Monday, 13 August 2018

Why my son still takes his ADHD medication during school holidays

Anthony on holiday

When Anthony was seven years old we asked for him to assessed for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) because despite all the help he was getting he could not settle or concentrate in class. Six months later he started a controlled stimulant drug to help him concentrate at school. Three years later he has it all the time... even in the school holidays.  Here's why.

Anthony has an amazing mind.  I love it and him to pieces. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) around the age of four years old. He finds many things more difficult than his peers. Few things are intuitive for him. But he also often sees things from a different perspective. Like us all he is unique.

Around the age of six we realised all the techniques being used to help him focus him and his sensory system weren’t very effective. Anthony was spending almost as much time out of class doing various exercises as he was in class and still fidgeted as soon as he was back in. And I thought, maybe Anthony has ADHD?

I was right. On a scale where more than 70/100 was enough for diagnosis, Anthony scored 94. It wasn’t easy but we decided to try Anthony on medication to help him focus at school. His Teaching Assistants were supportive but not convinced.

On the first day that Anthony was to take his medication, he said to me:

"The medicine won't make my brain like everyone else's will it?  Because then I don't want it."

Within six months the teaching assistants were completely on board with comments like, “I’m not sure he’d still be in school if he hadn’t started on his medication.”

Because, the medication helped Anthony focus. It helped him control himself.  He could get through a day.  Lately this is no longer enough of course.  Getting through a day is not the same as learning throughout the day.  Come secondary school, we believe he will need a different environment.   Being autistic also has it's challenges and once he had help with his ADHD, this has become more obvious.

But this ability to focus and control himself (at least some of the time) is obviously important at school.  How can he learn without doing this?

Some kids therefore have their meds for school and come off them in the holidays.  This gives their body a break from what is effectively a controlled stimulant drug.  There have been some concerns in the past about delayed growth for kids on the drug too. So why is Anthony still on them, three weeks into the summer holidays?

The answer of course is simple.  He still wants to operate.  He still wants to function and he still wants to enjoy the things he likes.  And this is not just hard, but sometimes impossible for him without his ADHD medication.

He loves playing football.  But without his meds he can't focus and gets over excited and boots the ball over the fence.  He can't understand why it happens.  The third time he does it without meaning too, he bursts into tears..."Why can't I control myself"

He loves cycling.  But without his meds he weaves about and forgets not to go on the road when he shouldn't.

He loves swimming and being in a warm paddling pool.  But without his meds he forgets to be careful, flails about and hurts himself or siblings.

That's of course just playing. Fair enough in the holidays right?  But what about forgetting what he was doing when he's sat on the loo or not being focussed and still enough to eat?

That's why Anthony is still on his ADHD medication in the summer holidays.  Because he just wants to have fun like everyone else.

The holidays can be tough for some families with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Read about what they say here.

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What is Autism?
It's so much I couldn't possibly try and explain. For us it's wonderful and heart-breaking. Joyous and truthful. But as far as diagnosis is concerned, why not have a look at the National Autistic Society for their definition of Autism.
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