How Ritalin Saved My Child

One parent's story of making the difficult but necessary decision to medicate her child with ADHD.


Filed Under: ADHD Medication and Children, Diagnosing Children with ADHD, Ritalin,
Zachary now does his homework without banking on the walls. ADDitude Magazine

I thought my son was fine, just the way he was. But if he was going to make it through school, something needed to change.

Karen Shoemaker, mother of a child with ADHD

Recent headlines say it all about the popular view of attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD): "Ritalin: A cure for brattiness?" and "Johnny Get Your Pills."

ADHD is simply a figment of our national imagination. These kids are just unruly and their parents so career-oriented that they'd rather see their children pop pills than spend time with them. Or parents want to give their children an edge and are willing to give them drugs to get higher scores on their spelling tests. It all seems to boil down to: ADHD is some sort of bogus malady, and the only thing wrong with these obnoxious children is their parents.

I'm one of those people who hate the idea of giving children drugs - for any reason. I don't even like antibiotics; my pediatrician practices homeopathy. And now I am one of those parents who gives medication to her child. How did I arrive at this door? Kicking and screaming.

From wild to mild - and back

I knew my son, Zachary, was extraordinary early on. There was the time he stood up in his high chair and flexed his muscles like an iron man. He was five months old. My partner, Lisa, and I filmed him, he looked so strange.

At 10 months, he walked across my grandmother's kitchen floor. After those first tentative steps, he ran everywhere. I bought him a toy motorcycle and trotted after him as he zoomed down our street, Fred Flintstone-style, a hundred times a day. He wore out shoes in weeks, dragging the toes on the pavement to stop himself.

Inside the house, despite massive childproofing efforts, he got into everything. Once he poured a gallon of olive oil onto the kitchen floor while I was washing dishes not more than three feet away. In what seemed like split seconds, he climbed the bookshelves, knocked lamps over, poured bleach on the carpet.

Then there was that other side to him - a soft, pensive side. Once, during nap time, I stepped outside to water the plants. I looked through the window. He was lying in his crib, playing with his feet, looking around. He stayed like this for a long time, musing, content.

When he was older, a walk down the block to the playground would take over an hour. Zachary looked at everything. He'd lie belly-down on the gray sidewalk to get a better look at a line of ants. I loved walking with him because he slowed me down, made me notice the squirrels' teeth marks on the acorns. The paradox, between his wild and pensive sides, was what kept me from believing my son had ADHD years later.

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