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The Nightmare of “Back to Baseline”

The mad, mad world of medicating—and un-medicating—a child diagnosed with ADHD and ODD.

medication changes adhd child

In November we had our six-month checkup with our son’s behavior specialist. We drove all the way back to Virginia (a seven-hour drive) just to maintain the rapport and relationship with her because we trust her. When you are parenting children with behavior disorders, having a doctor you trust with your child, your family, and your situation is priceless. However, this time she said the words that will stop any parent who medicates her child in her tracks: “We need to take him back to baseline.”

Dear God, no!

For those who may not know, “baseline” is the process of weaning a child from any medication he may be taking. This is usually suggested before a major med change or to reassess how your child is doing if he has been on a regimen of medication for some time.

[Free Download: A Parent’s Guide to ADHD Medication]

Our boy has been taking the same prescriptions for his ADHD and ODD for nearly a year while receiving occupational therapy to address his sensory needs. Since moving to a new home, we haven’t done OT, and his anger has progressively gotten worse. The doctors attempted to change his meds after his November appointment only to be met by more hostility. Let me paint you a picture of what this looks like. In a matter of three days, the following took place in our home:

  1. He spit on us.
  2. He threw our $350 space heater to the ground multiple times.
  3. He punched our one-year-old daughter in the back.
  4. He threw books and and toys.
  5. He laid on the floor of the school gym making angry snow angels.
  6. He smacked his friend in the back because he was “copying him.”
  7. He screamed, cried, and threw himself to the ground as I left for work each day.
  8. He threw food at me.
  9. He called my husband a jerk, a bully, an idiot, the worst daddy ever.
  10. He told my husband he wanted him to leave our family, followed by telling him he would “make him die.”
  11. He threw rocks at our car.
  12. He tried to run away down our driveway.
  13. He threw a toy so hard at the wall I sincerely have no idea how there isn’t a gigantic hole in it.
  14. He told my parents he hated them.
  15. He threw a fit in my parents’ living room floor that continued out onto their patio and back inside again.

These are the things I can remember off the top of my head. I haven’t slept in days. I tell you all of this because it is important that people understand what our daily lives look like behind closed doors. This is our real life.

Parents, unite. Be strong. Do what you need to do to make it through, but remember why our kids choose us to fall apart on. They do their best (even when it doesn’t seem like it) to keep it together all day long through classroom parties, homework time, and after- school programs, so when they make it home to you, they are exhausted! They choose us to “lose it on” because we are their safe place. They know they can “fit out” on us and we will still love them.

[Self-Test: Does Your Child Have Oppositional Defiant Disorder?]

My husband and I make a point to tell our son, in the post-meltdown calm, that we still love him no matter what, that there is nothing he could say or do that would make us love him any less. I tell him every morning and every night that I am so proud God chose me to be his mama.

Our kids are confronted with their weaknesses daily, but we need to remind them of their strengths. We need to comfort them, love them through their most ugly times, and show them that we are still their biggest fans…even when they aren’t on any medication and their “baseline” is a shade above Sissy Spacek in Carrie.

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