To medicate or not?: My son is 9, in... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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To medicate or not?

louisepearl profile image
11 Replies

My son is 9, in fourth grade. He received an ADHD diagnosis last spring. Some aspects of school are going fine -- he doesn't have any behavior problems, he's doing well socially, and he's a fluent reader and making progress in math.

During my parent-teacher conference, though, his teacher was quite concerned about the fact that he can't seem to absorb anything he reads when he's reading silently. This affects not only his reading comprehension, but also his success in math, since he has trouble with word problems. He can read the words on the page easily: he just can't seem to understand what a story means, or what a problem is asking.

This is very alarming to me, obviously, but I'm still not whether medication is the answer. (The teacher suggested it might be.). We've never tried medication before and I'm really nervous. I have an appointment scheduled with his pediatrician next week, so I'll ask for her advice then.

For now, I'm wondering -- would other strategies be just as, or even more, effective, in helping my son with this reading focus problem? He is wonderfully curious, talkative, outgoing, imaginative -- I don't want to lose those aspects of his personality. But I also don't want him to feel like he can't succeed at school.

Does medication seem like the best solution? Is there a particular type you'd recommend? I would appreciate anyone's willingness to share similar experiences or advice! Thank you!!

11 Replies
Edukids profile image

Hi, I think you might want to consider a specialized assessment of his reading and comprehension skills. Some children with ADHD may have comorbidities with learning disorders. This may represent that his difficulties with reading (taking into account that he is 9 years old) is associated with the lack of automation of his reading skills. A specialist from International Dyslexia asociation It can be helpful.

​Dariana González

Educational Consultant Specialist in ADHD - Learning Disorders and Behavioral Disorders.

Pattimum profile image

I’d say from experience with my son who has been diagnosed at age 8 (he’s now nearly 10) that medication will help with memory as well. You could look at medical journal studies on let’s say Atomoxetine and memory (Google search) and you will see that there is a positive impact on memory. It’s just like- the mind is clearer and there are no racing thoughts or ‘day dreaming’ so the person can take in what they read. I think the right order of doing it would be :first medicate and then do all the tests. My son for example had tests done by speech therapist- for his language comprehension etc so I know he is fine for his age. His tutor told me that worded maths is difficult for any kid this age and only a lot of practice can fix it ( and my son doesn’t t like maths so he doesn’t practice). For my son stimulants did more harm than good as he developed a range of side effects- including urinary frequency, changes in mood, rebound effect, mania, stammer, tics… Well, look at medication leaflet - he had it all, even excessive sweating (his head was wet and sweat dripping down his face after any exercise ) so after a failure with a stimulant, he’s now on a non stimulant Atomoxetine and he’s doing great. I noticed his memory is better now- he can now remember stuff from school better and better describe and judge social situations as well. I think it’s because he has no anxiety now, his mind is clearer, he can focus better and then memory can actually work better too.

MaudQ profile image

Visiting the doctor is a good next step. The doctor can explain the different types of medication: benefits and side effects. The meds are all different from each other and everyone responds differently to the type, dosage and timing - you might even want to consult a psychiatrist. They have the most informed and nuanced take. Agree with the suggestion to check for a learning disability as well - getting additional support for reading could help. We were nervous about medication at first as well but the psychiatrist was very kind, explained everything clearly and was responsive when we reported side effects. We did not have the experience that meds took our kid’s personality away. For us, it was the exact opposite. The meds cleared away so many stressors for her - we felt like we got her personality back.

msm0nster profile image

keeping medication from a child with adhd who can benefit from it is like keeping a wheelchair from someone who can't walk - this is exactly what an adult with adhd said to me. He said his mom wouldn't let him try meds as a kid and he suffered greatly without it, in all aspects of life. I know my son needs it and I see a huge difference in his school and mental health.

JanePound profile image

My daughter was diagnosed at age 14 but didn’t start medication until she was 20, having failed her first year of university. She said, ‘ Oh, is that how you’re supposed to study? I can now read a page and know what I’ve read, instead of reading it three times and not being sure.’

Based on her experience, a trial of medication might be useful. She also has a touch of dyslexia and dyspraxia. She’s always bruised from bumping into door frames and last month she sat on her hair straighteners, resulting in some interesting burn scars.

ADHD_DAD profile image

Many of us felt as you do initially. We sure did. What I can tell you now that we are 10 years into this journey is that the management of ADHD (your son sounds like mine; no behavior problems, just inattentive and caught in his own thoughts and brain) is a 3 legged stool, medication, accommodations at school and lifestyle modification at home (strict bedtime, repetitive routines, reminder lists for backpack, homework, etc.). It has worked miraculously for us and my son is a confident and good student (but still needs these things, though he needs less parental involvement as he ages). We. too, worried that meds would change my son's personality, but I soon realized that ADHD is not my son. My son HAS ADHD, a medical diagnosis requiring treatment. In retrospect, I regret waiting at all to medicate since it was life (not personality) changing for him and us. He is grateful (and has told us many times) that we were on top of it early to assist him at functioning at his best. I will say that medications are trial and error as opposed to "one size fits all" and most us us have needed to adjust dosage and/ or change meds from time to time. However, this is a lifelong journey and adjustments of all kinds are needed as they age. ADHD cannot be cured but it can be managed. We are here to help. Good luck to you. Be well.

Momtrying profile image

my son was the same age when we started meds. It was tough at first. We had to try a couple different medication‘s and change the dose up. He also wouldn’t swallow pills so that was on another issue but some of the medication you could break open and put it in yogurt. Now that we have figured out the right medication it has been life-changing and my son does not like going without his medication because he notices such a big help. You will probably feel a lot better after talking to your doctor. Good luck!!

ELucas13 profile image

Us parents always freak out about medicating our children as if we are not doing our job and bowing to big Pharma. This is not the case. ADHD is well studied as are medications for ADHD. It's a GAME CHANGER when you find the right medication (although, it can be a rough road to that).

Talk to your pediatrician, or better yet, a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD or children. There are many posts on this forum talking about medication and you should use ADDitude magazine as a resource for medication.

Every child is different and it can take some patience and time to figure it out.

In addition, if he is having trouble processing what he is reading, I'd recommend an evaluation for a learning disability. This can be through your school or private.

The best method for treating these ADHD is not one method, it's many. So attack it from all the sides you can and you child will flourish!

Peerandparent profile image

First, try to be certain of a diagnosis. As others have said, often it's not JUST ADHD. Often there are other learning disabilities, developmental or mental health issues that can coincide that can complicate matters.

Second, always weigh the risks and benefits of both sides of the equation. Risks and benefits of medication, and risks and benefits of not taking medication.

I work in mental health, I have ADHD, as does my son. My personal and professional opinion is that there are very few risks to trialing medication (especially since they tend to start people on a very low dose, and they tend to be short acting medications) and it will not take away any of the good qualities of your son. Meanwhile, I was diagnosed later in life (first year of university) and there were a lot of things I struggled with growing up, most of which it turns out I was very good at hiding from my parents. Social issues, always feeling like my understanding was always miles ahead of my ability to demonstrate it, feeling like I was a failure because I didn't understand why certain things that seemed so easy for my friends were impossible for me.

I'm not saying medication is absolutely the right choice. I am saying that it is an important tool to have available in your tool box, along with educating yourself and your son about ADHD (I personally like the "how to ADHD" channel on YouTube, along with material by Dr Barkley and Dr Hallowell)

My son is only 7, but my wife and I make sure to discuss things with him and include him in decision making as much as possible.

Lastly, work with your son to come up with solutions that fit with his strengths. Can he visualize things? Then take advantage of that and work with him on building images of what he's reading. Is he an empathetic person? Have him place himself in the characters' positions to think about how he would feel, what the charactersmiggt be feeling, and how they could react.

My son and I both struggle with visualization (I have full blown aphantasia) but I can work with him to reconstruct something he's reading, or for that matter, what happened at school that day. Quite often the information is tucked in his brain; he simply lacks the framework to access the information on demand.

If he's a strong writer, artist or typist, taking notes or doodling as he reads might help too.

Try a variety of things and see what's helpful for him. Often, though, reassuring him that it's not a lack of effort on his part is important. He is likely already trying harder than his peers, so the goal is to work more creatively, not work harder.

Auggie123 profile image

For reading difficulties--we use Kindle app with audible narration. This was an absolute game changer. Also medication. Be patient as you find the right one, it can be a journey to get there. Definitely good advice to explore other diagnosis or learning disabilities that may be playing a role. Good luck!!!

louisepearl profile image

Thank you all for your thoughtful and supportive replies! I feel like there are lots of resources for us to try out. I talked to the pediatrician and we've decided to start on 10mg of Metadate and see how it goes. Thank you again!!

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