paying attention part 11: so what would happen without medication?

I never planned on medicating my children. When I nursed them as babies and daydreamed about all of the wonderful milestones that lay ahead, learning how to successfully swallow their daily ADD medication wasn’t one of them. So in April, almost two years after his initial ADD diagnosis, I decided to try something. I decided to take Bentley off his medication. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t even think that much about it. One morning Bentley looked at me and said, “I don’t want to take my medication anymore.” And without much thought, I simply said, “Okay.”

It wasn’t hard because I had become more and more unhappy with medicating our son. I was tired of him being in such a bad mood every afternoon. He would get into the car after school agitated and irritable. It’s hard enough being a preteen, and it’s even harder being a preteen with medication making it worse. And that was what it seemed to be doing; making things worse.

When your child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, you know that one of the first decisions that you are going to have to make is whether or not to medicate your child. Soon after Bentley’s diagnosis, I joined several parent chat rooms on reputable ADD/ADHD websites. I needed to hear what other parents thought. I needed to read about their concerns, their fears, their worries about medicating their children. The Golfer and I struggled with what to do: weighing the side effects and the negatives with the benefits and the positives. Finally, we landed on the best decision we could given what we believed and what we had quickly learned. Isn’t that what we do as parents? Try to make the best decision we can at the moment based on the information we have at the time?

Three different types of medications and one antidepressant later, we were no longer sure if our original decision was the best decision. So, like I said, I sent him to school without medication to see what would happen. I didn’t worry. I knew that even if it was for only one day there wouldn’t be any permanent damage done. He could always hop back onto the pill-popping wagon if he needed to. If all hell broke loose, I had a cabinet full of meds to solve the problem.

He got into the car that afternoon…different. He was happy. He talked about having a good day at school. He laughed and smiled and acted like a normal 11-year-old. I pulled his papers out of his bag. Everything looked normal. No bad grades. No notes from the teachers. I checked my email. Nothing from the school. He had made it through the day without medication and all was good.

So we tried it the next day. And the next. And the day after that. He was happy. He was eating. He was sleeping. He was still making good grades. He talked about friends. He played on the soccer team. He took his standardized test. He finished the school year with straight A’s and a special award in Spanish. (Hola!) All without medication. And he was fine. He was better than fine. He was…normal.

What did this all mean then? Did his ADD suddenly disappear? Had we dreamed the last two years? Was he misdiagnosed? Unfortunately, no. His ADD symptoms were all still there. He was still distracted. He still had trouble focusing. He was still messy and had horrible handwriting. There was no question that he still had ADD, but he seemed to be coping successfully. Without medication.

And then we found out something. We found out that the Golfer might have ADD too.

Stay tuned…

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