As a parent who has one child with anxiety and another with ADHD, I watched Tuesday night’s episode of A Current Affair with interest. My concern with the show was that it didn’t present both sides of the story, to medicate or not to medicate. I have been down both paths – one child was medicated and the other wasn’t – every child is different and every child will respond differently to medication. Parents should be supported to understand all the different treatment methods available and be given options to try. Once they find the treatment that works for them they should be supported because all any parent wants is the best for their child. We shouldn’t be shaming anyone for the educated choices they make for their child.
At the age of five years old, my son suffered a traumatic event. It started a period of severe separation anxiety and the onset of panic attacks. After seeing a psychologist weekly for nine months, she admitted to making no progress. She felt he was too traumatised to even start healing. She consulted with a children’s psychiatrist and the decision as made to put him on an SSRI anti-depressant, Citalopram. Initially, I baulked at giving a five-year-old an anti-depressant and my husband was adamant that we don’t go down that path. I sat with the medication in my cupboard for about three weeks, wrestling with what to do. Eventually, my mother said to me, “if he had any other medical issue, would you give him the medication?”, “of course,” I said. So that day I started giving him the tablets.
He didn’t have any noticeable side effects which was a relief and most importantly his panic attacks lessened in frequency and duration. Because his body was now able to cope, his psychologist worked with him every week for two more years and within those two years, he was no longer taking any medication. He was taught coping mechanisms which he still uses today as a strapping 25-year-old!
My daughter was diagnosed with combined ADHD at the age of 11. She was prescribed Ritalin which she started taking immediately. She was taking the short release tablets so had to have half a tablet at 7am, another half at 11am and then one at 3pm. Immediately her concentration and focus improved but her sleep and appetite were affected. We dropped the 3pm tablet so she could at least eat a good dinner and sleep at night. She only took the medication on school days however as she entered puberty we started to notice she was becoming zombie-like. Teenage girls sometimes have too many emotions but she was showing few, if any. As she was old enough to articulate herself, she said she struggled to feel anything.
With both my children we overhauled their diets, with my daughter being gluten and dairy-free, and we incorporated exercise into their lives. I had done some research and had discovered neurofeedback as an alternative treatment for ADHD. Neurofeedback is considered by the American Association of Pediatrics as a Level One treatment for ADHD and focuses on training the brainwaves to run in balance. I found a therapist and she began weekly neurofeedback sessions. Within five sessions she no longer took her Ritalin. She was focused and managed to finish high school and go on and complete a Bachelor’s degree at university.
I now offer neurofeedback myself to other families as I saw the awesome results we had with my daughter. It also helps with anxiety as we can attest to when my son’s panic attacks started again as an adult, he has managed them with neurofeedback. With my clients, I see different responses, as some children stay on medication and others move away from it. Every brain is different!
I would like to add that my son as an adult now takes a low dose anti-anxiety medication as he still suffers from PTSD however he is not crippled by his anxiety anymore. My daughter started taking Straterra this year as her anxiety was starting to impact her life. The psychiatrist she saw recommended a non-stimulant and it has definitely helped her. She was also diagnosed with PTSD.
I reiterate that every brain is different and everyone’s environment is different. Do what you need to do in order to bring about the best results for your children.