Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fire Your Doctor

Sorry I've been so absent lately.  I swear if there were 30 hours in the day I still wouldn't have enough.

Last night I was digging around the wonderful WWW in search of reliable information about niacin, hoping to find dosing and side effect information to assist in my quest to naturally cure my depression and anxiety and rid myself of my daily lexapro dose.

I found myself on this page, which seems to provide some good information as to how to figure out how much to take.  GREAT!  So now I have a plan.  I'm going to buy some cheap, low-dose niacin supplements (which I found out today cannot be found at the grocery store) and work my way up to 'saturation'.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  Once I figure out how much I need I'll invest in the time released kind so I don't have to take it throughout the day.

So today I checked out the main page of the site and what do I find but a picture of Dr. Andrew Saul, who is one of the main experts on FoodMatters, the documentary I wrote about last week.  Go figure!!!

So do I look at this as information which is being preached by only one man, or do I assume he must really be a leading expert in this subject matter since I keep stumbling over him?

I bit of both I guess.

He's written several books so I'm going to see if any are available in Kindle format.  What the hay?

One of his books is titled "Fire your Doctor"....boy oh boy does that jump out at me today.

I suppose I should back up about 9 years to really tell this story.

When The Boy was 7 he couldn't read.  Not a single word.  His teachers worked with him, I worked with him, I read to him ENDLESSLY, but he just couldn't catch on to it, so his teacher suggested we have him tested for a learning disability.

None of the test results screamed anything conclusive.  He wasn't developmentally disabled, he wasn't dyslexic, he was bright.  But in a very VERY roundabout way, without ever actually SAYING it, they made it clear that it might be a good idea to have him tested for ADHD.

I took him to a psychologist, who again did several tests, and recommended we have him tested by a neurologist.

I took him to one of the top pediatric neurologists in the country, who did still MORE tests, and told me that he definitely had ADHD. 

Back at the psychologists office, we were given some copies of articles about ADHD and tips to help him focus.  We talked to his teachers about moving him to the front of the class.  We put him in a reading intevention program at school.  We made lists using drawings to keep him on track.  But we became increasingly frustrated.

During a followup visit with the pediatric neurologist I broke down in tears because there had been no improvement.  I basically was sobbing and hiccuping and going on to the gist of "We're doing this and we're doing that and nothing helps why doesn't anything help am I doing it wrong you have to tell me what I'm doing wrong!!". 

She asked me why I didn't have him on medication.  I told her that I was hoping to avoid that and she asked me "If he was diabetic, would you give him insulin?".  Well of course I would!  So why wouldn't I medicate his ADHD?

Three months after he started on medication he tested at a gifted level in reading.

Over the years I have received notes and emails from teachers saying that he was especially fidgity, that he was talking too much, that he wasn't paying attention, coming right out and asking if he took his meds that day and almost invariably it would turn out that he did not.  He was a different kid off the meds, and not in a good way.

So you can imagine how hard it is to keep my mouth shut (admittedly I often fail) when I hear people saying that parents just want to shove a pill down their kids' throat rather than (insert simple parenting duty here....teaching, disciplining, working with) their child.

I'd love to say that medication was the answer to our prayers.  It hasn't been.  Clearly it's helped and I don't even want to think about what our lives would be without it, but there are still many issues.

Did you know:  ADHD is a developmental disorder in which brain maturation is delayed. The student’s development may also be uneven. Students may behave appropriately in some situations but not in others, leading some unenlightened adults to believe “they can behave when they want to.”

I believe my 16 year old son is probably about as mature as the average 13 year old.  He has problems with impulse control which leads us to discussions that go "Why did you DO that?" "I don't know".  Yet he IS 16.  While I don't let him drive yet, he has and deserves many of the same freedoms afforded to any other 16 year old.  I can't monitor his every move 24 hours a day.  I have to trust him to deal with the fallout when he doesn't do his homework or fails to study for a test.  He attended summer school last year and probably will again this year.  I spent his elementary and junior high years harrassing teachers, insisting that they let me know what assignments were due when so that I could keep him on task.  In high school that doesn't fly, and I think that's reasonable.  ADHD or no, he has to learn to be responsible.

So a couple of weeks ago he asked me to take him to the doctor to increase his dosage.  I see this as extremely responsible on his part because he really hates how the medication makes him feel, but he realizes that he needs it and it has stopped working.  Over the years I've laid out his pill only to find out later that he was putting it down the sink, resulting in periods of time where I insisted on seeing him take it.  We've had times where he's asked me to let him go off the meds and let him try on his own, and then later when he has asked to go back on because everything is just too hard.  It has not been an easy road.

So I took him to our family doctor who took over the task of regulating his medication a few years ago from the neurologist.  She checked his weight (up a pound, a good sign), his blood pressure (excellent), listened to his chest, no problems.  She asked him why he wanted to increase his dosage and he explained that he felt that the old dose was no longer working and that for a week (until I found out) he doubled up his meds and found that he actully ENJOYED his school work.  He went back to his old dose and said "I can't explain it, but it's like I just can't make myself do it".

So she looks at me and ask me how his grades are.  I tell her that they're bad.  And here's where it all goes south.

She tells me "Well you can't just let him fail".  She tells me that I have to MAKE the teachers make exceptions for him.  She explains that I can get an order from the state that will force the teachers to give him extra time taking tests (which he refuses to study for) or extra time to turn in homework (which he doesn't bring home).  She says that I can force the teachers to tell me ahead of time what assignments are due when so that I can make sure he does what he's supposed to do.  Been there, done that.  WHEN the teachers comply, half the time they're late or they write down what they're assignging to ALL of their classes...then The Boy will tell me that the teacher never assigned the work, or never gave him the paper.  A good portion of the time, after I called my son a liar, I'd find out that he was telling the truth.  Maybe there was an assembly or the teacher was absent or any one of three thousand excuses will come up which may or may not have happened.

The bottom line is that the kid is 16 years old, he has a laptop that he hasn't had custody of since the beginning of the school year, a playstation that I've had for just as long, and he hasn't had access to the TV alone in months, all because he has grades below a C. He is grounded from 8pm Sunday night until school lets out on Friday so that he has nothing to do instead of schoolwork.  Each grade that comes up to a C or above brings him back one of his belongings or priveleges.  He won't get his learner's permit if he has to go to summer school again and until his grades come up. His sole source of income comes from a complicated system that pays out only when he gets an A or B, a system which I administer through frequent visits to the school website, updating spreadsheets and running calculations.

I can dole out rewards and consequences until the cows come home, I've become really, really good at it.  But I CAN NOT force him to do anything he doesn't want to do, short of home schooling him and locking him in the house.  Even then I'd probably have to withhold food to get him to cooperate.

The doctor finally agreed to write a prescription for higher dose medication, but as she handed it to me she said "Make sure to make an appointment to meet with his principal"


I'm used to the people in the school system looking at me like I'm something to be scraped off their shoes, because obviously if a child doesn't perform it HAS to be because the parents don't care, right? I'm used to friends well-meaning advice that all he needs is discipline (which is exactly what the psychologists say he DOES NOT need more of).  I tolerate my coworkers who say that all he needs is a job (how am I supposed to get him there?) or to be involved in school activities (which his grades will not allow). 

I know that unless you have a child with these kind of issues you can't possibly understand, but you should thank your lucky stars. 

But to have to sit there and be preached at by a doctor who has spent a grand total of MAYBE an hour with us over the last 10 years?  I don't THINK so.

So yeah....I think I'll start with the Fire Your Doctor book. 

Today's lunch:  This awesome salad.  The red stuff isn't strawberry sundae sauce, I promise, it's raspberry vinaigrette dressing.


  1. I cannot even wrap my brain around how tought this must have been over the years. I am having a hard enough time dealing with an unruly 2 year old! I see it as a great sign that Alex wanted to increase his dosage, soon enough he's going to be an adult and he's going to have to learn how to take care of his ADHD himself and this is a good step towards that.

  2. This is a wonderful article you've written about your son and his; and your challenges. I love that he is showing the signs of maturity asking for a higher dosage. Like your workouts and how you wrote that you finally "get it", Alex too seems to "get it" that he needs to do what is necessary to keep him on the right track. I know that some recent situations may have been the catalyst to his understanding of this. GOOD for HIM.