Monday, April 8, 2013

The Anger of ADHD

A recent CDC study shows that 20% of high school boys has ADHD.  While my son is only in 2nd grade right now, he'll be part of that 20%.
A seven year old with ADHD?  We must be bad parents who just threw our kid on medication.  We must have a broken home.  We must be looking for the easy solution.  To those who think that I tell you to fuck off.  Now if you've read my writing you should know that I never resort to those two words in conjunction or any derivative.  It cheapens your message.  But I'm angry as hell about this whole situation.  That's why I boldfaced it.

Cole is our second child.  Our daughter Madison was an angel of a child.  Sleeping through the night at 6 weeks.  Good potty training.  No terrible twos.  Very polite.  Very creative.  Good student.  A few errors in judgement during second grade... But she's now 11, so all bets are off- right?

We read all the books when we had Madi.  What to Expect... Babywise... activity books... parenting, etc.  So when she was about three we figured we had this parenting thing down.  So when Cole came along, one could say that we were a little cocky.  Not arrogant, but I'm sure my wife will agree that we were a little lax with him.  And eight years later, she's still on a good track.  Was that the cause of his ADHD?...

Cole had terrible twos.
Cole also had terrible threes.  We started disciplining him- timeouts equal to his age followed up with recounting why the timeout occurred and lots of love.  We did the same thing with Madi.  The problem with Cole is that it would take him 45 minutes to finish his three minute time out and life had to stop during that timeout.  And those timeouts turned into some "handling" to put him back in his timeout, and thrown things and elevated voices... Was that the cause of his ADHD?...

Cole had terrible fours.  We would get calls from his preschool saying that he hit other kids or was disruptive during story time.  This was the same teacher who taught Madi at that age so we had some good history.  Did this teacher suddenly dislike our family and exaggerate because she didn't like our son?  Very doubtful.  So whenever we'd hear of these incidents we'd try to talk about it with him.  The response was always "I don't remember" or "I don't know".  How do you parent hearsay that isn't acknowledged by the accused?  Was this the cause of his ADHD?...

When he started kindergarten, I had a heart to heart talk with his pediatrician.  The one we've had for years and has known us since Madi was three.  I recounted my youth and how I saw some similarities with Cole.  Sure we had discussed it in the past, but this was the first time we had discussed it specifically as a hereditary thing.  But I never took medication, and I did fine in school, and I went to college and I was able to find gainful employment and find a wonderful wife and be responsible and not hurt myself or become an addict or make irrational- life changing impulsive decisions.  So even if he did have ADHD, that's a BS over diagnosed prognosis of this generation for lame parents who are too lazy to actually be good parents.  But he nonetheless said that Cole might have ADHD.
We went to a naturalistic specialists to work on his diet and how what he consumes might be the cause of his behavior.  Red and Yellow and Blue- among other things.  We sent his poo in the mail to get an analysis.
We tried rewarding his good behavior.  We got a parent coach.  We prayed and prayed and prayed and requested that our church also pray.  We got him involved in Tae Kwon Do.  But none of it worked.  Or if it did work it was short lived success.  Are we parents guilty of getting lazy?  Are we guilty of seeing some success and thinking we had fixed the problem, only to see backsliding?  Why would we put him on medication if it was our own inability to stay focused that was leading him to bad decisions.

My own biggest challenge is that Cole is very intelligent.  We're talking about being a natural at math and even helping his sixth grade "gifted" sister with her homework.  Very logical.  Very bright.  Without medicine smart.  And not "nerd" smart.  Sure he's good at math, but he also loves so many other things and wants to learn about things.  So my attitude was that he's smart enough to understand scholastic concepts- why couldn't he understand that his actions affect how others perceive him?  Why couldn't the logic of math or spelling be transferred into correlating cause and effect and why people don't like being around him?  I always believed that there was a correlation between intelligence and learning social queues.

Almost two years ago- when he was done with kindergarten, before we took our first long distance family trip, and when he was five years old, we made a decision.  We were going to go to a psychiatrist because we had finally opened our minds that he might really have ADHD and that no matter what we tried outside of medicine, it would not do any good or would only have temporary success.  He was diagnosed and we put him on medication.  And we modified until we found something that seemed to keep him in control when he needed to be- in a classroom.

With that "improvement" came a lack of appetite, nocturnal bruxism, chewing on his shirt collar and a lack of interest in doing much outside of the house.  But he wasn't hurting other kids. And he wasn't disrupting class.  And for once we didn't have to worry during church, or during school, that we'd get called to come pick him up.  Was that success?  Sort of...

He'd still be emotional, be extremely competitive- even crying when he lost a simple game of Chutes and Ladders- and he understands odds and that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  And whenever I would lose to him at a game, I would always give the example of being a gracious loser and relating it to him and how he acts when he loses.  But then he'd go brag about beating me.  And the next game when I beat him he'd have an epic meltdown including throwing things and being flat out hysterical.  And this is the odds maker kid!
(btw, what's up with all the fat kids?)
So a year into our experiment with Cole being on medication, sure we were somewhat satisfied with the successes.  But we were still troubled with the side effects.  And neither of us want our children to be dependent on anything- especially a controlled substance.  So we started exploring another counselor- this time a sort of kum ba ya counselor.  She's great.  Very positive, very anti-medication, very pro-communication.  But at the same time she's the kind of counselor who is a chameleon based on her client.  "Are you spiritual? What are you?"  (regardless of what you are or aren't) "the [leader of your religion] once said [cliche but meaningful quote from that leader of your religion]".  I mean I'm sure I could say that I follow Gozer the Gozarian and she'd have an inspirational quote chambered.  I often wonder if she's eventually going to offer us a bong rip...
Now despite my cynicism of how she relates to us, I truly do want to get our son off medication and truly believe that what she teaches has merit.  I don't go just to keep my wife happy.  I don't want my son on medication.  I'm sick of it.  But at what point does the parent trying to learn a better way (while at the same time still possessing our own same frail personality traits that we've collectively had for more than 80 years) give in?  The question becomes- why should my inability to change my way of life affect my second graders ability to have a birthday party where "friends" will actually come?  So the question becomes- can these old dogs be taught new tricks?  We're talking people who have to work and commute and cut the grass and clean the pool and clean the house and go to the ER for kidney stones or whose vision is failing or who has to go to the ER for gallbladder stones or who have to get dental work.  Oh yeah, did I mention that we have another child?  One who needs help with her homework, who is on the cusp of puberty, who behaves most of the time, who desperately wants her parent's affection and attention, who herself has social angst and is a year younger than all her friends.

So for the past three weeks we have not given Cole his medication.  We have tried to control our own natural tendencies towards yelling and provoking and doing things that would set him off.  He hasn't played video games for two of those weeks.  He wants to be outdoors all the time.  He want's to find friends in the neighborhood to play with all the time.  He's eating more.  He goes to sleep easier.  But he's also gotten in trouble several times for hitting other kids.  His teacher admitted to giving him "green" for the day because she knows that if he doesn't get green he will go ballistic, melt down in front of the whole class and really lean on his percentage of the 25 to one ratio of his class.  He's lost two friends that he's had for a year.  He hits his sister more.  He doesn't listen to quiet request number one, quiet request number two, firm but quiet order with emphasis that he's been asked twice, raised voice request with naming of consequence, flat out yelling that is met with "daddy's yelling" and then emotional crumble and undoubted long term scarring.
lonely boy
When we reward his sister for good behavior after we told him that good behavior equals reward and he not only did not react with good behavior but instead had destructive behavior- like breaking the hazard lights in mom's new car, or slamming and tearing off the cabinet door in the garage, or throwing rocks in a full church parking lot, or breaking something with a ball five seconds after we've told him not to throw the ball in the house and the response in anger is "it wasn't on purpose- you don't have to yell!", you sort of wonder what's a more important side effect- personal dental care, a good nights sleep, diet, or no peers who are friends and bullying and being ostracized for being a crybaby in the second grade.
I actually started writing this for a general purpose, but now I've gone on about Cole in particular.  Perhaps I needed to vent a little.  Sure some of you will say we are horrible parents and I'll resort back to my vulgarity in paragraph one- no need to repeat it.  So why am I so mad?

Where did ADHD come from in its present form and why does 20% of our male adolescent population supposedly have it?  Before Cole, my default answer was pharmaceutical companies, lazy parents, lazy school officials and overzealous doctors who are quick to "fix" the problem instead of addressing the cause.  Now that I am on the other side and myself have an ADHD kid, where does it come from?  I believe it's something more than my prior answers.  Here's a few where in 30 years, someone might find a direct correlation:

  • Is it pesticides?  
  • Is it those food dyes?  
  • Mario and Luigi?  
  • Saltwater pools?  
  • Snuggle fabric softner?
  • Pyjamas made in certain factories in China?  
  • Chuck-E-Cheese tokens?
  • The music of Katy, Kesha, Rianna, Brittney and everyone else?  
  • The Tivo sound?
  • Paint on certain playground equipment?  
  • Bottled water?  
  • Bicycle helmets?  
  • "Everyone's a winner" sports leagues?  
  • Pixar movies?  
  • Country Crock spread?  
  • Certain brands of disposable diapers?  
  • Costco hot dogs?  
  • Caillou?  
  • Monster Energy drinks?  
  • Apple computer?  
  • Cuties?  
  • The Internet?  
  • Tyler Perry?
Regardless of the cause, it's a ridiculous epidemic that's now kept me up til 2:30AM on a work night.  Sure I might be a little glib about it, but that's how I keep my sanity and how I seek comfort in my decisions as a parent.  As one who prior to Cole was angry at parents who accepted the ADHD diagnosis, I have long since embraced the other side of the equation.  But it's not algebra- it's the crazy kind of formula that Will figured out so easily, and I am NOT a math guy.

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