Tuesday, March 22, 2016

To medicate of not?

This is a question that I wrestled with for a very long time. I am a special education teacher so I have heard multiple stories about the benefits of medicating a child, but I have also heard horror stories. I finally decided that we should look at possibly trying medication last year. I must say that making this decision was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. I eventually realized that medication is just one tool in a huge toolbox. I had already incorporated a ton of therapy into my son's life, but he still struggled with impulsive behavior and sustained attention. When my son's not medicated, it's not uncommon to see him doing somersaults across the floor. My son wants to do well, but his inability to stay focused on anything for longer than a few minutes made me realize that I needed to consider medication.

The first medication that we tried was called Guanfacine. This medication made my son eat like a pig. He ended up gaining like 10 pounds in less than two months. This medication did not help my son at all, in fact, I think that the medication exasperated some of his autistic behaviors. My son's neurologist told me that it is trial and error when medicating a child who has both adhd and autism. It is complex, and can often take multiple months to find the right medication.

At the two month mark we ultimately decided to stop Guanfacine and try Concerta. What I didn't realize when we chose this medication  is that Concerta's generic brands have a different extended release system than the name brand. There were some months that my son did amazing on this medication and other months were terrible. We soon discovered that my son had great months when he was on the name brand medication. Concerta has an OROS (osmotic controlled release oral delivery system) that delivers doses of medication on a timed release system. When my son was on the generic form of this medication, he had big highs and big lows. I did quite a bit of research and in a leap of faith I asked my son's neuro to look into the differences between name brand and generic. He ended up looking into both and agreed that we should try name brand.

My son's neurologist now writes his prescriptions for name brand only Concerta. We have not had any issues in months, and we have seen many positive benefits. He is on 18mg which is the lowest dose available. His attention span is much better. In addition, his ability to self-regulate has increased drastically. This was a hard decision to make, but ultimately this decision ended up benefiting my son in a multitude of ways. I now see medication like this: It's one tool of many tools in my son's toolkit.

I do want to add that this is a personal decision. I have been asked this question quite a few times in private messages so I figured that I should answer this question in a blog post.

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