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Parents of ADHD Children

Help- not sure whether or not to medicate my son

Has anyone had a good experience with the med’s because almost all I read is tough road type stories and I am frightened.  I have a terrific son about to turn 10, with classic ADHD. Symptoms are mostly exhibited at school, and during homework. We’ve done about 60 sessions of EEG biofeedback (2 different clinicians), he currently takes fish oil, high quality liquid vitamins, a slightly modified diet (less carbs, less preservatives and dyes, more protein). He does sports and plays in the school band. But now the grades are really slipping this year and he’s very very frustrated & upset. (I dont mind lower grades but he feels stupid.) We see him loosing interest all around in everything. What else is left other than the med’s? We feel we may be about out of options.  We’ve made a appt with Dr. Ned Hallowell feeling he’s an expert so we’ll feel better trusting his opinion. I’m still frightened I’m going to harm my son. Could really use some advice here.


I understand your concerns and want to share that I have had positive experience with meds with two kids, one inattentive and one super hyper! Both started on meds in early elementary school and the difference was amazing. Life was certainly not perfect, but their self esteem improved, our relationships improved and they grew up to become wonderful, responsible young men. I think it’s worth a shot. Some kids respond better than others and certain types of meds work for different kids. It feels crummy to medicate, I agree, but it also felt crummy to watch them fall apart and for me to yell constantly even though I knew they couldn’t help some things. It was expensive. There was a lot of trial and error. I have no regrets though. My boys are 15 and 19 now, and have chosen on their own to not take meds. One will always be a petite kid (he is related to munchkin parents) and the other apparently is related to the milkman, (just kidding, same gene pool) and he is now 5’9 and 185 pounds and still growing. You will always wonder if you don’t try and it’s not necessarily a forever deal.  Hang in there.

Posted by Nemo on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:34pm

My son is 10 as well with classic ADHD symptoms. This year is tough in school but you have to find out why exactly. My son really has trouble in Language Arts. I found out it was his writing assignments that were the main cause of his bad grades. I downloaded an app on my phone so that he could do voice record. He recorded what he wanted to write then played it back so he could get it on paper. His mind races with words/thoughts and his hands can’t keep up so he forgets and then feels stupid again. This free app solved this issue. So I guess my advice is get to the bottom of everything and see if you can help each situation before going with meds. My son is also on fish oil and good vitamins, no food coloring etc. I understand what you are saying. Does he have a 504 plan? I had to renew ours last year to get an extra set of books at home because he couldn’t remember to bring them home. So far this year we haven’t needed to do that. Dig into the question of WHY are his grades failing then find a solution. I hope this helps. Good luck!

Posted by critrlvr4u on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:42pm

I agree with Nemo. My child who is 9 is doing amazingly well on medication. The difference is night and day. She still struggles, believe me. But now she has a fighting chance. Her grades are great, she is a happier child overall, and she feels better about herself. ADHD is a brain issue and the bottom line is your child simply can’t do better on his own. So hard to watch them suffer.

My child is on Focalin and we noticed it decreased her appetite. She is already kind of tiny and had some growth issues one year (not med related) so we also have her on an antihistamine that increases appetite. She eats well and seems to have gained weight.

I hate that there is such a stigma to giving children medication. I know people who have managed to do it without but I don’t know how! I think you should try medication - need to find the right one which takes trial and error - and let your son decided.

Posted by momodoodle on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:46pm

Just like you, we tried many things before medication: no food dyes or preservatives, fish oil, lots of exercise/sports, high protein diet, behavior charting, positive parenting, setting clear expectations, etc, etc.  I’d say that all of this had some effect, but he was still a huge challenge in school and at home.  For my son, putting him on medication (18mg Concerta, the lowest dose available) had an immediate effect (1st day) that worked about 5X better than anything else we were doing previously.  He was suddenly able to sit still, listen, and follow directions in school.  We were able to take him to restaurants without getting “the looks.” We can take him on vacation without going nuts.  We only have to ask him to go to bath about 5 times rather than 50 times.  I actually enjoy being around him and his sweet, funny, incredibly affectionate personality shines when he’s on meds. He’s NOT a totally different kid on meds. Instead, his true self comes through on the meds.  On meds, his behavior isn’t dictated by a lack of brain neurotransmitters. The meds help make these neurotransmitters available in higher concentrations so his brain can use them to be who he really is.

So, I’m a BIG advocate for medication because, for my son, it’s made a huge difference in helping him to be successful in his childhood. We still have challenges, but it’s NOTHING compared to what it used to be.  We used to be hanging on by our fingernails when it came to parenting him and it was affecting every aspect of our lives.  Now I can more fully experience the joy of parenting and see his incredible strengths as well as his challenges—which I suppose is a closer approximation to what parents of non-ADHD kids experience.

Posted by MendelZ on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:51pm

You are going to see one of the leading experts so I’m sure you will find the explanation you need.  But I just want to share what our daughter’s psychiatrist told me when we were considering medicating our daughter at the age of 6 - (the earliest our pediatrician would give us a referral for the psyc) and I was feeling awful about it.  She said, “Inside a child’s brain with ADD is chaos. It is not a character flaw that can be fixed with behavioral modifications alone because it is the chemical firing of the brain that has gone awry.”  And she added the argument that we have all heard before, if we knew our daughter needed glasses in order to do better at school, would we help her with glasses or expect her to squint harder and demand that she see better without help?

This is how my husband describes his ADD:  It is like having thirteen thoughts at the same time, a dog barking in the next room, someone asking you a question, the TV on and your favorite show starting, and the phone ringing, all at the same time with no ability to discern which one to pay attention to.

We keep having this idea that behavior will modify the symptoms enough to make the ADD go away.  But the thing is, the ADD does not go away, their brains continue to fire in a different way than a normal brain - but we as a society insist that people with ADD function in exactly the same way as the rest of us, which is not possible.  The medications help the brain to fire more normally.  They are not the panacea but they help, a lot.

And if you do try meds please keep this in mind.  Your regular doctor may love your child and be very smart but their expertise is in treating the whole child not just the brain.  You should have a pediatric psychiatrist prescribe for your child, and one who is super conservative, starting with the lowest possible dose of the medication that most clearly matches the most egregious of his symptoms. They should ask lots of questions of your son and you and talk to you about what the meds will do and won’t do, weigh them each and every appointment.  And you ask lots of questions too.

One more thing, if there is someone your son is a blood relation to and also has ADD and they are on meds, find out what that is.  We were super lucky in that my husband was diagnosed as an adult and went through a slue of meds before landing on the right one.  because ADD is genetic when it came time to prescribe my daughter her psychiatrist tried the one that works for my husband first and it worked wonders.

Best to you.

Posted by YellaRyan on Oct 29, 2013 at 11:54pm

Meds can work wonders. There is no harm in a trial of medication, so try not to be afraid. If grades are slipping and he’s feeling bad about himself then I think you owe it to him to see if they can help him. My son started taking medications at 7 and they have helped him soooo much. He currently takes Vyvannse and Intuniv and is now in 4th grade. (9.5yrs). We do deal with some side effects. None of them out weighs the benefits he gains from medications.

So, try not to let the bad stories scare you. Most kids with ADHD really benefit from medication.

You are sooo lucky to be able to see Ned Hallowell by the way, I would love to have his insights. I think he will be able to help you feel better about trying medication.

Good luck!

Posted by JS on Oct 30, 2013 at 12:10am

Your son is so lucky to have you as a Mom. You do so much for him already. I believe you know that medicine is the next best path for him already but are hesitant because of some people’s frustrations. Yes, I have had some of them, but the right Dr and medication is worth it!
I have four children who all have different stories. The bottom line is at some point the damage not medicating was doing to them definitely made medicating necessary. Self esteem is so valuable! I don’t want your son to start believing he can’t do something, or his classmates either.
My 11 year old whose racing thoughts drive her “crazy” and us also, just got invited to be in Beta Club. Her grades have been the worst of my kids just a couple of years ago! I’ve never required good grades, but equiping her with the right tools, which includes medicine and finding the right Dr, has helped her blossom. She actually became depressed when her grades were not good. It’s great to see her take pride in her grades now!
I have a 18 year old daughter who is a sophomore in college. She hasn’t always taken ADHD meds, but they did help her slow down and learn study habits and organizational skills in middle school. She didn’t need the meds in high school, but has started back on them in college. Even on a low dose she feels “focused and happier”. (Her words.)
ADHD kids can be smart, intelligent, funny, creative, loving, industrious…., and I have seen meds help them to shine!

Posted by Counting Blessings on Oct 30, 2013 at 1:41pm

Hi Counting Blessings, Thank you for your family’s story. Could you share what medication’s you tried with your children and what you found to be most effective? Thank you again!

Posted by 78Me on Oct 30, 2013 at 5:24pm

My son is in college and has been on medication since the age of 7. He is still on medication and probably always will be. I have nothing negative to report and would encourage you to try it. Yes, we initially liked and disliked some medications more than others. If I saw a behavioral change I didn’t like, I called the doctor and did not give it to him again. Once the medication has run its course, it is out of their system. There is no build up. I have never heard of a child starving to death from appetite loss or dying from their ADHD medications. All medications have side effects as do ‘natural supplements’. Please don’t be afraid to try something that may really help your son. Don’t make him afraid either. Good luck.

Posted by TB on Oct 30, 2013 at 5:28pm

I think you have seen from the replies here that while we would all prefer to be drug free, medication does have its place.  I too dug in my heels despite two psychiatric evaluations that my daughter had ADD.  When I saw her heartbreak over failing a states and capitals test that we had studied over and over, I started her on Vyvansse, the lowest dosage.  It was night and day for her scholastically.  She just started middle school and her teachers were stunned to learn she was ADD as they were complimenting me on her maturity and focus.  I have her on a pharmaceutical grade fish oil and we are going to try to see if dropping her Meds one day a week has a noticeable difference in the classroom.  Yes, she is very thin, it does impact appetite, but when it is out of her system at night she makes up for it usually.

The primary challenge now is getting her to remember to take her pill smile 

Good luck and blessings to you and your family.

Posted by Londonlaine on Oct 30, 2013 at 6:14pm

Hi, you might wish to ask your dr about Metadate CD, it is short lasting, which means you will reap the benefits the day you give it, and will see any side effects very early, also your dr might tell you to give your son this medication only on school days, which means almost half of the year he is not on medication! I hope this helps, best of luck, and a big hug!

Posted by Ranash on Oct 30, 2013 at 11:21pm

You might want to check this blog post:

“Being on medication is expensive, but we cannot live with depriving our child of something that could help her achieve her full potential, enjoy life and have a happy and fulfilled childhood. Clearly she was happier with her medication because it helped her perform better in school.”

Posted by elfmaiden on Oct 31, 2013 at 8:18am

I just want to chime in and say that I agree too. My son was crying almost every day at 5 years old. He felt like he couldn’t do anything right. He frequently talked about being stupid, despite having a high IQ. For my husband and I, we felt we had to do something to help our son, and behavior modification wasn’t doing it.

Medication was a struggle for almost 4 years, then we finally found something that worked well for him and kept working longer than 2 months.

If medication could make your child happier, it’s worth a try.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Oct 31, 2013 at 4:43pm

Thank so much to all of you for your thoughts and sharing your personal stories. It gives me something to hold onto as we think about trying this avenue for our little boy.

Posted by MusicMom on Oct 31, 2013 at 10:06pm

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