world more. these are difficult issues with no clear answers, but it seems like, while constantly reassessing yourself can be exhausting, constant re-examination of your choice to medicate joseph will lead you to what's best. some times, that may be medication; some times, that may be taking him off something and trying something new.

you guys are the pioneers of how we (the world) integrates those on the autism spectrum into our world, rather than shutting them away. that's not an easy position to be in. and I think you're doing a wonderful job.

Charming Driver said...

Personally, had there been a pill or potion for sensory integration disorder when I was a kid (or even now, really), I would have been furious if my parents withheld it.

As for Joseph, were he diabetic, you wouldn't question giving him insulin; if he were bi-polar, you wouldn't question the need for meds. You're doing what you know is best for him - It may not be what everyone else is doing for their kids but their kids aren't Joseph.

It's all good little momma. It's all good.

BetteJo said...

Unfortunately medication gets a bad rap sometimes. Your son could not go out and face the day, much less learn anything out there, if he were as difficult to handle and as out of control as he is without the meds.

You are helping him. Truly. My son is 23 years old now but when he was younger there were times I would have given him (insert any nasty thing you can think of) just about anything I thought would have had a chance of helping him.

We got through it, so will you, and just know you are being a good Mom,doing what you need to in order for your son to relate to the world around him.

slackermommy said...

I have asked myself the same questions about my daughter. She has ADHD, Tourette's, CAPD, OCD, and an anxiety disorder. They all kind of go hand in hand. My husband had a hard time medicating her because of all the stupid social stigma surrounding it and I guess for him he has to admit that his child has a problem. I'm a nurse so I didn't bat an eye at the decision. My thinking is if I can help her feel better, why wouldn't I. For some kids medication is the answer. Unfortunatley for us we are having trouble finding a med that doesn't give her bad side effects or make her tics worse. I'm now trying behavior modification. She has terrible impulse control and I'm realizing that how I've been dealing with her hasn't taught her much control. That's the thing with special needs kids. There isn't any black or white answer as to how to treat them. Seems to me that you are doing a great job with your son.

Canadian flake said...

I am here via JJ's blog and I do apologize but feel I MUST give you a few words of encouragement. I have 2 children and they BOTH are medicated for ADHD. It was not an easy decision to make but it was a necessary one. When I agreed to try the meds, honestly I felt like a I had let them down somehow. But I knew that there was no way I could torture them to make ME feel less we dove in. Hang in there and remember you are doing it because you love him...that is just the hand he was dealt.

Please feel free to stop in if you ever need a friendly ear.

Emily said...

We do overmedicate our kids. We give them Tylenol for teething and cold medicine designed for adults (well, I don't, but people do). And that is wrong, because their little bodies don't need all sorts of crap floating around inside them and we should put up with a little teething crying and buy them one of those chewing toys instead.

However, there is medicating and there is medicating. Trying to take away every discomfort is silly; trying to help your child get the living and learning he needs is good parenting.

I would be worried if you didn't medicate him just so you could feel like you were "toughing it out." You should be proud of yourself for getting your child what he needs.