Let me start off by saying there’s no medication to treat or cure Autism Spectrum Disorder. This post is entirely directed at Apollo’s severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) & why we chose to put him on ADHD medication.
I recognize and respect that there are many parents that have strong opinions on medicating a young child for ADHD, and that’s okay; each person is entitled to their own opinion on the matter. All that I ask is that you read this post with an open mind, and kindly agree or disagree with me, because this post was hard for me to write, to open-up about, and hits me right in the feels.
We Tried EVERYTHING First
We tried everything (prior to medication) that was recommended by the team of healthcare professionals in our life. Apollo was already diagnosed with severe ASD, was in early intervention, and outpatient therapy. We spent a bazillion dollars (or what felt like it!) on recommended therapy, recommended theraputic tools to calm his body down and aid in transitions: weighted compression vests, weighted blankets, chewies, swings, trampolines, iPad apps, visual schedules, necklaces, brushes, visual timers, verbal prompting, etc. We did all the things… and NOTHING seemed to work consistently for Apollo.
Apollo was frustrated and exhausted, and I would be lying if I said that Justin and I weren’t equally frustrated and exhausted, also.
Severe Behavioral Concerns
Apollo had a hard time transitioning between activities and people, and self-regulating – he still does.
I would say phrases such as “Apollo, in 3 minutes, you will take a bath” – and just saying that phrase would send him into a violent rage. He once broke a TV (by hitting it with a toy) because I told him he couldn’t hit his sister…
To say the everyday challenges we were facing were severe feels like an understatement; we were practically housebound because of it. At 2.5 years old, Apollo was over 40 lbs of pure muscle. He was strong, impulsive, fast, and he could be triggered with a snap of a finger. He would go from what felt like 0 to 1,000 in an instant. There were days when I lost count of the number of times he tried to hit me, his sister, or others. Most days it was well over 50 times; no exaggeration.
As a parent that strives everyday to do the best I can for my child, I felt like I was failing, I felt defeated and helpless. I felt like if there was a ‘Worst Mom EVER Award’ and someone would have handed it to me, in that moment, that I deserved it. And while I felt SO many things during those hard moments, what I felt the most was FEAR. I feared for my child, I feared for his future, and I feared for our family IF Apollo continued down the path he was on.
Why We Got Help
One particular violent meltdown happened in front of Apollo’s early interventionist. The meltdown was so severe that his Pediatrician nearly refused to see him that day (he was close to referring Apollo to the Emergency Room for sedation). I know this because the pediatrician told me as much.
I know taking a small child to the ER might seem excessive to many individuals that read this. To be honest, I probably would see it as excessive too, if I didn’t live the situation myself. However, I know that our Pediatrician wouldn’t ever recommend anything that wasn’t medically necessary, so PLEASE understand that this situation was serious, and unless you’ve experienced something comparative, you cannot imagine how it was in that moment. When I say that it took 2 strong, young adults to help calm Apollo down should show the level of severity, dysregulation, and violence that we were experiencing.
Luckily, the Pediatrician was able to see Apollo in a last-minute appointment that day. The early interventionist accompanied me to the appointment, because Justin was working out-of-town, and I think she sensed that I needed the emotional support at that time. I will always be grateful for her and everything she did for our family.
While we were waiting in the waiting area for his appointment, Apollo’s dysregulation and impulsiveness turned to violence and aggression toward another patient. He started beating on another child in the waiting room; completely unprovoked and without warning.
Up until this point, I somehow was holding myself together, but completely lost it once Apollo started beating on another patient… I ugly cried.
When we went back to the appointment, I continued to cry and told the doctor about everything that had been going on since our last appointment. I told him that I felt defeated, like a bad mom, and despite trying my best, I felt like I completely failed my child, failed to protect other children from my child.
I broke down and had verbal-diarrhea… I told the Pediatrician EVERYTHING… what I was feeling, how unaccepting others had been of Apollo’s diagnoses – and how those individual’s denial was negatively impacting Apollo’s overall health and well-being, and ultimately how much stress our family was under because of everything – I DID NOT HOLD ANYTHING BACK.
I proceeded to pull out my phone and showed the Pediatrician evidence of Apollo’s violent/aggressive behaviors, challenges during transitions – videos and photos that I had captured when I was able to do so safely. At this point, Apollo had broken multiple TVs, had left visible handprints on his sister, and had left more bruises on my body than I could count. Despite all the treatment Apollo already had, he was progressively getting worse, and was becoming more and more of a danger to himself and others.
As we sat in the doctors office that day, I remember weighing all the options that were presented to us: place Apollo on ADHD medication or anti-psychotics. I remember being told that Apollo’s behaviors had gotten so severe and out of control that he was at risk for hospitalization; not medicating was not an option anymore.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, and while I knew that Apollo’s behaviors were severe, it was tough to hear that our options were medication or hospitalization… no in between.
Medication Saved Apollo’s Life
We chose to try ADHD medication. The difference between Apollo being on a low-dosage ADHD medication, and him not being on anything is night and day. Apollo was completely nonverbal prior to ADHD medication. Once Apollo adjusted to the medication, he slowly began to try and repeat words, he became less frustrated, less impulsive, less aggressive, less violent, developed more control over his body, and ultimately created a MUCH better quality of life.
We soon realized that a significant piece of Apollo’s severe dysregulation was triggered by his severe ADHD being unmanaged. While Apollo still gets dysregulated, overstimulated, has tics, his meltdowns (for the most part) are a lot less severe, and less frequent than they were prior to medication.
Clearing the Air
Justin and I have been accused of medicating Apollo because we are “lazy parents”, or want a “zombie child”, and that is simply NOT true; all such accusations show is ignorance as far as we are concerned. Apollo was so hyperactive that he couldn’t function, and the medication has helped his functionality immensely. The medication has not slowed Apollo down at all, and anyone that has seen him personally can attest to that. Apollo’s still a spunky, energetic 4 year old boy, who now has a better quality of life.
Wrapping it Up
When it comes down to it, putting a child on medically necessary medication should not be something that parents are shamed for, or ashamed of – yet, it happens ALL THE TIME!
When I tell people that ADHD medication saved Apollo’s life, I know some think that I’m being over dramatic, or sarcastic, but I’m not. ADHD medication gave Apollo a better quality of life that he would have never had otherwise. And I’m sharing our experience with the hope that doing so will help raise awareness, and perhaps help other parents who are currently experiencing something similar.
Thank you so much for joining me!
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