Medication is Nothing to be Ashamed Of

Medication is Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

 

“He’s taking Ritalin,” she whispered to me behind a cupped hand. “It’s really helping, but I don’t want people to know.”

I didn’t ask her why not, because I know. I have gotten the sideways glances, the long winded speeches on addition and conspiracy, the explanations of standardized testing being the cause of the “ADHD epidemic”.

My children both have ADHD. They are, in fact, 2E, meaning twice-exceptional: gifted but challenged. My daughter is really 4E; she is highly gifted, with an IQ in the 140s, but she’s dyslexic, ADHD, and has Oppositional Defiant Disorder. My son’s IQ is about 5 points lower than his sisters (5 points she knows all too well!) and he has ADHD and an anxiety disorder.  This is largely why we homeschool. The public school simply wasn’t capable of teaching my kids. They weren’t equipped to deal with a 1st grader who couldn’t identify the letters of the alphabet but could name every part of a horse, including the internal organs, and their functions. Nor could they handle the boy who read better than the teacher but could not hold a conversation with a peer.

We thought homeschooling would solve the problems. Instead, it exacerbated them. My daughter’s ODD, which had formerly evinced in refusals to shower or go to bed or do math home work, became a minute-by-minute battle over every step of every task. Pick up your pencil. No. Please, hold your pencil. Pencil thrown across the room. Go get your pencil. No. Book thrown. You get the idea.

A psychologist, not a general practitioner, diagnosed the children. Our GP suspected ADHD, but we agreed a psychologist was better equipped to make the diagnosis. Medication and behavior therapy has helped immensely. The ODD has resolved for the most part. Both kids are happier and better able to concentrate. Both have coping skills learned through the behavior therapy to use instead of temper tantrums or screaming. Both are excelling in their academics and in their interpersonal relationships.

There is an epidemic of misdiagnosis with ADD and ADHD. There are most certainly children being medicated who should not be, and there are many reasons contributing to this…not the least of which are unrealistic expectations placed on very young children to sit still and get perfect scores on standardized tests!

However, an epidemic of misdiagnosis does not mean no one has ADHD. ADHD is a real disorder that stems from delayed growth in the frontal lobes of the brain. Medication can, in many instances, encourage the frontal lobes to grow so the patient no longer has ADHD symptoms in adulthood.

ADHD is not a five year old who cannot sit still for five hours straight and fill bubbles on a test sheet. ADHD is more like a five year old who throws her crayons at the teacher during circle time and stomps on another student’s hand because she’s annoyed. ADHD is more like a ten year old boy who sees nothing wrong with using a pencil sharpener while the teacher is speaking to the class because “my pencil is dull”, and does not understand why this upsets the teacher.

To be ashamed of utilizing medication for your child’s disorder is to show your child they are shameful. It says to your child, “There is something wrong with you, and it is so awful that people won’t like us if they find out.”

ADHD is no more “shameful” a disorder than diabetes, but it falls under the stigma of mental illness. Organic mental disorders have been stigmatized since time immemorial…many of the common insults are terms of mental illness: crazy, loco, nutcase, “ain’t right”, mental. But our kids are none of these things. ADHD is as simple, and as complicated, as something just not connecting the same way as other people’s. (In this way, it is no different than dyslexia).

I don’t want my kids to be ashamed of having ADHD any more than my daughter should be ashamed of dyslexia or my son of anxiety.  Or than I should be of my spinal cord injury. These are things their bodies do beyond their control. Medication helps me to walk, it helps my mother control her blood sugar, and it helps my kids control their racing thoughts. I am not ashamed of this. I am grateful.

 

Kathy LaPan is a homeschooling mom of two in Northern NY. She has an MBA in finance and teaches through SchoolHouseTeachers.com. Check out her blog at Simply Homeschool Living.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. My 8 year old has ADHD and he’s pretty much been that way since he was 2, but they don’t usually diagnose it that early. Unmedicated, he can’t sit still for more than a minute at a time and cannot focus on his school work (I homeschool). It is very frustrating. He is taking Ritalin too and I can see a huge difference. He will actually sit still and complete his school work with little to no argument. Without his medication, he would sit there and spend 2 hours on a lesson that should only take 30 min.
    Most people around me knows that he takes Ritalin. I’ve had an aunt tell me that I should use “natural” remedies and my mil relays stories of how my husband(he still has a degree of ADHD, though not as bad as when he was a child) took Ritalin and what a horrible drug it is. My husband doesn’t really have any memories of the medicine affecting him adversely so maybe she’s just exaggerating LOL. But these are also the same people who would talk about how hyper my son was. So now, that I’ve found something that helps him, they want to bash that too? Eh, I just choose to ignore them and raise my children the way I see fit. And if they don’t like it then that’s on them, not me.
    Parents should not be shamed into not medicating their kids because of what other people think. My son knows he has ADHD but as he says “It’s ok though, it’s not a big deal” lol. I don’t want him to be ashamed of it either because there’s nothing to be ashamed of 🙂
    Whew, sorry this comment is so long, but it’s just one of the things I am passionate about because it’s still misunderstood.

    • Thank you for your comment. I wrote this because of a friend who refuses to have her obviously adhd daughter tested because of the stigma and “I’m not drugging her”. The child is suffering. I see her trying to work and she just can’t.

      The stigma of over diagnosis and adhd not being “real” is causing parents not to treat kids with a real problem. Bless you for ignoring the criticism!

  2. Thank you for your article, Kathy. It’s so important that we moms don’t make quick judgements on choices others make for their children. We usually do not know the full story behind decisions like medication and education. I learned some things today!

    • Exactly right! We homeschool to do what is best for our kids. I don’t know what’s best for yours, and you don’t know what’s best for mine. We have to trust one another that we know what we are doing for our children, and support each other in love instead of judging.

      God bless!

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