Thursday, December 03, 2015

Probably I will delete this.

Before Harry started ADHD meds, shit was kind of hitting the fan at school in terms of behavior problems and friend drama.  So, we got involved with his teacher, the principal, and the school psych to talk about how we could help Harry in a really positive way.  Then we met with his own psychologist who suggested that CBT had been super helpful but we needed to go back to the psych or the pediatrician and think abut meds.

So we did.

And it has been really wonderful.

But that doesn't mean I am happy about it.

We had a follow-up with the team at school today, and they all had glowing reports about Harry which made me so mad, I exploded with vitriol all over the room, and my voice shook I was so pissed off.  It sounded like I was bleating.  I mean FUCK THEM sitting there and telling me how wonderful my kid is now that we've doped him up so he won't be a problem so they can manage him and the other 23 kids in the class.  FUCK THEM.  And I get it, you guys.  ADHD is a real thing and the meds help his brain chemistry and now we can see how goddamn smart he has always been, I GET IT.  But how totally fucked up is our society when SO MANY kids need these meds to function in our totally fucked up school system?  Why fix the system?  Let's pathologize and medicate the children instead and then crowd more of them in the room and take away their recess and restrict their gym access and make them take test after test after test and pathologize them more.  Jesus.

So I just could not take the smugness, the air of "That's all we needed to do," in the room and I said basically the same thing I just said above with a lot less fucks and then Ben made fun of me and said I didn't have  a problem with the meds, I have a problem with society.  And then we said we were going to live off the grid, and everybody laughed.  But not loud enough to cover the fact that I literally said I was disgusted with public education in general and with this school in particular but I have no other options because it's not like another public school is going to be magically better and anyway I have a fucking house right across the street and an albatross of a goddamn condo, so it's not like I am going anywhere.  I can't afford to send 4 kids to the non-parochial private schools in town, and the evangelical ones teach that the world is flat, and I don't have time to homeschool because we both do lots of our work at home and this is my only option.  I said that at least I was pretty confident that he wasn't being mistreated by behavior aids anymore and the school wasn't shattering his self esteem any longer, and the principal looked really sad, but it's the truth you guys.

But, really, my philosophical issues aside, the meds have been great for him.  He has always done well academically, but now he is doing well on steroids.

This week, for instance, he told me he was all done with his math work on Wednesday.  I was impressed because a few months ago, he had to bring his weekly work home and catch up over the weekend because he wasn't focusing in class.  Then he explained that he was done with ALL of the math-- his group's AND the other four groups below his.  On Wednesday. So, in his spare time, he filled a notebook with a complex and intricately illustrated comic about a baby bird who lost and found his parents.  He's like the mouse in the If You Take a Mouse to the Movies book who makes a million Christmas tree ornaments in like 2 minutes.

I mean, we have said to him 3 meals a day, 7 days a week for 9 YEARS to please sit down before he starts eating. Before EVERY MEAL, we had to say, "Harry, please sit down before you take a bite," because he would start eating immediately on his way to his plate.  We haven't said that in 6 weeks.

He is really happy and even more observant.  He's less confrontational, and when he gets angry, he bounces back really fast.  He has unlimited patience with the little kids. His anxiety is gone (he wants to stay home alone, even), and he's basically a joy to be around every minute of the day.

The thing is, he always WAS, and school sucks.

Ben would tell you this is not a totally accurate picture and would point out how much smoother things are going in sports (he almost got kicked out of a soccer league in the fall for screaming at the refs), how wonderful things are with his friends (social development was what really caused us to seek meds in the first place), etc.  But I am stuck on the fact that there's something broken about our world when we take bright, happy kids and medicate them so they can perform in a shitty overcrowded classroom.

Maybe I will move off the grid.  (Ha!  Can you IMAGINE?)

The thing that always makes me feel better when I think about how much I hate school is the image I have created of Harry's teacher when she read our email telling her that he was starting medication.  In my mind she ran down the hall gloating at his previous teachers, screaming Ha ha, you motherfuckers!  I did it!  Harry's on meds!  Take that all you assholes!  Ha!  Pay up!  And she clicked her heels together.


  1. Anonymous3:09 PM

    I totally get what you are saying. We spent tons of time railing against our neighborhood school (and still do) because of our incredibly awful experience with Charley in first grade (much of that is not on the internet because of privacy reasons for all involved but HOLY CRAP). The testing mentality is out of control, the sitting all the time, the no recess, the CONSTANT selection of GIRLS for schoolwide behavior-driven awards when it feels like just getting through the day is a supreme effort for many of the boys (Mine included). It was infuriating and I was so glad we found a (free) alternative that is working very well. The system is broken, especially for boys, which I know is true because if you are having issues, and some of our other friends are having issues, and we are all smart, capable, supportive SCHOOL PEOPLE WHO VALUE EDUCATION, then something is very wrong.

    But on the other hand, if he is happier at home and more patient with his siblings and getting his work done early and feeling proud--that is not nothing! He is feeling better and that is a really wonderful thing. As someone who has also overcome the same reservations about meds, you do what works. You've done everything else and the meds help. That points to a physiological problem that requires a physiological solution (as you said).

    But I am sorry the school is being smug and assholish. There is really no reason for that.

  2. I'm a pediatrician, and I recently heard a lecture by a developmental pediatrician who compared medications for ADHD to glasses for a kid who is nearsighted or farsighted. Not something that should be withheld when it will so obviously help the kid. That said, I completely share your frustration with the American school system. Most private schools aren't much better. I've been really pleased with the Montessori system, but it is usually less convenient to drive farther, and can be costly. But the idea of most schools that everyone of the same age group should all sit quietly and do the same things and the same time is really quite ridiculous. I switched my daughters to online school from home when the class size jumped from 24 to 30. My son is in a private, small Montessori preschool for his kindergarten year, but I'm just not sure how it's going to go when he moves to public school for 1st grade next year. He's very smart, but he truly needs to move a lot more than his sisters did at this age. . .

  3. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Amen ..this is exactly,100% how I feel but make it 10x times more anger !!!I had actually posted a comment ,about a while back but then I got not reply and stopped commenting :-).
    I think the teachers (NOT ALL)in majority don't care about kids self esteem, teaching the subject, have low standards for themselves , but expect robotic perfect kids .
    They are simply lazy!!

    They are also inconsiderate , petty and lack class! Again not all of them ..but a majority..I have a micro preemie with ADHD

  4. We're in the same boat right now. I really don't want to medicate Sutton but he keeps having so many issues at school with social development I feel like it may have to come to that.
    I feel like we try so hard at home to work with him and it has no impact at school.

  5. I can't begin to tell you how well-timed this post is. I just finally began the evaluation process for C TODAY after trying every other trick in the book to help her focus and thrive. And I am scared, mad, frustrated -- you name it. As a professor who teaches an entire course on the state of education today, I just want to punch people (but not the teachers, who in general have been nothing but helpful in trying to help C). I am terrified of the meds (thank you or your comment, Dr. Sarah above)but I'm more scared of what C will go through if I don't at least see if they might be helpful to her.

  6. Schools are NOT designed for boys, and I strongly feel like we are losing an entire generation because of it.
    We had huge issues in our previous school with the teachers and the administration, and I was sure we were losing him. We switched programs and Eli has blossomed.
    Harry's happy. It may be the meds, or because he's not struggling anymore, or because he's getting the support he needed. But he's happy and doing well. The school people are assholes though. Good on you for breaking up the bullshit self-congratulating.

  7. I am saddened not by your post but by the multiple negative comments directed toward teachers. As an elementary school teachers can tell you that most teachers(I would say majority) truly care about kids learning and the "whole"child including their self esteem and social awareness. We unfortunately are forced to work with the confines of the school system and all the negative that goes along including multiple tests etc. I encoursge those that have commented to put yourself in the teacher's shoes and imagine that she/he may truly love your child and is trying to do the very best for them.

  8. And when I say do the very best I don't mean medication. We have dramatically changed he way we teach over the last 13 years and gave increased technology. We no longer teach whole group but use guided reading and math which allows us to meet every child's needs. Small groups are the norm but you have to also provide engaging tactile activities for the kids to work on when they are not at teacher table. Tons of time and effort goes into the lesson creation and teaching- all while keeping the student's growth as number 1 priority. I do feel there should be a better way to ensure equality teachers but I am lucky to be surrounded by them.

  9. We have been fortunate and have had some great teachers, but we have had one in particular who was not just not great but completely horrible. My problem is with the system as a whole, not necessarily the individual teachers.

  10. Sarah, this post makes me so sad, and yet, so angry at the same time. Out of the thousands of children I've known over the last decade of TLG, Harry was and IS one of the most sweetest, caring and well-behaved kids I had the pleasure of teaching. Obviously, the environment was much different than a classroom - but I pity the teachers who could not see how special he is until after he was medicated. It is entirely their loss. You have yourself one hell of little stud. Well, actually three - and a little miss princess to boss them all around. xoxo