When your child is diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, many questions arise. Something you’ll need to research and make decisions about is how you’ll treat your child’s ADD/ADHD. A more controversial issue that follows is whether or not you’ll decide to medicate your child. There is much to consider. First of all, we need to consider the fact that ADD/ADHD is a lot like Autism, a wide spectrum of behaviors and challenges. ADD/ADHD affects everyone differently and levels of attention are different for every child. Your child may have mild ADD or very severe ADHD. While ADD is simply an attention deficit, ADHD can include hyperactivity and impulsivity. Both ADD and ADHD are chronic and last a lifetime. Treatments also vary for both. One treatment option is therapy; in fact, cognitive-behavioral therapy can be very useful in learning how to deal with ADHD. Another treatment option is medication, the use of stimulants to enhance cognition. So how do you decide what to do? Here’s my family’s story.
It seems like there’s always been a debate about whether or not children who are diagnosed with ADHD and ADD should be medicated or not. In many cases, after a diagnosis, kids are referred to the Special Education department at their school, to allow parents and teachers to develop a plan for aiding students with ADHD. Your child will be put on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or what is known as a 504 plan (the section code of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or IDEA) for accommodations.
In many cases, an IEP or a 504 plan, which personalizes academic journeys to provide accommodations and additional resources, is enough to help kids succeed. And that’s what happened to us with our son. Our youngest son was diagnosed with a non-specific learning disability and was determined eligible for an IEP in the 2nd grade.
I always knew he had issues with attention and insisted he be screened for ADHD. It wasn’t until the 8th grade that he was actually diagnosed with ADHD. I have a theory that districts do not like to diagnose kids with ADHD because it requires students to have an IEP until graduation. That’s my theory. Nevertheless, we had our son tested and diagnosed through his private therapist. The diagnosis explained so much.
At the time of my son’s diagnosis, his father was adamant about not wanting to put him on medication. We went the route of therapy and extensive IEP‘s, which were stressful because it was difficult for our son to meet his goals due to his inattentiveness and disorganization. Doing homework with him was a full-time job. It literally took us hours to get through his daily homework. Although he was getting decent grades and turning in his work, he failed every test.
My son is now a Junior in high school. He’s enrolled in an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which is of a little higher rigor and involves taking AP classes. I am proud to say that he is maintaining a 4.0 GPA and we have him on non-stimulant medication, which helps him concentrate a little bit. However, he still cannot test well. The problem now is that he will have to take AP exams in order to get credit for the AP classes he’s currently taking. We had avoided this for many years, but we talked to his Doctor and got him a prescription for Adderall.
Our plan was to see if he’d be better at test-taking while on Adderall instead of his regular medication. He had two big tests the week we picked up his prescription. We gave him the Adderall pill and that day he aced both of his exams. Our son told us that the information he learned on the subjects was there in front of him and he transferred it to the paper. He said he didn’t fidget, or look at the clock or the doors as he normally would. He was proud of himself for doing so well.
I wanted to share our story because I know there are a lot of parents who are hesitant about using medication. When I think of all the times our son could have been successful in showing his mastery of the material, but couldn’t put it down on paper, it breaks my heart. Our plan now is to only give him Adderall when he takes a test. And hopefully, he will continue to test well and get into a good college.
ADHD is different for everyone and there is no one right treatment for all. Comadres, consider every option when deciding treatment for your child and see what works best for you as a family.
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