Eleven years ago my second son was born, four weeks early, he was a perfect 6lbs 13oz. As he started to get older I started noticing that there was something “different” with him. He hated the sunlight. At the time we lived in El Paso, TX, the Sun City. Every time we would go out we had to keep his face covered because he could not stand the sun. He was also very sensitive to noise. Loud clapping, cheering or talking would startle him and he would scream in fear. There were days where my little infant baby would just scream all day. As a young mother of two young boys I did not know what to do other than call my mom. There were several days I would sit and cry with him because I could not figure out what was wrong. People suggested that if I had done all I could, to leave him in his crib and let him cry it out. I reluctantly tried their suggestions to no avail. He would scream at the top of his lungs incessantly until he was red in the face. He never grew tired. I could not stand to leave him in the crib crying. He would have these fits often. I dreaded going anywhere in public with him because the noise would aggravate him and he would scream throughout the outing. I took him to his pediatrician, telling him that something was not right with my baby, only to be met with blank stares and treated as if I were overreacting. So until he was about nine months I would just sit home and cry with him. Looking back it’s kind of funny now. 😀 He gradually started to get better and as time went on everything seemed fine.
When he was around two years of age, I noticed that he would stay up really late wanting to play and get up very early. Trying to send him to bed early was futile, he had so much energy. Every morning as he awoke, he would not disturb anyone. He’d go straight to the backyard and shoot basketball for hours. Shooting basketball seemed to calm him and he loved it, so I would sit and watch him.
At three years of age he entered head start. That’s when the behavior problems began. His teacher called us in constantly. She expressed that he had a hard time sitting still, he would wander around the class during instruction, and have tantrums. She stated no one could get through to him, that it was as if he didn’t hear them. My husband and I would talk to him and tell him that he needed to be a good boy and listen to the teacher.
One day my husband and I were called in to pick him up because he was having an uncontrollable tantrum. When we arrived we saw our little man fighting the teacher off as she tried to contain him. He was removed from the school because they felt he “wasn’t ready”. I was so hurt. I didn’t know why he was acting this way. People from the outside looking in said he was bad and needed more discipline. We were told we needed to spank him more or start if we weren’t. I knew that something wasn’t right and took him back to the doctor. I was ignored…again.
The time came for him to start Kindergarten. He was excited and ready for school. He was a bit older and I thought the behavior problems were behind us. I was wrong. I was called to his school so much I should have worked there. It was affecting my paying job. I was losing hours and pay. Early one morning I was called to the school because my son was having a violent fit on the bus and that he was upset and I needed to come to the school. I told my boss and he told me that this was a problem, that if I had to leave work again I would be fired. I was at my wits ends. On the drive to my son’s school I cried uncontrollably. I signed him out of school and took him to the emergency room. I insisted that my son needed to be seen. That he was a harm to himself and others with is uncontrollable tantrums. I will never forget the ER doctor that saw us. She said, “mom I have been in your place. I begged physicians to help me with my son when he was a child and I was ignored, I am going to help you”. She told me that her son did not receive help until he tried to harm himself. Sitting in the chair bouncing around looking sweet and innocent was my baby. I wanted help for him. She asked him a few questions and he bounced in he seat, speaking rapidly jumping from subject to subject, swinging his feet and playing with his hands. I told her that for as long as I could remember he behaved like that and his physician kept telling me nothing was wrong. We were referred to a psychologist who diagnosed my 5-year-old with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD.
I finally agreed to medication therapy and in the beginning it worked. For about three years medications were increased and even changed a few times. I will not give the brand names but the first medication was a type that was gradually released in his system through the day with him having to take a second dose at school. It worked well until his system got used to it and they kept having to increase it. Finally a psychiatrist prescribed a Methylphenidate as treatment. It was stronger than the previous treatment he said but he would only need it once a day. Young and naive, trusting that a doctor would not put my child in harm’s way, I gave it to him. That is a decision I will live to regret. I watched my son closely for side effects from this new medication and noticed that he did not have much of an appetite. I reported that back to his doctor who in turn instructed me to change the time I gave him the medication. I did as instructed and his appetite picked up. After three weeks I noticed that my son was constantly rubbing his eyes until they were red and scratching. One evening he started saying something was crawling on him. He scratched until he broke the skin. We kept reassuring him that nothing was crawling on him and gave him a bath. He seemed better. During the night we awoke to him screaming and banging his head on his bed. He kept yelling, “they keep crawling on me”. We looked and nothing was there. I rocked him to sleep and first thing the next morning I had him at the hospital. By this time we had a new physician and he stated that my son experienced a “psychotic break” from the medication he was prescribed. He advised me to gradually ween him off the medication because if I suddenly stopped he would experience withdrawals symptoms like that of a heroin addict. I was floored. In that moment I felt I had failed my son. I determined within myself that I was not going to fail him EVER again. I refuse to medicate him so someone can have an easier time doing their job.
From that moment on I became my son’s advocate. I stopped giving him medications and refused to let ANYONE tell me he needed them. They were not there as I cradled him trying to calm him that night. I worked one on one with his teachers and the schools. It was tiring with four boys. Advocating for my son was a full-time job and my other relationships were lacking. We had many uphill battles for about two years. In 2008 he was diagnosed with sleep apnea. His physician said that sleep apnea in children can sometimes cause them to have behavioral issues. Once he had his tonsils and adenoids removed we noticed a real difference in his behavior.
Today he is medication free. He is in fifth grade and doing well. I’m not having to be called to his school often, which is
great. He still has some problems paying attention but he is not as disruptive as he used to be. NO MORE FITS OF RAGE! He has lots of friends and his teachers love him. A long way from years earlier. He has a loving spirit and deeply cares about the welfare of others. He is very much into his appearance and loves to look good. He is very artistic and quite the comedian. He still loves basketball. He has a beautiful mind. He tries hard to control himself because he knows he has a little more energy than most. We told him that his energy was his super power and that was why he runs so fast. 🙂 His favorite super hero is the Green Lantern. He recently won 1st place out of the fifth grade classes in his school for his drawing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We’ve come a long way together. He’s doing just fine.
I am in no way saying that medication therapy is wrong. For some it works great. For my son it did not. I try to watch his diet. We stay away from lots of sweets and soda. He loves his fresh fruits. Pineapple and apples are his favorite snack. I advise parents to try other methods like behavior and homeopathic treatments before placing their children on meds. I tell them IF they have to use medication to do their research and to watch their child closely. You MUST BE your childs advocate. I’m just saying!