Searching online for ’Should I medicate my child?’ yields about 1,880,000 results. If you are like me, you skim the headlines and maybe click on a few, trying to discern what is ‘real’. We want to hear from someone we can relate to, who has similar values. Maybe someone who understands our individual children and has considered all there is to consider when making this parenting decision. And then we hope for an answer. Yes, no, or not now.
We know this is not really possible. We know that we will need to make this decision as a family and that no one else knows our child as we do. We want to be informed without being overwhelmed and we want information from a trustworthy source.
For many of us, medication is not an option but a necessity. For others, it is recommended or encouraged at some point in our journey. We may discuss it during a doctor’s appointment, therapy session, school meeting, or playground conversation with a caring friend offering advice.
Consider all the options
We’ve learned by now that a diagnosis of a developmental disability is only one piece of a complicated puzzle. We know that a diagnosis of X does not mean treatment of Y. Of course there are certain treatment methods that work well with individuals who have a certain diagnosis, but as parents, we consider all of the available options and we decide what works best for our developing child in the context of his or her life at home, school and in the community. There are usually many overlapping challenges that come along with a developmental disability and we need to consider them all. We do not take these decisions lightly and many of us have faced judgment of some sort as a result of a decision we deemed to be the right one for our family at a given time.
If you came to this blog because you’re considering medicine, welcome. I’m not here to give you an answer; instead, I will leave you with some questions to ask yourself. Ask your partner these questions, too. And most importantly, if possible, ask your child. Have the conversation. You might disagree at times and that’s ok. Disagreement creates more room for learning and growth.
Questions to ask yourself when you are considering a new treatment method such as medicine:
1. What for?
What is it that you hope gets better or easier as a result of this addition to treatment?
2. Why now?
We are constantly evolving and changing, whether it’s development, family dynamics or outside demands. Thinking about all of these aspects helps us to answer some of our own questions.
3. Why not?
If you’re hesitating, dig deeper and reflect on why. Maybe it’s avoidance of stigma,
judgment, or the knowledge of others’ experiences with themselves or their own children. These are all very real things. Don’t shrug them off. You know your child best. Your opinion or ‘gut feeling’ is based on all of what you know of your child. That has a place in this decision.
So consider your answers to the above questions and talk with your health professionals to find out more about your options. Many medications leave your child’s system in a short amount of time. Starting a trial is an option that might be easier to commit to and also provides you with information about how it might work for your child. As a psychologist once said to me, if this is the way you’ve always seen and experienced the world, how would you know it could be different and what that would look or feel like?
Finally, I implore you: don’t judge. Don’t judge others, and don’t judge yourself. You’re already asking the questions. You’re making a responsible decision, whatever that may be. So consult professionals and connect with parents, try a few pieces in your complex puzzle, see what fits best, and keep moving forward.
Looking for a health care professional, mental health services, or support groups? Check out Exceptional Lives’ carefully curated and vetted Resource Directory for resources in your community.
As with all Exceptional Lives resources, this blog does not constitute medical advice.