Should We Medicate?

Updated on April 02, 2010
A.V. asks from Bothell, WA
29 answers

Hi Momma's!
<sigh> It is with a heavy heart that I ask this question. Our 5 1/2 year old son is hyperactive, has sensory issues and some delayed learning issues. We got him into a Special Education pre-school program and that has worked wonders! His speech has improved dramatically, but he still has sensory issues and fine motor skills problems. I have asked his Ped and his teachers and OT's if they thought he was ADD or ADHD, they have ALL said that IF he is, it's a minor / borderline case. My hubby and I have been resisitant to the very notion of medicating him. Up until now. His hyperness has not decreased, he literally bounces off the walls. He will "drum" things, and lately that has included his little brother (Which is why we are now considering medication). He runs around all the time, cannot sit still unless it's to play a computer game. I control his sugar intake, so I know it's not that. He's supposed to be starting full day Kindergarten in the fall, and his teachers say academically he is ready for standard Kindergarten (not Special Ed), but they still worry about his social issues. So, my question is....have any of you had this issue and were you successfull with a "lighter" kind of medication? just something to take the "edge" off? I DON'T want a stoned kid. And I don't want him taking anything that could be habit forming, not taken daily, just when needed. We would certainly be open to something of a more Naturapathic nature, too. We have tried all the behavior modifications we've read about in books like "Raising your Spirited Child" and "positive Discipline" and they have helped a little bit, but not to the point that we are no longer concerned about his safety or our other son's safety. Any advice would be greatly appreciated1 thanks, in advance, ladies!

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So What Happened?

Hi Everyone! Thank you so much! A majority of the responses were very positve, supportive AND informative! And just so everyone knows, we are NOT looking for an "easy way out". We do not want to medicate if it's not nescessary. We have been trying behavior modification and diet control. I feed as much organic foods as possible, low sugar, and what sugar he does get is not processed (most of the time). My issue with his diet is that he IS a picky eater, ugh! It's a trial to get him to even eat sometimes! But, a gluten/wheat allergy causing hyperactivity is a definate possibilty, since my hub's mom and sister are both allergic to gluten and have Celiac's disease. I've been asking his Ped to test him repeatedly, and now I'm going to push for it. I'm also going to proceed with getting a real diagnosis. And just go from there.
To address one poster, I did not ever say my son was "dumb" just becuase he's in Special Ed, I never thought he was dumb, nor do I think that of his classmates. they are all wonderful kids who just need a little extra help in certain areas. My son is actually quite bright! And I am also relieved to hear that kids that DO take ADD/ADHD meds do fine and are not "stoned". I have never seen a "stoned" child, I was just unaware of the effects the meds had on kids. Now I know. Thanks again everyone!!! ;-)

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answers from Provo on

I work on a special needs school bus and I do know that a lot of the children that have hyperactivity issues are not given red dye number 5 and no processed foods. You said that you were watching his diet so I hope that helps. The only other thing that I can suggest is going to the health food store and speaking to them.

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answers from Chicago on

Hi A.. It's really difficult to know what's going on with your child. You mentioned your son has sensory issues. It is very possible that your son is not in a fully regulated and modulated state, and your OT isn't doing enough. But it's also possible there is one of a hundred other things going on with your son -- and not, necessarily ADD/ADHD.

If you don't have a medical diagnosis for your son's behavior, you'll never know if the medications are working, just masking the issue, or are even needed. Teacher and therapists are absolutely not qualified to diagnose your child. And, in my experience, family Pediatricians aren't always the go-to expert for Sensory, ADD/ADHD and Spectrum issues.

Before you make a decision on medication, I recommend you make an appointment with a Pediatric Specialist (Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics) and have your son fully evaluated. This type of specialist will be able to determine the source of your son's issues. And, if it is ADHD, she can recommend the most effective course of action with meds. You'll be getting the very best expert to help you determine what to do. Be aware...these Specialists are very, very expensive and insurance sometimes does not cover the cost (I guess it depends upon the situation and insurance.) But there is nothing more valuable than you and your family's health.

My very best wishes to you and your little man!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I have 2 kids and a husband with ADHD and first I want to say, you need to get a diagnosis from either a pediatric psychiatrist or psycologist. Teachers and OT therapist are not qualified to make medical diagnosis. Second, ADHD medication does not "take the edge off", you cannot give him "a little something" for that reason. And, ADHD medication absolutely does not make someone with ADHD stoned. Studies show that people with ADHD who are not treated are more likely to become drug abusers than people who are treated with ADHD medication, this is probably linked to the self esteem issues and frustration experienced by those with untreated ADHD. ADHD is a neurological condition in which the neurons in the frontal lobe are not firing off properly, the medication corrects this problem and allows the child to become less impulsive and stay focused. There are many treatments for ADHD, medication is just one of the treatments.

Hyperactivity and behavior issues do not equal ADHD. Very specific criteria must be present before a specialist will diagnose a person as having ADHD. Once you get a diagnosis the practitioner will discuss treatment options with you which should include behavior therapy. Medication is not a fix all solution. Medication allows the child with ADHD to be more responsive to behavior modification it does not stop the behavior.

Most important if your child does have ADHD don't forget that these children are very special, creative, very intelligent kids who think outside the box and with appropriate intervention grow up to be the successful people in the world.

You might like to read Edward Hallowell's Driven to Distraction, or Answers to Distraction also by Edward Hallowell. a good ADHD website that someone on this forum recommended to me is
p.s. I noticed that one mom mentioned that insurance does not pay for ADHD evaluation by a neuropsycologist, some insurance plans do pay, my kids and my husband's evaluations and treatment are paid in full by our insurance so look into it and when you call your insurance for authorization you might want to say you want your son to see the specialist for issues related to attention and associated problems instead of saying an evaluation for ADHD.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

First of all, if you meet a kid on ADHD meds who is stoned, report their doctor. This is a complete failure of the system.

What ADHD meds do is counteract the fact that an ADHD person has lower levels of activity in their frontal lobes. It ramps the brain up to normal functioning levels. What you are seeing in a hyperactive child is them trying to compensate for low frontal lobe activity by moving to keep themselves awake and alert.

Medication isn't the answer for everyone, but I firmly believe you cannot actually assess that without having given the child a chance to try it and seen the results.

If the medication is right for him, he will not need to work so hard to stay alert, and he will appear more calm and normal to you.

If your child needed glasses, would you resist allowing him to try vision correction? It is the same problem. There are people who can work around their visual problem, just as there are ADHD people who can work around their disorder. But for the most part it is important to let them try the solutions most likely to help them and work with the doctor.

That said, also look into digestive problems that might be contributing factors such as food allergies.

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answers from Chicago on

First of all, I want to point out that, despite what a previous poster said, medicating your child is not "the easy way." It is a very difficult decision, and it may not "cure" every behavior associated with a disorder. We held off on medication for years, and it ended up being to the detriment of my son. He was originally diagnosed with ADHD almost a year ago (he's 6 now) and we tried everything, yes, everything, prior to medication. Nothing helped. There are some disorders and some kids that absolutely cannot function without medication. My son actually has bipolar disorder, and he's medicated. Without medication, he can't communicate b/c his brain is on overdrive ALL of the time. Without medication, he couldn't sit still long enough to do anything at school. He literally climbs walls. He's still struggling through a lot of emotions and behaviors that he can't control, but on his medication, he's a lot more stable and functional. He's been on 3 different medications in the last 9 months, and none of them have negatively impacted his personality; he's not a zombie at all. He is still quite energetic, but he's able to have a conversation, and he's never been able to do that before.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I know your pain! Been there, and it was not fun. My husband and I decided to put our oldest daughter on medication. I was very reluctant also because I did not want her to have the horrible side effects that I had heard about. We found that the key is finding the right one that works for your child. We tried Concerta, but I did not like how it made her act. I called the doctor and he changed her to Vyvance 20mg. That has helped tremendously! She takes it daily for school, but on weekends, spring break, and summer we decide day by day. Some days she needs it just because she is having a hard time, but then others she is just fine. I have heard that you should not skip days, but I know my child and if she does not need it one day then I'm not going to give it to her. I have told my doctor that I do this and he was fine with her only taking it when needed! I hope this helps, just remember not to give up and keep trying different meds until you find one that works for YOUR child.

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answers from Seattle on

I haven't read all the advice so sorry if I'm repeating...
You mention controlling his sugar intake but you don't mention anything else about his eating habits. A few years ago Jamie Oliver turned around school lunches in parts of the UK and they found that ADHD all but disappeared (along with most kids with asthma). He now has a show on about doing the same here in the US. Switching from processed, pre-made meals to whole foods full of fruits, veggies, and whole grains did more than they ever imagined for the kids. Hyperactivity disappeared and they found that the kids were rarely visiting the nurse office anymore for things like ADHD and asthma. There were also no mid-afternoon crashes. My advice would be to really work on what feeds his body before moving on to medication. You might find that it's all he needs. Good luck. :-)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

Before putting your child on medication, try some allergy tests. May be done by doctor, or try cutting out some items, one at a time for a few weeks. Try eliminating dairy products first, if that doesn't calm your child down, try cutting out wheat & gluten ( lots of rice products out there ) Or some children get real active on caffine. It's good that you have limited his sugar intake, I know kids are bouncing after Halloween and Easter - coming up! He also may be acting up a bit to get more attention - they do that when there is a younger sibling. I wish you the best.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hi A.,
I'm a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist and have seen herbal formulas make a huge difference in ADD/ADHD behaviors. In Chinese medical theory, excessive amounts of energy can be due to an imbalance which can often be restored. If you have any questions, feel free to email me and I'd love to discuss the possibilities for your son, as well as help you find an herbalist in your area, if it's something you want to try.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

Ok, first off, you need to get him tested for ADD/ADHD and it MUST be done by an experienced psychiatrist who will do thorough job of tests that should take at least an hour and a half. This will tell you if he does or does not have ADD/ADHD, and if so, how mild or strong it is. You should be given forms for the parents to fill out and forms for his teacher to fill out. They will compare the forms and tests and will come up with a diagnosis, if there is one. They may even send you to someone else if they suspect it's not ADD/ADHD and feel it may be something else.

If you do get a diagnosis, they will recommend varying treatment, depending on severity and what your particular child will need. Doses of meds always start low as a test period. Medication, if used correctly, can be helpful to "curb" a problem, but it's important for the child to learn to manage their problem, so counseling may be suggested now or later down the road after school starts, to basically teach your child skills to manage themselves at school.

Never allow a doctor or teacher or anyone just tell you that your child has ADD/ADHD or any other diagnosis without a thorough testing, and that cannot be done in a doctor's office for 10 minutes. Better to do it right and thoroughly, and if anything to rule out any possible problems so you can better narrow down what's happening.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
events and chat within 2 hour radius

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Your son sounds just like mine! Please email me..

My son is 4.5 and we have been trying to find people who understand what we are dealing with.

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answers from Seattle on

I know that not everyone is open to hearing it, but I wouldn't do any medicating until you have tried dietary interventions. I have personally seen the removal of gluten and casein have amazing results for kids with these and other issues. Other foods can be culprits as well. I believe that what we are eating is at the root of almost everything, and that is different for everyone depending on body chemistry. There are a ton of resources online and I would recommend talking to a naturopath who specializes in children's sensory issues and the spectrum disorders. Good luck to you!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Florence on

Well, its kinda hard to say without seeing how your child acts in daily routines. Some kids are extremely hiper but can control thier impulses, other children who are hyper may not be able to control them. Well lets put it this way, If you feel like smackin them all the time or you cant stand to be around them because they are so uncontrollably hyper then you may want to consider it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

There are two things that work which will not make him ill later in life. I want to remind you that Ritilin used extensively for hyperactive children made for heart conditions in people as young as 32 years old.
Have you tried Karate or Tai Kwan Do twice a week to focus his energy?
For medical intervention go to a very good homeopath. You can find one in your state and have the underlying health problem treated. He could be allergic which makes a child hyperactive or could have some other undiagnosed condition.
Acupuncture will help too.
I took my "wild" child to a Chiropractor on a regular basis and she did calm down.



answers from Chicago on


I did choose to medicate my son. He saw a nurologist/psychitrist. look up info about Dr Daniel Amen. He has clinics all over the country. He took ritilan. There are many different kinds of medication available. Getting help early is a good thing, so the social skills will develop properly.
Finding a good support group is helpful.


answers from Dallas on

Hi A.,
I don't have a child with this issue, but I am an early intervention specialist who used to work with children.
I agree with the other mom that you may not be getting what you need from your OT. There is a scrub brushing technique that can do wonders.
You may also want to use some supplements. Shaklee is the number one seller of natural supplements. They make a great fish oil chew for kids called Mighty Smart. The Gentle Sleep Complex (valarian) and the Energyzing Soy Protein may also help. You can read about these at
This website might also interest you: There are audios there you can listen to on various health issues.
Good luck and God bless.



answers from Anchorage on

I would if possible do a finger poke blood sugar test on him when he is that hyper. My guess is blood sugar is either high or low. Drumming on one's brother is inappropriate and highly so, but medicating just because of that seems wrong somehow. You should at all cost protect your younger child but the older child should have consequences..and even if he drums in his room..take away any "drumsticks" and make him wear mittens if he doesn't stop with his fingers. I know a kid on ADD medication that it does seem to help but I also know his parents didn't try very hard without it. One thing I know about ADD meds is that many change the metabolism. When I was on them in high school I lost 30lbs in two months. When the kid we babysit is on them he simply barely eats at all (He's all of seven). He will often simply sit..and stare at the tv as though in a trance..but his parents allow a tv in his room anyway. Yes he can concentrate better and behave better, but the kid is stuck in a box unable to stop doing the same things that sooth him. He rarely picks up a different toy but will only play with certain things and will often sit and do nothing if that particular toy is not available. There is one thing I can recommend and that's melatonin. It helps you sleep better. Give him either a drop of it under his tongue or a tablet an hour before bed. You can start with the supplement. You can also look into kelation therapy. That detoxifys the body and removes any mercury or other agents that might be there. I have a nephew that had most of his issues solved by this. I have been on the meds and my mom said they turned me into a zombie. I was on Cylert. (Which is something like Ritalin I believe. Most meds for that are meant to "slow you down" so you can "think clearly"..but make sure the child gets to be a child with imagination and things like that as I've seen several that basically forgot how to play because they learned to sit still too soon.



answers from Modesto on

I went thru this same situation, A.- We decided not to medicate, my sons are now 10/8- my pedi had stated loud and clear, ADHD/ADD/dyslexia possible/learning disability... I had IEP's/tutors/language docs all lined up ready for him. What we found after speaking to everyone involved, and his teachers, and watching him grow w/o medication.. was that they grew out of it. They learned to learn with this "problem" .. they had a teacher who loved on them and cared about thier situation and "wanted" to help them. Each child is different- his tutor said, "no way, he has a learning disability, I cannot help him" but we didnt' give up. We knew for sure, no steroid/drugs/medication was the answer FOR OUR CHILD- now, that was a decision based on medical resource, friends who had been there, and family who stuck together and refused to take the easy way. My boys are still hyper/active/fun/loving/attention getters/class clowns and are in the highest achievement levels in reading/math and have had high scores in the BenchMark exams... both have succeeded.
It all depends on how much you are willing to put in, and how much you are willing to help your child. You are the one that can make that decision- I made a good or great choice for my boys- I learned to love them through it, I learned to adjust my schedule and time JUST FOR THEM as a SINGLE mom and work with these children ... it just depends on what you want your child to be in 5/10 years...
Good luck, I am sure you will make the right decision for your child. He is yours, he can blossom with meds or w/o meds... it is all up to you - This is your CHILD!



answers from Portland on

I'm reading an interesting book right now that talks about neurological development that starts as babies. There is evidence that the types of behavior you're describing is due to neurological pathways developed as a baby. A common cause is TV watching at too young of an age (under 3) , which will disrupt sensory integration and attention span development, which are both developing at an almost incomprehensible rate at that age. Anyway, there are brain type exercises (therapy) that help build new neural pathways and integrate the different parts of the brain. I know there are therapists that specialize in this, but don't know exactly how to find them. There are books that will help, too. The book I have is for children 3 and under (Bright From the Start, by Jill Stamm), so you'd want to look for something for the older kids. If you browse Amazon, perhaps you'll find something. They are simple exercises, don't worry! Little games, etc.

And, this sounds strange, but you may want to try music lessons. Playing instruments is VERY good for integrating different parts of the brain. I hear drumming is amazing. Drummers do these complicated warm ups to get ready to play, because they have to be able to do different rhythms and actions with the different hands, while paying attention to what else is going on. There are community music centers for this.

Another thing you may want to look at is how he is sleeping. If he is not getting deep sleep for long enough periods, it will also cause this behavior. I have a friend who had her sons adenoids and tonsils removed, because they were too large for him to get restful sleep. She said it made a profound difference. She knew he was a bit of a light sleeper at night, but she thought since he was a heavy napper, it made up for it. But those are just signs of never really getting the right sleep. Children manifest poor sleep differently than adults, but as mamas we know how bad it feels to be chronically sleep deprived!



answers from Tulsa on

I had both my sons on meds for ADHD. I would start out with the lightest, smallest..... and go from there. Of course you don't want to overmedicate, but you do want him to be able to do his best.



answers from Portland on

Only a doctor can diagnose your child. School is not legally allowed to do that. They can point it out that your child is behaving a certain way and may be need of some help and help your doctor with their diagnosis, but they can not tell you what your child has, or if they need medication (they can't even mention medicating to you legally) First off, just because a child is in special ed does not mean they are dumb. There are lots of reason's for being in special ed, and being dumb is not the reason. If medicine changes your child's behavior it is not the right medicine. Medicating only helps, does not make adhd go away. It takes working on behaviors that you want to change routinely. Positive reinforcement works the best. If you think your son has adhd, make an appointment with your ped, ask for a referrral to a psychatrist, and get him evaluated. If he is diagnosed with adhd, he should be evaluated at school, yes special ed services. The more help your child gets, the better they will be. Some people with adhd: Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Oprah, and all sorts of smart people.



answers from Portland on

I understand you not wanting to medicate your son. Luckily there is a wonderful naturopath in Sellwood that specializes in treating children with autism & sensory delay disorders without meds. It's well worth the visit, this is her specialty. Dr. Leah Ann Chapman, ###-###-####,
I would also consider some alternative schools that will be able to keep up with an active child such as the free school in portland and other "unschooling" options who may provide options that may be a better fit. The "normal" public school system does not work great for children that are ADD or have other special circumstances. Good luck with everything.



answers from Bellingham on

I haven't yet had to medicate my children, but it sounds like you are going the right route, having tried so many things before coming to it. Sometimes it is necessary. I would suggest seeing a Naturopath beforehand - often they can suggest one or two other things to rule out.



answers from Seattle on

Hi A., You said that your son sits still for computer games. You might try no computer games for a week and see if that makes it easier for him to self-regulate his behavior. I feel that sometimes the extra simulation from that interface can result in an imbalance where kids try to achieve the same amount of stimulation outside of the game. Regarding the drumming, a substitute behavior or approved item for drumming might be an option. IAs drumming will not go over at school a substitute behavior might be the better option.



answers from Seattle on

The behaviors you're describing are very similar to how my son would behave a few years ago. We too would ask his teachers, do you think he has ADD or ADHD? You have to remember that this is a touchy subject with most school districts and that teachers aren't really qualified to answer those questions. We were in a tough situation. He was no longer able to keep up with his peers in elementary school and was getting in trouble often. He was also a danger to himself and to his siblings with his impulsive behavior. We finally found a therapist that worked with children who have ADD/ADHD. He helped us locate a Doctor that also specializes in ADD/ADHD. We attended a 3 hr. seminar at the doctors office that actually explained the condition in depth to us. We have now had our son on Vyvanse for 2 yrs. The change has been absolutely remarkable! It saddens me to have to put my son on medication but the doctor has explained that at the age of 9, he just doesn't have the maturity or ability to control his impulsivity or stop himself when he begins to act out. At such a young age, it truly is beyond their control. My son has really improved in school and is making great strides, his behavior has totally improved and I don't worry so much about him running into the street or being a danger to himself or others. With medication, we may have to make changes over the yrs. with particular medications as his body grows and changes. Unfortunatly, it will be a long tough road because this is something he will always live with but I hope as he grows older and away from medication, that we are able to teach him to pay attention to signs so he can modify his own behaviors and catch himself when his mind wanders. remember not to blame yourself for any of this! It is a very difficult decision to medicate a child and I admit that I sometimes feel guilty about it myself. On the other hand, as I watch my son grow and see how medication has helped him improve his life, it helps me keep things in perspective. I hope that helps. My biggest advice would be to find a very good doctor that specializes in ADD/ADHD to help you come to an educated decision.



answers from Seattle on

I have not read all the responses, but I am sure there are some very good ones. And I am sure someone probably mentioned this too, but try going with a good diet. I know that some mild ADD and ADHD can respond very well to eating the right foods on a daily basis and would be much better than drugs. Find a good holistic doctor that believes using food in the daily diet to treat ailments and do some research on the internet. good luck.



answers from Detroit on

my friend went through a similar thing with her son.. she was adament to not drug her kid.. but something had to be done.. and so she took him to a child psychologist and they prescribed a medication.. and it helped him so much.. he was so much better and happier.

Now your case is different.. but I think you should try the medication.. it is only a trial.. if you dont like it you can stop.. if it doesnt work you can stop it is not like a road that once you start you cant go back..

I think most of the ADD meds are taken daily at least on school days.. but if you are having problems at home then he might need it at home too.. you might also see a child psychologist to work on more behavior issues too.



answers from Corvallis on

I didnt read the responses but read your WHAT HAPPENED .
I think its great that you are going to push for a diagnosis, there are numerous things that can cause these issues. When I read that your child has sensory issues it made me think of my niece who is autistic. I am not saying yor child is, just that its another route to look into, its a huge spectrum from my understanding. Also Asburgers falls into this area and I know of someone whose boy was also very hyper and had sensory issues. All these really mean is that the brain is programmed differently and the person does things in a different way. If it is ADD or possibly ADHD, meds are ok. Though you really should know about the meds and watch how your child reponds to them. Some people do worse on the meds, or they dont effect them at all. I think doing the diet route is a great idea! I wish you the best and hope you get to the root of his problem!



answers from Los Angeles on

I feel your pain. My 7yr old son was just recently diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, which is often mis-diagnosed at ADD/ADHD. Please look also into food sensitivities. Granted, we are still in the discovery stage but what we have learned is that wheat and sugar are major problems for him. He also gets very hyper when he is in need of a protein snack. Once he has that correct food it is like having a different kid. Foods can also make his sensory issues worse; less tolerant to noise, textures, movement around him. Even to the point where his balance is off and his strength to stand is taken away. We are still trying to find out what all his issues are. But because of SPD he has learning issues, lack of social skills, agression/frustration, and so many more to name. We are seeing a counselor to help him verbalize what he is feeling as well as teach him how to act correctly. Things are improving dramatically for us right now. He is a happy boy who is a joy to be around again. :)

Bottom line, it really could all be related to sensory and diet. Why not check it out before medication?

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