ADHD? I’m still a good mother

I’ve recently started working in the healthcare sphere and it’s definitely a new challenge; I have many things to learn about science, even though I work in marketing. I recently did interviews with several mothers who have children with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I really didn’t know anything about it, but I wanted to understand it all.

I had the chance to speak to Isabelle, who has a daughter named Emma; she gave me a taste of what it’s like to live with ADHD every day. Their story, which is unfortunately a reality for more and more families, was very touching. Let me tell you about it:

Emma’s Life

Emma’s life goes at one speed: fast. Isabelle lives this hectic pace each day, to the point that she has difficulty enjoying her daily activities.

“Let’s go to the park! Hurry, let’s go the park.”

15 minutes later: “Let’s go! We have to leave!”

“Let’s go back to the park; I can’t wait!”

Isabelle would have stayed longer, but Emma had to do everything quickly; she felt she had to enjoy everything at the park as quickly as possible, as if it were about to disappear.

Anxiety is a big problem for Emma. Each little piece of news, good or bad, is a major event. All it takes to cause a sleepless night, with eyes wide-open and endless ideas bouncing around, is to know that there will be a special activity at school the next day. To be excited is one thing, to lose a night of sleep is another.

At home simplicity is the rule. To get Emma to fold her laundry and put her bike away, for example, it has to be explained one task at a time. Once the first task is done, only then can they go on to the second one. Clearly, repetition and patience are critical in this process. Not many tasks or household chores are easy when Emma’s mind is working at 100 miles per hour.

As for school, Emma’s enjoyment had all but disappeared. Her motivation level in the classroom was extremely low, as she has a difficult time learning the same way as most of the other students. Not surprisingly, it’s tough to stay motivated when your mind is not cooperating and you feel like you’re working hard yet not progressing.

Isabelle: the Mother

It’s frustrating for a parent when they feel like their child doesn’t listen, doesn’t improve, and ultimately doesn’t succeed. Even if all the tools that exist have been tried, sometimes she still feels like she’s at square one in helping Emma manage her ADHD. It was evident in my discussion with Isabelle that at times she feels powerless, discouraged, and confused. That said, Isabelle still maintains a good sense of humour; I couldn’t help but laugh when she said that “I should make a t-shirt: I have ADHD!” When Emma is overly active she sometimes feels judged — and judged guilty — by other parents; she often wishes that people knew everything that has happened in the previous 24 hours.

Medications: an Option

Obviously nobody wants to “drug” a child. Most people try other solutions first: natural products, tools given from school, techniques from various books. At a certain point enough is enough; trying medication is worth a try. Isabelle and Emma’s story with medication was long and painful. First step: school psychologist. Second step: consulting a paediatrician after a 7-month wait. It was a long wait, especially considering that they had not yet tried a medication. So what’s the best medication? The most prescribed; it should be the best, right? They started with Ritalin. But if they forgot to take a pill one morning, Emma would be bouncing off the walls. The side effects weren’t fun either: a reduced appetite and poor sleep. It wasn’t an easy process for Isabelle or for Emma. A few months later they decided to try a new medication. The doctor often prescribed this medication for children and in many cases it’s worked. They said, “well, let’s try it.” Emma began to use Concerta and everything improved: her appetite returned, she had more concentration, and she performed better in school. Isabelle is relieved and Emma has a new found motivation. It’s not a perfect solution — there are still some minor side effects — but at this point they can both deal with it.

After this interview with Isabelle, her story has almost made me feel exhausted. It takes patience to go through trial and error with alternative methods, medication changes, side effects and delays. Isabelle cetainly has my admiration.

How would her story have changed if there were a way to choose the right medication? Would Emma have had fewer side effects, or found the right medication faster?

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