When Tommy was born the only thing I was worried about what keeping him alive. I worried about SIDS, I worried about him getting sick, I obsessed if having a blanket in his crib would suffocate him...I never once thought that I'd still be worried when he was four-years-old. I never once thought that there could be something wrong. But then I took him in for his two year appointment and I was told he wasn't talking like he should be. He was tested for autism a few months before he turned three (it was found he didn't have it.) The words didn't come until three and a half. Then I noticed that he was much more hyper than the other children. Of course I didn't expect him to sit and play quietly all the time. But most children were able to stay on task for a few minutes. My kid was busy racing around the room.
"It's difficult to get him to finish a project," his teacher would tell me almost apologetically.
"He's so busy racing around the room that it's hard to help him," she told me again.
"He's just so...busy.." was another comment.
I saw it too. I would watch as he'd race around the room, barely stopping for a gasp of breath. I'd watch as he'd climb on our furniture and take a leap off. I'd watch as he'd watch one of his programs on TV and still be racing around the room.
It pained me. I longed to be able to take him to see a movie. But I knew it wasn't possible. I knew he'd jump up from his seat and disturb other people. I longed to able to take him to play groups but I knew he'd be the one racing all over the place, the kid that other parents would whisper about. I longed to be able to take him to more of the functions that Tom's squadron had but knew I would spend most of it chasing Tommy, making sure he wasn't getting into trouble.
This is why I scheduled an appointment for him. This is why I wanted to know if his hyperactivity was normal.
I did everything I could before I scheduled the appointment. I cut back on his TV time because I read watching TV could cause ADHD. It didn't help, he was still all over the place and constantly whined for "BobBob. BobBob PLEASE!" I cut back on what he ate. This didn't help. He was hyper as ever. There was even a few days where he barely ate. He went on a hunger strike and he was still all over the place. I tried doing the squeeze method because I read hyperactivity was normal for children who had sensory processing disorder. It didn't help. He was still all over the place.
So I did the last thing I could think of.
I took him to the hospital.
We sat in the waiting room and waited for them to call us back. I kept wringing my hands in my lap. I was nervous. And of course, I had to tell Tommy to sit down, please, to just sit down. He didn't. He'd sit for a few seconds and then bounce up and sit down on the other side of the room.
"All I need you to do is sit. Please," I kept saying.
He'd just laugh at me and bounce around some more.
I wanted to cry.
I knew the other parents in the room thought he was just being a bad kid. But he really isn't. He does listen to me. He doesn't whine that much. He goes right to bed. He's a good kid.
He's just full of energy.
Finally we were called back. Tommy told everyone in the room "bye bye" and we were led into a room. The nurse flipped through the paperwork and asked why we were here.
"I'm worried about my son's hyperactivity," I said.
The nurse watched Tommy, who was rushing around the room. She nodded and scribbled something down.
(And then looked a little surprised when Tommy came over, shook her hand and went, "Hewwo I Tommy!" What can I say, he does have manners.)
"I'm going to weigh him, see how tall he is and check his blood pressure," she told me. She looked at Tommy who was peering at the eye chart.
"X Mommy. X!" he told me, pointing.
Sure enough there was an +.
"And boat. Heart. Star!" (It was a chart with pictures on it.)
"That's very good sweetheart," I said. "But the nurse needs to weigh you. Let's take off your shoes."
He allowed me to slip them off. I led him to the scale and he stepped on it. He remained still.
"Thirty seven pounds," the nurse said.
Then she wanted him to stand against the wall to measure his height.
"No," Tommy told her.
"Tommy. Please listen to the nurse," I said.
"He's a little over three feet five inches," the nurse said and wrote it down.
(Holy crap, almost as tall as me! I'm five foot three.)
Then she had him sit down to take his blood pressure. Tommy wasn't sure about this. The nurse told him that she was going to wrap something around his arm and that he'd feel it get tighter.
"OW!" Tommy complained when she put the thing around his arm.
Then as it got tighter he looked confused. "Ow?" He looked at me with question in his eyes.
"Almost done, Tommy. Almost done. You're doing such a great job," I said.
Finally that was over with. The nurse wrote something else down and then said the doctor would be in shortly.
Then Tommy started racing around the room again. He found a box of markers but they were all dried out. So I gave him the pen from my purse and a piece of paper. He wrote his name down and then ran around the room again. I kept asking him to calm down but he didn't listen. He was thundering back and forth across the room. The building seemed to echo when he did this.
THUMP THUMP THUMP
"Tommy can you please come sit by Mommy? I'll read you this book," I said and showed him.
THUMP THUMP THUMP
"Mommy, look!" Tommy said and brought over the dried out markers. "Markers broken," he told me seriously.
"Yes they are broken. You can play with Mommy's pen though." I offered it to him again but he was already speeding around the room again.
The doctor didn't show up for a half hour. Finally she popped her head in. At this point Tommy was beyond wound up. The minute she walked in he jumped on her (I was mortified) and when she sat down he tried to take her pen. (Mortified again.) She asked me some questions about him. Was he always like this? (She was surprised on how much energy he had.) Did he have good eye contact? (Making sure he didn't have autism I imagine.) Did he have repetitive behaviors? (Yes, he follows things with his eyes. Stemming, it's called.)
Tommy tried to take her pen again. She told him no.
"I like how he has good eye contact," she said.
"Yes.." was all I could say.
Then Tommy started messing with her hair.
He was just being this devil child. In his defense they did keep us waiting for a half hour in a room without many toys.
The doctor looked at the charts that Tommy's teachers filled out. (His regular teacher, his speech therapist, his occupational therapist..) Then she asked me a series of questions. Then she observed Tommy some more and then went,
"Well. From what I can see and from what these papers say, he is eligible for medication if you are interested in that."
I told her I was. I told her I had tried everything.
I think she could tell I was distressed. She told me it was okay to medicate.
"Listen, I know you aren't taking medication as an easy way out. So many parents do. It's obvious he needs something," she told me gently.
She also checked Tommy out. She had him sit down on a table. She checked his heart. She had him open his mouth. She felt his neck which he did not like. He's extremely ticklish so he started to laugh whenever she touched it. Then he did NOT want her looking in his ears. He kept covering them and telling her no. I had to hold his hands down so she could look into them.
Then she had him scoot back and lay down while she pressed on his stomach.
"Everything looks good," she said and wrote it down.
Then she said that she'd put him on a trial dose of Ritalin.
And I thought, "I can't believe it's come to this."
Then, for some reason, I got the song that Bart Simpson sang once on an episode: "When I just can't stop fiddlin' I just takes me Ritalin.."
The doctor told me to call her back on Thursday and if the Ritalin is going well that she'd refill it. She said she was just giving me a week's worth for now to make sure he didn't have a bad reaction to it. She mentioned that it could make him lethargic, could make him not want to eat, could make the stemming that he does worse..
"Just be checking out for that. If this doesn't work we can try something else. But Ritalin is what we know most about so we try that first."
I just nodded. I had become speechless.
Then she said goodbye. Tommy went, "Bye bye, doctor!"
As I put back on Tommy's shoes and put his coat on I explained that we had to go to the pharmacy.
"We're getting you some medicine. It'll help you. Okay?"
Tommy touched my cheeks. "Okay Mommy."
We walked over to the pharmacy and waited. Then when our number came on the screen I picked it up.
We came home and Tom was there. I explained what happened.
"They gave him Ritalin," I said.
Tom sighed. "I don't like the idea of that. What if he becomes addicted to it?"
"We don't have to give it to him. I just don't know what else to do. I really don't, Tom," I said and burst into tears. "Do you think this is easy for me? Giving him drugs? It's not. But I tried everything. I tried, Tom. It didn't work. I don't know what else to do.."
I rushed into the bathroom and cried for a few minutes. Tommy popped his head in because he heard me cry.
"Mommy cry?" he asked.
I sniffed and wiped my tears away. "Mommy is okay.."
He came over and kissed my cheek. Then he handed me a tissue.
"You do know that I just want you to be okay, right? That I want you to learn?" I asked Tommy.
Tommy nodded like he understood perfectly.
"This medicine that Mommy got for you...it'll help you. And if it doesn't you let Mommy know."
Later in the evening Tommy was racing around the room. He was all ove the place. Tom kept saying, "Please, Tommy, sit down. Please."
"This is what I deal with most of the day, Tom. Do you understand? I can't even get him to settle down and play with me. He just can't," I said.
So Tom said we could try the Ritalin.
This morning I poured water in a special medicine cup for Tommy. (It was really just a Spongebob cup but I told him it was his special medicine cup.) Then I opened the Ritalin. It was just a tiny pill, the same size as my birth control.
"Now, you just set it on your tongue and just swallow the water," I explained to Tommy, who took the pill. He peered at it and then popped it in his mouth. He was confused at first and then I had him drink water.
The pill went down.
I thought, "Well it's in him...here is to hoping.."
I let him play outside. At first he was running around like crazy. But then..
He settled down.
He actually sat down and watched a ladybug. He came in and told me that he found a Mommy bug, a Daddy bug and a baby bug. I went out and sat with him.
He rarely sits outside. He's usually running all over the place or stemming. (He follows the fence with his eyes.)
Then when we came inside he listened and sat on the couch when Tom asked him too. Usually he's loud and runs all over the place.
We made pizza for lunch. I watched to make sure he'd eat it. And he did! He sat down for his meal for over a half hour. Usually after ten minutes he starts to fidget and wants to get down.
It does seem to help.
I'll be keeping watch on him. Right now he only takes one pill in the morning. The doctor says it usually lasts from four to six hours. She says if it seems like he needs it at night we can up the dosage.
I know there are people reading this who don't agree with Ritalin. And I can see why. But you don't live with Tommy. You only get a glimpse of what I share. Everyone who sees Tommy understands why it came to this.
Tommy even pointed out that he was sitting at one point. He went,
I said, "Yes you are sitting. That's very good. Was it hard for you to sit before?"