So we've been dosing our son with drugs. All for his own good, of course! Alan has mild ADHD. It's not crippling, but it's definitely an issue. It's hard for him to concentrate. When he's having a bad day, he can't stop moving, wiggling, talking -- and he won't meet your eyes, which drives his mother crazy. We've tried various things. Routine, routine, structure. That helped some. Dietary supplements -- fish oil, for the fatty acids. That helped a bit. Avoiding certain triggers. (7-Up soda. Makes him totally manic. No idea why.) But there are limits to what you can do, and more limits to what you can do in Armenia. There are some wonderful new physical therapies out there for ADHD kids. Not available here. (Hell, Armenian doctors aren't really aware that ADHD, like, exists.)
So, drugs. First we tried Ritalin. That actually worked pretty well. It calmed him down, helped him focus. We were a little freaked at first -- we're drugging our child! -- but that passed. Because he was happy. Ritalin wasn't perfect. It seemed to depress his appetite. Alan eats like a bird to begin with, so that wasn't good. And while unmedicated Alan -- aka "Squirrel Boy" -- could be pretty high maintenance, still, we weren't entirely comfortable with putting him on a daily dose for the rest of his life. Ritalin had one other big drawback: you can't get it in Armenia. Armenian medicine tracks Russian medicine. Russian medicine knows nothing of this ADHD nonsense, but it does know that you can take Ritalin to get high (if you eat it like popcorn), so it's simply not available here. So, Step Two: Strattera. Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD medication. Not controlled like Ritalin, so you can buy several months supply at once. Helpful! We switched from Ritalin to Stratera in January. That seemed to work okay, too. But over several weeks, we decided that Strattera wasn't as good as Ritalin. He was a bit more focussed, but he was still Squirrel Boy a lot of the time. And Strattera has problems too: it's expensive, it's relatively new (meaning no long term studies yet for side effects) and you have to give it consistently every day. So, we could have gone back to Ritalin. But by this time we were getting a bit blase about this whole drugging-our-kid thing. (It is amazing how fast that can happen.) So, we decided to try Ritalin AND Strattera. In our defense, we asked the doctor who scripped us the Strattera, and he said it would be okay. Still... one kid. Two drugs. Was this really a good idea? Well. Ritalin plus Strattera? It works. It works really well. Alan got very focused. He could color an entire page, inside the lines, by himself. (Unheard of. He has never done that before.) He dressed himself from scratch -- went to the dresser, got the clothes out, took off his pajamas, got dressed. A whole sequence of scripted actions which, as a just-turned-five year old with ADHD, had been as far beyond him as calculus. He even did all the buttons on his shirt -- which, since it requires both small motor coordination and patience, was something he'd never quite managed before. At school he finished all his tasks in the alloted time. When he came home, he went into his room and played quietly, building something. He didn't even make a mess, much. All day long, he didn't spill anything, break anything, trip over anything, fall off of anything, or run into any walls. He was like a different kid. But. This different kid... was really a different kid. Like, not Alan. He was serious. He hardly smiled. (Understand that Alan is a boy who laughs and smiles constantly.) He seemed to have something tied in knots inside him -- stiff, a little angry. He frowned a lot. When balked, he didn't cry much -- also unusual -- but he got very frustrated and a little aggressive. At one point he snarled at us, which is so not-Alan I'm still a bit creeped just remembering it. We talked to his teacher in the evening. She said that he'd done all his work perfectly. But she (and all the other teachers) had noticed a difference. He was competent, very competent, but morose. Focussed, but unhappy. On the playground, where he normally skips and bounces (and falls), he was obviously not enjoying himself. It was chilling, she said, to see him like that. She used that word: chilling. So. We'll probably go back to the Ritalin. But, boy, we'll be more careful now. This was educational. And a little... no, more than a little disturbing. We gave our kid a completely new personality, even if only for a few days. Hello, brave new century. What's next? Meanwhile: tonight he was off of everything. And he was totally manic. Talking constantly. Bouncing off the walls. Some sort of rebound effect, it looked like. In bed he was twisting himself into odd positions -- feet up the walls? Hm, now let's try sideways -- until he finally, poof, fell all at once asleep. And he was smiling. And laughing. Squirrel Boy was back. And welcome.