Today’s society is too quick to use medications to solve child behavior problems. Experts agree that America’s children are over-medicated. Although I believe this is true, some children can greatly benefit from the right medication in the right dose. My son is one of them.
Before my son was put on medication his behavior was nearly impossible to deal with at home. He was a sweet and caring boy but, had an explosive temper. As he grew it became harder to contain him during tantrums that often became panic attacks. During an attack he would lash out, scream uncontrollably and throw himself against the walls in an effort to escape his fear. Many times during play he would suddenly burst into tears for reasons no one, including himself, could explain. It was almost impossible to leave him with a sitter and the few times we did I spent most of the evening worrying and waiting for the inevitable phone call. By the time he was a teenager he was twice my size and I was afraid that I would not be able to keep him from hurting himself or one of his sisters.
Middle school was torture for my son. He is intelligent but could not fit in socially. He was suspended for fighting many times. His freshman and sophomore years of high school were worse. The fighting was over but his grades were sinking even lower. He failed all but his core classes and barely passed those. His freshman science teacher called to say that my son was not only the smartest kid in his class but the smartest kid he had ever taught. He was failing.
To make matters worse, he had, literally, not one friend. He was bullied every day and I almost missed the days when he would fight back. Anything would have been preferable to watching him try over and over to change who he was to fit in. After school he would lie on his bed and stare at the ceiling, sometimes crying quietly. We began to worry about suicide.
Since the start of his trouble we had tried everything we could think of to help him. Behavior plan after behavior plan failed. We put him in soccer, karate, youth group, band, and drama, trying to help him find his place in the world. We took him to several doctors and found no relief. Finally, in the middle of his sophomore year, we tried a new therapist who diagnosed my son with Attention Deficit Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, among other things. Tentatively, he, his father and I agreed to try medication. The first one we tried actually made things worse. The second seemed to have no effect. On the third we slowly saw some improvement.
My son still has a temper, but now when he is angry he can walk away, calm down and talk about what’s bothering him. Two weeks after starting his junior year my son was moved to honors classes and I get calls from his teachers telling me what a joy it is to have him in class and how well he is doing academically. He hasn’t had a tantrum or a panic attack in almost a year. Not only can I leave him at home by himself or with his siblings, I depend on him to help prepare meals and watch his younger siblings when I have work or class. At church, he is indispensable in the nursery and can often be found on the floor there, covered in toddlers and reading them stories. The child I could not leave with a sitter for fear he would hurt someone now cares for the children of others.
My son’s life is far from perfect. He argues with his siblings, worries about his grades and whether or not his friends think he’s cool. He still has occasional bouts of depression and he can get moody. He gets in trouble at home for having a smart mouth and for not picking up his laundry. Last week he asked a girl out and was firmly rejected. He moped around the house for days and talked to his friends about it on the phone until the rest of us were half crazy from hearing about it. In other words, he is blessedly, blessedly normal!
Many children today are on medications that are not appropriate. This country’s children are, indeed, over- medicated. But, for some, like my son, the right medication can make it possible to make the most of life.