Today was a particularly bad morning at our house. My daughter with ADD is very distractible, and this morning she couldn’t keep it together for any task. When I said “please get dressed for the day,” she heard “roll around naked on your bedroom floor smacking your bum cheeks like bongos.”
It took her 35 minutes to put on an outfit, in which time we (the other 3 of us in the house) showered, brushed teeth and hair, got dressed, made beds, and got breakfast on the table. But of course both me and hubs also had to remind Lili what she was doing – because she can get lost in thought over the texture of the stippling on her ceiling. Or at how her carpet feels. Or the colours of the clothes hanging in her closet.
So how do you keep your distractible 8 year old on task? We’ve tried to avoid ADD medication thus far by acting like her drill sergeants. It’s not much fun for me to stand over her repeating myself 10 times just so she can find a pair of socks.
So why do we hold off on getting her medication that can help her focus? As scientists, hubs and I have faith in the medical system.
I’m not talking about “faith” in the religious sense. We have faith because we can (and have) read the original peer reviewed papers that go over the results of drug trials. We can see for ourselves that the medication works the way it’s supposed to, and assess the bias (or lack thereof) or placebo effect. Because there is inherent variation in the human genome, and the expression of our genes, individual people may be more responsive to one drug than to another. And in the case of ADD, there are lots of drugs available to find one that would work for her.
There are two types of stimulants (with options that are long-acting or short-acting); Methylphenidate-based drugs such as Ritalin, and Amphetamine-based drugs such as Adderall. There’s non-stimulant medications available now too – Atomoxetine, sold under the name Strattera. And even anti-depressants have been shown to help with ADD symptoms, even though those drugs aren’t specifically developed for that purpose. For more info on drug options available to treat ADD see WebMD.
Yes there are potential physical side-effects to using drugs to treat any condition. But aren’t there emotional side-effects to using behavioural therapy alone? Behavioural therapy is just a fancy way of saying that parents nag the kid to keep them on task. We explain and instruct, we reward good behaviours, we make a plan for discipline. But Lili struggles to stay on task, so she gets more discipline than she does rewards. I can see that it affects her self-esteem, making a positive feedback loop that keeps her “failing” at these tasks, which makes her think that she will continue to “fail.” It’s heartbreaking to see.
Truth be told, hubs has the same problem. He never got treatment for it as a child (it wasn’t well known then), and I think he may feel there is a stigma associated with it. He even got this great book about ADD. But he only read the first chapter. And skipped to the end. Which is a typical expression of ADD. Luckily hubs has developed a series of coping strategies that allow him to use his strengths (creativity, tenacity, passion) to help keep his “weaknesses” in check. Lili however hasn’t yet developed a method of self-regulation that works for her. So at what point do we concede that behavioural therapy alone isn’t enough? Shouldn’t we harness the power of the medications to help her start proving to herself that she’s capable of succeeding? Ever feel like whatever choice you make, it’s just not a good one? It’s enough to drive you to drink.