There are two very distinct mind sets when it comes to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), its causes, and its treatments. Traditional thinking is that ADHD is a neurological condition caused by faulty wiring in the brain and that the first, and often only, course of treatment must be stimulant medication. Modern thinking is that ADHD falls on the autism spectrum and is a result of underlying physical factors that are manifesting themselves as ADHD behaviors. The debate over which is accurate seems to rival countless other “hot button” issues facing our society today.
I personally do not believe in symptomatic therapy. I believe in treating root causes. The body has an amazing capacity to heal itself if given the building blocks to do so. I resisted traditional ADHD medication for my child for reasons too numerous to mention. I wholly and completely understand why parents choose this route. I myself have been faced with that decision too many times over the years, however, psychotropic medications were never going to be a viable treatment option in our household. I’ve been bashed plenty for my opinions and my choices because they don’t fall within the conventional thinking … and I’m OK with that.
Having said that, I knew what my boy looked like to the outside world, that is, your typical ADHD child. He was energetic and impulsive, traits associated with most children at one time or another but apparently something to be “fixed” in my son. I knew he would be labeled ADHD before he was formally tested, though the testing was an absolute joke. It was completely subjective and not based on any real science; twenty years of personal research on the topic of ADHD taught me that much. I knew we would walk out of the psychologist's office with some acronym slapped on him. I knew we would be harassed by school administrators to medicate, though I never thought I’d have to threaten legal action to make it stop but it finally did the trick. I knew I'd have a script in my hand in the blink of an eye; it was actually waiting for us at the front desk when we checked in for our first consult, before we even discussed any evaluation with our family doctor.
I also knew that possible underlying physical factors had to be investigated to see if they were impacting our son and his behavior, but my observations and concerns were completely dismissed by the numerous "experts" I consulted. It didn't matter that I was college educated, had a successful career, was articulate and intelligent, and just trying to do what was right for my child. No one would dialogue with me, choosing rather to talk down to me as if I were a child myself. They said I was just a mom, not a trained professional. They obviously knew better. Here's a pat on the head, a "poor, misguided soul" look, now be on your way. That was my experience with every doctor I met.
Now, I do believe that most doctors are well meaning human beings but it became increasingly apparent to me that they were on autopilot when it came to the topic of ADHD. This is what it is, this is how you treat it, end of story, plain and simple. Only there was nothing plain and simple about it. This was my son they were talking about. I was not going to give in that easily.
The situation with school officials was no better. Teachers refused to implement procedures that would be beneficial and help him succeed in the classroom without a formalized IEP (individualized education plan) in place; the process alone can take years and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees and may still not come to fruition. Principals called me weekly, insisting we start treating (a.k.a. medicating) him, while social workers would email me with "doom and gloom" statistics about the bleak futures that non-medicated ADHD individuals would certainly face in their lifetime. School counselors felt compelled to remind me that education was important and that I shouldn’t fool myself into believing that my boy would get by on good looks, athletic ability, and charm alone. Really? Wow. I ought to crawl out from under my rock every once in awhile so I can see how the real world operates. Specialists that had evaluated him were just that, specialized, meaning they were too narrow in their scope and unable to see the bigger picture. Psychologists assessed that he was a well adjusted young boy with high levels of intelligence, and they lectured on endlessly at each therapy session about the impact of his high levels of energy (ironically, he was able to sit quietly during each session while Ms. Fancy Pants psychologist droned on and on without offering any practical advice or real solutions).
Though I was met with resistance and condescending attitudes at every turn, I persevered. Thank goodness I had the resources to devote to my cause: time, money, and knowledge, coupled with good old fashioned common sense and critical thinking skills.
I've never been much of a rebel, in fact, I was the good girl growing up. The one who sat quietly in the corner, paid attention, followed the rules, never caused any trouble, excelled in school, and did her chores without being told.
I didn't rebel against mainstream medicine for the sake of rebelling. I wasn't in denial about my son's diagnosis, as doctors kept insisting. I wasn't a bad mom because I refused to medicate, as teachers and administrators kept telling me. Interesting how everyone involved knew so much about me without actually knowing me. Turns out they didn't know squat.
When I scrutinized my son’s behavior, it was obvious that there was something else going on underneath the surface. I realized I needed to find a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctor and have my son treated using a biomedical approach. The biomedical concept means that these disorders are not primary psychiatric or behavioral disorders. They are medical diseases with a biologic basis as to their cause and to their ongoing manifestations. FINALLY! Someone who spoke my language! It was alternative thinking, that's for sure, which made it very easy for many to dismiss. For me, it made absolutely perfect sense. Keep in mind, it takes at least 40 years for a paradigm shift in the medical field before alternative concepts, treatments, and terminology become mainstream. Remember when ADHD was called "minimal brain dysfunction"? I certainly do. We've come far but there's still a long way to go.
Many have told me that they’ve tried the biomedical approach on their own and it didn’t work. I would not try a biomedical approach on my own any sooner than I would attempt to perform surgery on myself. There are many moms out there who have been successful at it but it's apparent from the emails I get that many are looking for the instant fix. It doesn't work that way. There are plenty of variables to take into consideration. There’s trial and error involved, and what works for one may not work for another. Furthermore, it has to be tailored to each individual, based on each individual's unique biochemistry. There is no one-size-fits-all. Medicating moms have told me the very same thing as it pertains to traditional meds but it is in fact very different. Mainstream medicine is about symptomatic therapy. Biomed therapy identifies and treats the root causes. Comparing apples and oranges . . .
So, where are we today? We saw positive changes within one month of our son starting biomed therapy (that was 2005). There have never been any side effects, absolutely no regression. Within a few short months, he no longer met diagnostic criteria for ADHD or any other disorder. I had absolutely no behavioral issues with this child, even during his hormonal, teenage/high school years! He’s a fine young man with a bright future ahead of him.
I’ve been told time and time again that he was probably misdiagnosed since we've been able to effectively treat him and rid him of his ADHD diagnosis. Not so. He was ADHD in every sense of the word. It's the definition of what ADHD really is that needs diagnosing.
I recently started my daughter on a biomedical approach to treat her (non-ADHD) issues after my mainstream doctors offered nothing. Her issues are resolved and all symptoms are gone . . . imagine that. But what do I know? I'm just a mom.