ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Order) has been a big part of our family life for almost 11 years and I was prompted to comment on a blog post from Vicki at I Love My Mad Life when she mentioned she was going to watch a television programme that considered Ritalin as a possible control measure for ADHD. Following on from this, we have exchanged a couple of emails about young children being diagnosed with ADHD and I've written a similar post about my experiences here today.
Jake's sleep pattern was a little strange from being born, so we knew that something wasn't quite right. If he'd have been the first child (he was our third) we'd have brushed it off and thought that we were just suffering from the curse of a sleepless baby. From him being six months old he never slept for more than 2 hours at a time and then proceeded to stay awake for 8 hours. We had to take it in turns staying up with him... Disney films and Tweenies on a loop, eyes on matchsticks. He never slept in his cot, but seemed to settle in his pushchair so we took that up to our bedroom on a couple of occasions.
Our GP was really helpful and we tried all sorts of of "techniques" but it was more than that - you just know as a parent, don't you? Jake was walking at 9 months old, he seemed to have no concentration span but was really quick at picking up things. My Health Visitor was as much use as a chocolate teapot. On many occasions she was patronising and accused me of "not sticking to a routine" and "being firm". Honestly, with three children under the age of 8 you have to have a routine, don't you? And, lets face it - I wasn't exactly new to this parenting lark. We tried Jake on a small dose of Phenergan once but that had such drastic results (he cried solidly for 4 hours and then slept for 12 hours!!!) that we decided the un-naturalness of it all wasn't worth it for any of us.
The crux of it all was when he went to pre-school. His nursery teacher took me to one side one day and more or less said that she thought my concerns were justified - in her professional opinion she thought he had ADHD traits and this fitted in with everything I'd said, as we'd discussed his behaviour at length on many occasions.
After a referral to and many meetings with a paediatrician Jake was put onto Ritalin when he was 5 (he was in Yr 1 by this time). He had half a tablet in the morning before school and half a tablet at lunch time. It calmed it down but it calmed him down too much. And his teacher said that she could see the half tablet wearing off - she said his attention span would shorten and that he'd start "fiddling" with stuff or wandering around. I never liked him on the Ritalin because of what seemed like mood swings. He was up and down and up and down and he wasn't "our" bouncy little boy any more.
The time this hit home was when his support worker (like a special educational needs teacher) came to me and said that she was glad that Jake was coping better at school but she had noticed that his personality seemed a little repressed. She said that she could usually spot Jake in a sea of uniforms because he had a "skip" in his step and that had all stopped since he'd started the Ritalin. That was what I needed. He came off the Ritalin there and then and we make another appointment to see the paed. He agreed that Ritalin doesn't suit every child although it can be fantastic for some kids - usually older though. We agreed to keep regular appointments with him and kept a diet diary.
His triggers are orange juice (funnily enough, Morrisons own was great and Robinsons was the worst), any orange flavoured sweets and a whole bunch of other sugary foods Now, he's a lot better because he can sort of self-manage and we allow a little of everything, in moderation. We can see when he's getting "hyper" because he rocks from side to side and we can remind him to calm down (he's 10 years old now). He does gymnastics to help him rein himself in and he loves swimming. He has hardly any sense of fear, which is what scares me so much - he'll try anything and he'll show off to his friends sometimes.
One time he said to me that he hates his ADHD because his head tells him that some things are wrong but his body won't stop doing it. That upset me but it also helped me to understand a little bit more - and it helped the way in which we "control" him. We also have to use LOTS of praise when he does something good or he's been especially well behaved somewhere but we don't "spoil" him - that wouldn't have been fair on the other two. I'm dreading the teen years because I've heard and read the experience of parents with hormonal children with ADHD and it's not a fun time! But forewarned is forearmed.
I never wanted to "label" any of my children but I know what a bloody lonely world it is out there for parents with kids on the spectrum. Sometimes you feel like you're screaming into space and that no-one can hear you.