Two months ago, hubby and I decided to take our son who has ADHD off his medication for the summer. We did this to see if he would eat more, sleep better, and perhaps experience a growth spurt and to see if he was, after three years on the medication, any more capable of working on his own to control some of his impulse and attention issues than he was when he was 8. In short, we turned our son into a science experiment. We were so concerned about our decision that I even blogged about it, which is how we arrive at Part Deux. Joe’s first week without his Concerta medication was rough for the entire family. We vowed that the second week we would try harder to remember Joe’s struggles, to cut him more slack, and to be more patient.
It hasn’t been easy, but over the course of the last eight weeks we’ve definitely seen some changes. Joe eats a lot more now than he does when he’s on his medication, and he sleeps later and more restfully too. Although we haven’t weighed him, he does seem to have filled out a bit, which is encouraging. We’ve found that he is now more capable of self-regulation. If something upsets him, rather than the time- and energy-intensive histrionics of the past, he is able to calm himself more quickly. The medication has given Joe a baseline understanding of how his brain is different, and the knowledge he’s not a bad kid but instead merely one whose brain just doesn’t give him enough help with attention and short-term memory. If he’d never been on the medication, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience what is “normal” to other people. Without that crucial piece of information, he’d still feel lost about how to achieve what society expected of him. Now that he understands how it feels to be in control, he can work towards achieving those results both with and without the medication. This is huge for him.
I’m not exactly sure how this experiment will end. If I could write my own ending, though, Joe will have grown a few inches and packed on a few pounds over the summer. He will realize that he’s not a bad kid but that he has some unique challenges. He will understand that the medication helps daily life run more smoothly for him, but that it doesn’t define him and that he’s still a wonderful person without it. As for the rest of us? We will have earned a much greater appreciation for how difficult things can be for Joe and have more patience to help him get to where he needs to be in his life. Two months ago, I was hoping this would be the right decision for our family. Today, I’d be willing to place bets that this experiment will be a great success.