Medicating my ADHD son

Last week on Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show, there was a lively debate about whether it's good or bad to medicate children with ADHD.

One mother's solution to her son's ADHD was to "unschool" him. As an Attachment Parenting coach and author of "Instead of Medicating and Punishing,"  Laurie Couture's willingness to do whatever she could to help her son harness his potential was definitely admirable. That is, until she started suggesting no child should ever be medicated for ADHD, that raising children in a "peaceful, tribal society" was a superior lifestyle and that everyone should homeschool/unschool their children.

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Laurie proudly stated that her very first parenting decision--the one she made even before her adopted son came to live with her--was to take him off his ADHD meds. That's when my alarm bells went off.

Laurie made a major parenting decision before she was parenting that child. This tells me that Laurie made a decision based almost exclusively on ideology and not on tangible, actual experience with that child.

Furthermore, she made this decision without medical counsel. Laurie took a gamble and, lucky for her, it worked.

But Laurie doesn't stop there. Instead, she presumes that her single experience with ONE child is a sterling standard of measurement for ALL parents and ALL children everywhere. This is simply ludicrous. Still, Laurie is insistent that if parents really cared about their children's well-being, they would haul their kids out of the poisonous public education system and find a "peaceful, tribal society" to live in.

Well, alrighty then. I have a few things to say about that.

First of all, Laurie's ideology rests on the premise that modern life is worse for kids than it was in those golden days of yore. Because back in 1900, it was SO much better for kids that their parents' life expectancy was 46 for men and 48 for women.   And I suppose it means nothing that since 1900, infant mortality has decreased 90% and maternal mortality has decreased 99%.

Laurie's first fallacy is to romanticize the past. It's so easy to believe in "simpler times" when you're not living in that time period yourself. Sure, maybe kids ran free. But they also died all the time. The reality is that by almost any standard of measurement, modern life is far safer, healthier and more child-friendly than at any time in human history.

We ARE living in the golden era of childhood.

Furthermore, medicating for ADHD is not the problem. Unnecessarily medicating a child is the problem. Not every single child needs meds for their ADHD. And yes, it's important that parents research and implement other strategies before seeking medication.

In fact, that's what we did. I can say with an honest and clear conscience that we tried everything before we sought medication for our son's ADHD. We did schedules, charts, incentives, consequences, follow-ups, diet restrictions, exercise, sleeping schedules. We had meetings with his teachers, with the school psychologist, with our own psychologist. You name it, we did it.

All our efforts only resulted in marginal improvement.

We finally started medication for my son's ADHD back in October and it has been one of the best decisions we ever made. 

Honestly, I can't believe we waited so long. The difference has been nothing less than miraculous. For the first time in my son's life, he is pulling in straight A's. His confidence has soared. He's tapped into his creativity and discovered a love for slam poetry. He now loves his piano lessons and doesn't mind doing homework.

And while I realize that medication may not work for everyone, I am eternally grateful for the gift of modern medicine and especially for that little pill called Focalin XR. We always knew our son was very smart. But he had so much trouble executing tasks. It was like his intelligence was locked inside his brain.

Focalin XR (and I'm not being paid to name this drug!) unlocks his brain and enables him to produce the results of his intelligence.

He can focus. He can stay on task. He doesn't need constant reminders. He finishes his homework without me nagging after him.

His personality is the same. His joy of life is the same--in fact, it's better. He loves school instead of dreading it. He is our same James. Only better.

I am deeply grateful to the many doctors, teachers and psychologists who have worked with our family to help us find something that works for James. Without their help, I'd probably still be susceptible to Laurie Couture's extremist ideology.

Worse, if I listened to her, my son would still be languishing academically.

I don't care how peaceful a tribal ideology is, my son's current report card is the only proof I need. And my son's blossoming creativity and cheerful mental outlook remind me every day that we made the right decision for our son.