Friday 29 May 2020

Why my son's ADHD meds are important during the lockdown

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 though he's not at school because of the lockdown, it's just as important that he takes it. 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 knew he'd need a different environment to also help and both we and he are so glad we found a school that seems to be working for him.  Six months into Year 7 at his new specialist secondary school and the lockdown started.

His ability to focus and particularly to control himself (at least some of the time) is obviously important at school.  How can he learn without doing this? So, 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 when he's at home during the lockdown?

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 in the garden.  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 watching movies, particularly those with superheros.  But without his meds he can't keep track of even the most basic plot and has no clue what's happening.

He loves being in a warm paddling pool on a hot day.  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 during the lockdown we are trying to continue with some schooling and then there's all the normal things he needs to do anyway.  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 during the lockdown.  Because he just wants to be able to function like everyone else.

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