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10 year old refuses ADHD diagnosis and medication

beebzzz profile image
18 Replies

Hi all!

My 10 year old daughter was diagnosed with inattentive ADHD over the summer. She had a hard time initially dealing with the diagnosis, then came around a bit and was taking Focalin XR. We saw a lot of improvements in attention and executive function, especially in school .

After the holiday break, she dug her heels in, and is back to refusing her diagnosis and medications. She told me she does not want to feel different from the other kids in her grade. I get it..it’s hard! But I feel like the meds help her socially as well.

We have told her taking the meds is up to her, it’s her body, and was hopeful she would come around. Not happening.

Does anyone have any advice?

18 Replies
Pattimum profile image

If she ‘feels different’ on Focalin, there must be something in what she says.

Stimulants make the pupils of eyes large and people can be ‘overly sociable’ and it can look ‘fake’ to other people, in tour daughter’s case to other children. That’s my personal experience from years ago, I am a grown up in late 40 ies not on medication but with ADHD.

My son was diagnosed at 8 but I knew from when he was little that he had ADHD, I just didn’t want to give him medications… so I waited, hoped it will go away… well it only got worse and worse for him…

For my son period when he was on stimulants since he was 8 years old, 8 months of suffering side effects and all for him, this period has ruined his social life, he started being bullied during this time. I think it’s almost like other kids can see this child is ‘off their head’ on something. I mean they don’t know but they just start seeing that this person is different. Before medication he wasn’t perceived as ‘different’ yet on medication kids started calling him names ‘psycho’ etc.

Since we swapped my son to non stimulant Atomoxetine he feels ‘normal’, he is not artificially elated and pressed on speech, he is just balanced and cheerful in a calm way, he fought up on growing as he can eat now normally and he sleeps healthy 10 hours at night.

He started repairing his relationships in the class, however bullying scarred him and we want to move him to a different school where kids would not remember how he was on stimulants.

He also developed ‘anxiety’ whilst on stimulants so maybe the fact that your daughter starts now being oppositional and refusing meds and unhappy about the diagnosis - this is kind of one of the subtle symptoms of anxiety disorder… There is a side effect of anxiety with stimulants….

I think in her child ways she tells you that this medication doesn’t work for her and doesn’t t make her happy?

Auggie123 profile image
Auggie123 in reply to Pattimum

Yes that's a good suggestion- see if you can get more info from her on how the meds make her feel. If it seems that maybe she's having side effects or feeling unpleasant on them, you could switch. The right med should be helping not hurting...I wonder if you all work with a developmental psychiatrist who could help you with this too. This is helpful for us- we meet with ours once a month virtually and she checks in with us and also with our son, specifically to talk about how things are going in our life and how the meds are helping or if anything needs to be adjusted dosage wise. Frankly we couldn't do this without her. I wish you luck!

beebzzz profile image
beebzzz in reply to Pattimum

such great insight…thank you! I didn’t think of it from that perspective. I will check in with my daughter to see if the medication made her feel different, or just having to rely on medication made her feel different. She is also an anxious kid, so I’m sure stimulants could make that worse as well. Thank you so much!!!

Pattimum profile image
Pattimum in reply to beebzzz

What I’d say, it’s often stopping or swapping to something different that make children more aware. Imagine yourself when you were 10 and think how well you were able to describe how medication made you feel.

My son, first day when we stopped methylpenidate extended release and started him on a very low dose of Atomoxetine, he said ‘Daddy I am so happy’. He is a kid who doesn’t express himself so well, not a chatterbox who loves chatting about feelings and stuff, and then expecting him to grasp what’s side effect and all, that’s too much to expect of a child.

I think we adults know more how to assess how something makes us feel because we already know what let’s say alcohol can do to us or what severe deprivation of sleep can do to us… You can’t expect a child being so good at verbalising how a substance (medication) makes them feel. It’s like expecting them to be adults and they are only kids.

I’d say explore with your child’s doctor and maybe there is ADHD medication which she would accept which would be 2in 1 and also helping with anxiety.

Elijah1 profile image

Is her concern about having the diagnosis and needing to take medication or about how the medication affects her?

beebzzz profile image

about needing the medication, and being different than other kids… She actually said she felt like the medication helped her focus in school

Onthemove1971 profile image

Most children with ADHD benefit from 2 tools: thearpy, medication and an educational plan. Could you start the therapy, which can help her learn to accept her diagnosis? They could also work on helping her better understand her diagnosis.

Our son tells me he can not even tell that he has taken his medication? He just know he "acts" better.

Over the years our son was not mature enough to understand how much medicine helps him: he would say he took it and hide it, try to leave the house without it, etc. But as a parent ( just like brushing his teeth, taking a shower, etc.) these are things our son must do and there is no choice about taking his medication.

Hope you/someone can help her understand how much it helps her life. Maturity really helps a lot.

Best of luck.

We are always here to support you.

Presha911 profile image

I had a similar experience with my son last year. The medication helps him and causes no side effects. The issue was that he felt sad and embarrassed that he needed medication and other kids didn't. I explained to him that I take medication every day too because my thyroid doesn't work like other people and that doesn't make me a bad person, so his medication doesn't make him a bad person either. That seemed to help. Good luck!

Fish1fish profile image

Statistically speaking, there are very likely many kids in your daughters school in the same situation. Assuming you haven't already, you might want to convey that to her, assure her she is not the only one. Echoing what was said above, there are likely other meds that may have different side effects, it may take awhile to find something that works.

I would recommend watching some of the “How to ADHD” series on youtube with her. From the videos I have watched it’s quite insightful. The woman whose channel it is actually has ADHD and talks about her experiences. I am willing to bet something may resonate with her as well as give you some strategies to try.

Lion_Creek profile image

I haven't named the diagnosis (combined-type ADHD) in conversations with my 9 yo daughter yet for fear she'll respond this way. We just talk in terms of symptoms and everyone's brains working differently. She recognizes it's harder for her to stay focused, not talk out in class, not argue, and get her work done in the time limit than it is for other kids and before we went in for the medication appointment, she was on board with wanting these things to be easier since she's constantly trying so hard and still not succeeding at them. Now she's happily taking the medication because she recognizes it makes things so much easier. My fingers are crossed that things continue this way... the medication has been such a blessing. Good luck <3 I hope your daughter meets some other great kids who are taking meds and can normalize it for her.

MaudQ profile image

My daughter hates feeling different from the other kids. It was actually worse when she was your daughter’s age. Now that she’s 14, she’s starting to understand that it’s a good thing to be your own person and that it’s ok not to be like everyone else. She still specifically requests that the accommodations on her 504 not draw attention - so she doesn’t want preferential seating for example. I think it’s a combination of being an early adolescent and also the ADHD which causes emotional disregulation and sometimes rejection sensitivity disorder. We try to avoid the most “embarrassing” accommodations if possible, but she really does better when she gets a certain supports even if she doesn’t love it, so part of the goal has to be helping her learn to deal with it. I try to be a broken record about self care and self esteem. I also try to be transparent and open about my own experiences so I’m practicing what I preach. It’s kind of an uphill battle at this age, but I think it’s sinking in with us. Most adults don’t have the kind of self awareness, courage and wisdom we’re expecting from our kids - we’re actually giving them a big leg up by having these conversations now. Also, children’s books and TV are all about this message. I don’t know if your kid likes to read, but we loved TV shows like Amphibia and Avatar the Last Airbender. And characters like Anne of Green Gables - who clearly has ADHD even if no one comes out and says it ☺️

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to MaudQ

Our son hates sitting in front of the teacher. In fact most of his teachers let him decide( even though his 504 says sitting in front). Bad idea, he is a junior in high school and in an Anatomy and Physiological class. The teacher let him sit in the back first few weeks.

Once the first small test comes in and he got a bad grade we had a parent conference. The teacher moved him to the front and he started doing much better. Same as your daughter.. he doesn't want attention drawn on him. I just stand strong on the things he needs.

MaudQ profile image

Oh, and also therapy!

Nanchli profile image

I am in the same boat. I have a gut feeling my son has ADD, He refuses all kind of help and says "I dont need help". He is almost 18 :(

We have an appt coming up in couple months (yes long wait to see a specialist) In a meanwhile I am hoping he be on same page as me. In my heart I know medication is the answer we been seeking for! its a matter of convincing him! I wish I would have done this sooner! I keep trying natural stuff in the hope that something will work , and the negative side effects of medications made me scare to try them sooner.

Now that seems like our last HOPE!

Its sooooooooooooooo hard seeing him struggle every single day.

Onthemove1971 profile image
Onthemove1971 in reply to Nanchli

I can tell you from our experience, our son doesn't "feel" anything when he takes his medication, he just knows he "acts" better. He has no side effects and since it wears off around 3:30pm he knows life with and without medication. When he was younger we also had him take a booster dose so he could get through the evening with tutoring and sports. I hope your son can get the help he needs.

Thanks for sharing.

adhdteen_mom profile image

I understand you. My son is 15 now, and in 10th grade. He began medication for ADHD, inattentive-type, around 5th grade. It has been a roller coaster ride, in terms of his compliance/cooperation. He has gone through periods of refusing to take it, then he would start again-stating he notices the difference and it helps him in school. This year, in 10th grade, he has mostly taking it , and now just this past week, he does not want to because he expresses it makes him 'NOT HIMSELF'. So, I get it, this is a difficult journey. We want to honor their feelings and input, but also worry about how NOT taking the meds affect their performance in school. It's one day at a time for us over here.

Remember, skipping a day or a few days is OK, since it's not a medication that needs to be taken daily to be effective, like anxiety meds- which my son has been on as well. He is not taking those, as he feels he doesn't need them anymore. He has guidance counseling 2xmonth in school, and now private therapy 1x week again. (That's been on and off over the years since elementary school as well. For periods, he doesn't want to go to therapy. Right now, he is and it helps just to talks and get things off his chest with a professional and objective point of view.

adhdteen_mom profile image

Hope my sharing this helps you. <3

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