Monday, November 14, 2011

Medication: Our Choice Is Not Now

This month B-O-B topic at S-O-S Research surrounds the use of medications.  If you click over there, you will find links to posts about:

  • if families have used them with their children
  • if they have considered using them
  • if medicines have helped
  • if medications have been recommended but avoided and why
  • if families have had difficult times finding pediatric psychiatrists to monitor their children

as well as a host of other ideas and opinions about the topics.

Here, you will hear one resounding, unified cry:

Medicine?  Not Now

For, while my husband and I understand that medicine is helpful, and sometimes necessary, for children in other families, in our own family we try to avoid medicating our children whenever possible on a day-to-day basis and hope to continue that trend despite our son’s diagnosis.  Instead, we are opting to try every “alternative” route to management and improvement of our son’s symptoms before considering daily meds.

Now, before I explain some of the routes we have taken (or plan to), let me be the first to admit that we resort to a pill or potion now again.  

When our children have needed antibiotics, we have administered them.  Plus, after surgeries (two of out three children have had surgeries), and, occasionally, if we cannot break a fever any other way, we use Tylenol or Motrin.  But, that’s about it so far. 

Medicine is always a last resort for us, one that we find can add to aggravations even while helping conditions.  Two cases in point:  the first time our eldest son took antibiotics, on Day 8 or 9, he broke out into horrible, frightening hives.  An allergy.  Then, last spring, when he had to take two rounds of meds to get rid of pneumonia, his behavior was off-the-wall.  Call me crazy, but I noticed that as soon as the meds – and their lovely dyes – were out of his system, his behavior improved. 

Our Choice Not to Medicate

In general, we accept that we need to administer speficifc medications for specific, short-term illnesses or injury.  When we do, we take the good with the bad, hoping the balance tips towards the former.  As far as daily medications for my son’s diagnosis ADHD/SPD go, we are avoiding them as we are not convinced that the good of improvement now will outweigh the side effects that may occur now or later. 

So, what do we do instead:

Diet:  For the most part, we have avoided dyes, additives, preservatives and other unnatural components in food since our children were born and have given them (almost) daily mulit-vitmains).  However, we have also caved to convenience or cravings a bit more often than we have meant to. Plus, we realized that eliminating certain foods (those containing casein and gluten, for example) and adding specific supplements (such as omega-3’s and, perhaps, magnesium), may help not only our son, but also all the members of our family.  So, we have already eliminated casein and are experimenting with GF recipes to see which our children favor before taking the complete GF leap.  We also are going to begin adding extra Omega-3’s soon.   

We hope to see marked improvement in general health and behaviors through these choices.  Already, we have noticed that when casein was eliminated, our son’s ability to focus, especially through offering and maintaining eye contact with others, improved.  A coincidence?  Perhaps, but we are happy with the result.

Therapy:  Currently, my son sees  a Feeding Specialist, an Occupatonal Therapist, a Behavior Modification Specialist and a Behavior Monitor nearly weekly.  We had great success with the Feeding Specialist and are weaning appointments with her down to once a month soon.  The OT is also noting improvements in our son, and we have discussed the likelihood that our son will stop seeing her in the near future, with another round of OT later if need be.  (We had seen a different OT earlier, stopped for some months, and started with this one this past summer).  Behavior Modification has not proved as helpful as we thought it would yet, but is something we value – a work in progress with some great folks on our team. 

Hippotherapy and Counseling are both on our "to be considered" therapy table, too.

Exercise:  Any family dealing with SPD knows that heavy work can be the great equalizer – calming and alerting as needed when participated in with care and consistency.  We find that on days where we include lots of exercise and activity, our son’s ADHD symptoms improve, too.  (I also have always noted that when I let my former classroom and tutoring students with ADHD move about to do their lessons, learning increases and undesirable behaviors decrease.  So, exercise is huge for us.

Outdoor Time:  Another thing we find greatly decreases our son’s less-desirable behaviors while increasing my husband and my outlook and ability to remain patient is outdoor time.  There is something so therapeutic about getting outside.  And, if our outdoor time involves specific sensory-specific activities, even better.  So, a daily dose of hopefully-rigorous time outside is another medicine alternative for us.

Homeschooling:  Just as medicine is an option that many families consider, which takes thought, monitoring and regular re-evaluation, homeschooling is an option for us.  Early on, when noting our sons’ profile, my husband mentioned that he did not think our son would do well in the types of schools (public, private and charter) that I have taught in.  When we discussed things further, we felt our son’s personality might be a good match for a Montessori school because of the focus these schools place on following the child, using of manipulatives to learn, beginning with sensorial and practical life activities and including natural movement opportunities, etc.  

Unfortunately, local Montessori schools were too costly.  So, we decided to homeschool.  While we are hardly Montessori-purists in our homeschooling methods, we do adhere to some Montessori principles, a big one being “follow the child”.  Through capitalizing on our son’s interests and attending to his need to move, be outside, take regular breaks, see therapists as needed, etc., we not only find that he is learning much better than we feel he would be in local traditional school settings, but we also believe that we are giving him the “medicine” he needs to thrive at his age and stage.  Does it work every day, every moment to the greatest degree possible?  No way!  (But would medicine?)  Is it something we will always do?  Probably, but just as families using medicine to treat their children do, we will evaluate its effectiveness for our son and for out family as a whole on a regular basis

Choices over Chemicals

We realize every child is unique and each family’s situation and tolerance levels are different.  Thus, we do not think “our way” is better than anyone else’s.  It is just what is working for us right now.  

Our current prescription of large doses of getting exercise, being outside, homeschooling and eating as whole and healthy as we can, supplemented by as-needed quantities of formal therapy works for us right now with few side effects.  Should we get to a point where we feel that conventional treatment – a.k.a- chemical medicine – will work “better”, we may consider it.  

For now, our choice is to embrace a life of conscious choices over chemical treatments.


sazzifrazz said...

My son also have SPD and we found it very helpful to avoid gluten. unfortunately he is a super picky eater so we slowly fell back to our old gluten eating. Thanks for the reminder to give it another try!

D. S. Walker said...

It sounds like you carefully weigh your options and that is always a good thing. Diet changes did not have a big impact for my daughter, but I do try to buy organic and fresh fruits and vegetables. I think our society in general consumes too much processed food.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you on your choices to NOT go the medication route. There are too many ADHD cases and I, truly, believe it is from all the 'crap' they put in foods. Your choices to avoid dyes etc. is beautiful. Keep up the great work. You are truly a blessing to your children.

Yuji said...

Hi Martianne,
We've been practicing many of the treatments you advocate including diet, therapy, and exercise. So, for us, it was a difficult choice to try going the medication route, which we decided on after getting encouragement from professionals. But, the early results show fewer benefits than we had seen when we first started the diet and other alternative treatments.

Trish said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am really at a crossroads with the diet. We are currently trying to see if using digestive enzymes will allow my son to eat a broader array of foods without losing any ground. We have seen a bit of hyperactivity, but he needs to be more active anyway so I am working to direct that into appropriate areas. Such a tightrope we walk all the time!


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