Monday, 25 October 2010

Ritalin and ADHD

My life as J's mother seems full of contradictions and things that I WILL not do or believe in until I am forced to confront them. It has now been confirmed for definite that J is definitely showing all positive signs of ADHD according to the observations and questionnaires completed by myself and others. He scored so highly in fact that the paediatrician had no hesitation in saying that she would advise me to go down a medication route to see if this would help. I came away with consent forms, the patient information sheet from a box of Ritalin and several books about ADHD including one to use with J which reiterates (as I will) that "ADHD is not an excuse for bad behaviour". I like this phrase very much because J is definitely a child to find an excuse if the need arises - using ADHD as an excuse will NOT be an option.

So to Ritalin, I was always the parent who said (and still do) "not on my child". Talking to others has confiormed this to some degree as everyone has an opinion on Ritalin and I have heard horror stories. I suppose for me the question is not whether or not I elect to give Ritalin a trial for J but more to ask what the paediatrician hopes Ritalin can do positively for J. To this unfortunately there is no clear answer. I am very clear that Ritalin is not a magic pill and even if I do try it then there will need to be other management techniques as well.  I have asked if J could have it "just for his days at school" and not take it in the holidays or at weekends and if he could just have a very short trial. In short I am unsure still - the thought that there could be something which might make learning a bit easier for J is very tempting but then again it means adding a powerful stimulant medication to his young body and I baulk at this.

Today there has been a phone call from the paediatrician - I have returned the call and am waiting to hear back from her. Questions are mulling round my head and I am devouring a book called Beyond Ritalin which dispels the myths (both positive and negative) about the drug and also talks of alternative and non medication programmes. The book is fairly old but seems good and readable - it is also very rational and "rational" is what I need more than anything at the moment as I try to make a decision. J's Dad is of the opinion that unless we try it with J we will never know if it can help him, I agree with this but still have my own qualms about it all.

J's behaviour can be challenging at times but on the whole I manage my life around this and he is not generally a problem at home or in school. In school the major problem is his level of concentration and he is not "bouncing off the walls" in the same way that others are with ADHD. He struggles though and things come slowly to him because of his poor attention span - if Ritalin can help this then I would feel wrong in not allowing a trial of it.

I sway one way and then the other and suspect I will make a snap decision following a further conversation with the consultant in the next few days. If I do elect to try it then I will note any effect it has for J. If it doesn't work then at least I can cross it off the list and move on to other ways of helping J manage it.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Caged in Chaos

L, me and L's brother in 1975

“......there are times when I feel as though I am lying diagonal in a parallel universe – it often feels as though the Gods (and Goddesses) miswrote the postcode and packed me off to the wrong planet at birth. I have quite an unusual perspective on life at times and while this is always a guarantee of colourful originality it can also feel like a cage”

The above quote comes from a book called “Caged In Chaos”. The book was written by a sixteen year old girl with Dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a label which has been attached to J to go along with all the others he now has and means that while many of us carry out some everyday skills without a thought J is left behind.
Dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or DCD) comes from two Greek words: dys (abnormal) and praxis (doing). It goes way beyond this simple translation though – the things which people take for granted can literally be impossible for those with dyspraxia. Neither is there a neat uniform way of diagnosing the disorder – dyspraxics don’t do “neat and uniform” and in the same way they do not “do” organization either. This explains why J’s room is always such a mess but might also explain why his mother is totally unable to co-ordinate either and why she finds it hard to know “where to start” at times.

I am certain I have some attention deficit problems and recently considered going the whole hog and pushing for a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD for myself. My GP talked me out of this and I am grateful that she did as it was going to cost nigh on £800 for a private consultation and diagnosis if appropriate.
Dyspraxia though I can see myself fitting into far more and the childhood stuff fits me far more. So does the adult stuff and suddenly the comments of “bloody hell Mand – look at the state of your desk” and the resigned laughter from my work colleagues does not seem so strange! The same laughter which has followed me throughout my working life and which has made me seriously doubt myself and my abilities at times.

Yep – definitely lying diagonal in a parallel universe with organization a closed book. Poor J didn’t stand a chance with my genes, thankfully like me he is easy going and getting far more support in school than I ever did. I am hoping the support J receives will leave him with much better self esteem than I have had over the years as there are many times when I have not felt “good enough” or good about myself. As a child I lost myself in books and in the world of Enid Blyton, up the Faraway Tree and into lands beyond with characters as out of place on the Earth as I felt myself at times. “Always lost in a book” one teacher said years later “you would have got quite lost had it not been for the kind attentions of L” my best childhood friend.

Yet despite all these problems I have achieved and as my GP pointed out “achieved well”. The rest of the issues need addressing with routines and structures – something my ad-hoc nature rails against, but which is the only answer to the organisation. Lack of organization is the one thing I hate about myself – when my mind is in chaos the muddle spreads outside of me...... or is it the other way round
I am trying even if it doesn’t always appear so but J is cuddled everyday first. Monthly appointments at work are now booked in advance and written down for clients. An A4 pad is used to write myself tasks and cross out when done. At home I prepare clothes the night before so J’s uniform and my clothes are chosen, hung up and ready for us after washing. Finally my latest task is to shine the sink every night – it works – I feel far better when I get up in the morning if the sink is clean and empty.