Fridays with Ritalin. Like with Morrie but just takes less time.


Dr Google is never the answer.

If you are googling symptoms for anything, then I suggest you give Clientele a call as they have a Funeral Plan for you.

I am sitting on my couch feeling fine, sipping a very nice glass of wine, if I started to google any of the “feelings” I have – then odds are I will have something that is a cross between the Ebola Virus and Anal Leakage.

With that in mind, I am always amazed that people take their advice from Dr Google, granted it could be worse, but Dr Bing pretty much never gets asked anything.

Ritalin is the swear words of mothers everywhere.

I am almost sure when I say the word “Ritalin” to you, you are thinking “cocaine for kids….”  – well you might be, most people do.  I did.

If you are ever at a mommy and baby group, and mention you are thinking about putting your child on Ritalin – there will be a fair amount of lecturing going on, and more than likely you will be lynched and not be invited back to the mommy and baby group.

We have been through a very long and very thorough process with Georgia and she is presently on Ritalin.

The idea of putting her on Ritalin was on my list way after home schooling and changing her diet to include more lentils.

It was pretty far down.  It was clear to me that I did not want my child taking medication and more importantly there were so many scary and horrific stories on Dr Google, that clearly I wanted to be a better mom than that.

Short story is that Ritalin was the solution to the problem.  Maybe I am being a bit flippant.  It may or may not be the solution, but it is an option right now.

In the process of sitting in the evaluations, the feedback sessions, the testing, the re-testing, the having her see various specialists – it became clear to me, that as my depression and general anxiety disorder can be treated by taking the “right” medication, so could Georgia’s issue.

Giving her tofu twice a week, and organic strawberries on a Tuesday was not going to have much in the way of results.  No matter how much I wanted to sing  Kum ba yah My Lord.

We are on a four month trial, and will re-evaluate in January 2014, and may decide to make an entirely different decision then.

As I sat through all the questions, monkey puzzles and evaluation, I started to realise that much of Georgia’s “characteristics” are similiar to mine.  I have worked out a different set of coping mechanisms, and time and experience has taught me to mask it under a variety of guises.

Clever me.

The last doctor we met with – who was really going to be the guy who wrote the script – looked at me at one stage and asked whether I realised that I had the same “symptoms” as Georgia.

I smiled and explained I was medicated enough for the both of us.  Once I left his somewhat erratic office – I had an overwhelming need to pack his books so they lined up, and just tidy his desk up a bit – I gave it some thought, and I realised he was not as delusion as I had initially thought.

I have specifically avoided Dr Google on the subject of Ritalin.

The last appointment with Dr Psychiatrist (I have been with him for several years, and I trust him implicitly)  – I have a check in every 3 – 6 months – I asked what the risks were to him prescribing Ritalin for me.

I mentioned a few of the things we had realised with Georgia, and how  many of those things had resonated with me.

To cut a long blog post short, I requested we add Ritalin to my script and I see how it goes.

It took four or five weeks to find the right dosage.

I don’t want to lie to you, two weeks ago I thought I was having a fkn heart attack.

I think we have the dosage about sorted or I am on a placebo dose.  Feeling much better.  Heart rate well within the “normal” range now.

I am not sure what Ritalin does.  I know it is a stimulant, and it is usually prescribed for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

I do not have ADHD.  And I will keep telling myself that.

I used to have to mentally keep telling myself to “listen to what this person is saying” – and I would concentrate on their lips moving, or focus on a freckle just to the right of their nose as my theory was, if I kept a firm eye on them, then they would not realise that the “voices” in my head were screaming or my eye really wanted to focus on the tiny little bird I can see in the distance.

Light.  Sound.  Huge distractions.  If I saw a spelling error on something then I struggled to “hear” what someone was saying as I could not get over the “thing” that I saw or heard.

I had to will myself to stay on point when someone was talking .  Not because I was disinterested, but because my brain was usually a bit enamored by the way the light hit the glass.

Or I realised I could hear the sound of a grass mower about 300 meters down the road.

Ritalin.  For me.  Has been like a light going on.  Suddenly I can hear what people are saying without (as much) mental distraction.

My brain runs smoother and I can accomplish much more in a day.

I can read with a focus that I have lacked for several years.

I have not read the warnings on Ritalin.  I am not sure if involuntary quivering, muscle fatigue or an overwhelming need to really understand Miley Cyrus is in anyway mentioned.

But.  So far so good.

Do I think Ritalin is the answer?  Not sure.

ritalin01

When you use the R word ….. and people shit themselves ….

Georgia is definitely one of those children who measure outside of the curve.

Rainbow-unicornsShe is a happy, content, very bright child, intelligent and happy in her own skin.

The issue with a child who is really and well adjusted, but does not quite align herself to the main stream school system and way of thinking is that sooner or later, she is going to start to slip behind.

She will not be able to finish the 10 questions in the 30 seconds allocated.

Not because she is stupid or slow, but just because after question three she thought she saw a unicorn walk by, so has been looking out the window wondering if the forest fairy, will see Smurfette standing there and if she will invite her to tea with a porcupine and a hedgehog.

Clearly this is far more interesting than the next 7 questions about Biff and Chip.

The result is then she is scored 3 out of 10.  The first time she won’t mind, because she is not really that affected by being praised and being top of her class.  But repeat the same exercise 20 times, and when the other children start to call her names because she is slow.  And the teacher eventually starts to sigh in frustration, because she has to remind Georgia for the fifth time to please get her pencil out of her chair bag.

Then that becomes a problem and starts to effect Georgia’s self esteem.

This has really been a very long process with Georgia.  It started when she was in Grade R, and I had her assessed with an OT and a ST.

I used both of them, as they were able to supply tools and methods of working that was a benefit to Georgia.  As time has moved on, the issue regarding her ability to “stay on point” and concentrate has really become an issue.

It is not impacting her work, her self confidence and her sense of self at the moment.

She is bright, content, assured and does well scholastically.

My concern is that next year the work is going to get more, and once her concentration waivers she is going to be left behind.

I have considered changing her to a different school – maybe a Montessori, or another type of school, or looking at home schooling her (I wouldn’t do the home schooling) ….

I have been to an educational psychologist who came well recommended.  She met with the two of us, then did an extensive evaluation with Georgia.

Then met with her teacher, her OT, her ST and scheduled another meeting with me.

To say this process was lengthy and thorough would not hint at it.

In the feedback session, the Educational Psychologist spent a long time explaining how Georgia’s mind worked.

How she was so pre-occupied with what was happening inside her head, and how what happened in the outside world was of such little importance to her.

The key was she is bright, happy, content and quite at peace with where she is in the world.

I don’t think the word “Ritalin” can ever be mentioned without your breath catching in your throat, and your mind going “wait, wait, wait one darn moment!”

When the phrase ADD is bandied around, you start to wonder if you could throw up into the decorative vase, or whether it might be easier to just chew it back.  (I opted for chewing it back)

The decision to medicate (or not to medicate) a happy, bright, content, clever, kind, generous, beautiful child is a difficult one.

I do not think anyone treads lightly when making this decision.

An added challenge is that the word “ritalin” is about as upsetting to most people as using the word ni.gger casually as you ask someone to “pass you the peas”.  Shew, people get really riled up, and starts quoting you all sorts of shit and most of it starts with “my friend” …..

When all the highly emotional words and feelings are put aside, I need to look at what is best for Georgia.

Georgia’s brain fires off too much dopamine and norepinephrine, and the result is that the noise in her head is as loud and as distracting as the noise outside her head.  (If anyone understands that, it is me)

Which makes it really difficult for her to differentiate between the two.

I think it is easier for me to understand that the issue here is a chemical imbalance, or a chemical under or over supply.

Instead of giving her organic rasberries and singing kumba-ja-ma-lord around a camp fire, and monitoring her sugar intake, I have opted to go with the more direct route.

I want to give her the thing that will help her brain to release/absorb the right chemicals in the right quantities.  I do not want to change her.

I do not want her to not be distracted by rainbows and unicorns.  I do want her, when she needs to, to be able to concentrate and be able to apply her mind …. and when she is done, then she can go and play in the land where everyone is blue and three apples high!

We plan to do a 6 month trial, she will be monitored by my Psychiatrist who I have been with for years, and who I think is brilliant – this will be done in conjunction with the educational psychologist, her teacher, us as her parents and her OT teacher.

Not an easy decision to make.  I have opted for the Concerta instead of the Ritalin.

When your kids are not mainstream kids …

I had a conversation with my friend Karen that reminded me of an issue I have with regards to Georgia and her fitting in to a main stream school situation.

Georgia is a “creative” children – not in the way that she does glorious pieces of art, but just that her mind does not function along the set paths – she struggles to follow “main stream” rules and she likes to talk about Smurfs as if they REALLY do exist.

Connor is a main stream child.  He likes rules.  He likes set parameters.  He likes you to give him clear boundaries and off he will go.  He is creative and a content soul, but he like his world to be presented to him clearly – and then he is happy to conform – thrilled in actual fact.

Georgia likes to run around with a bucket on her head!

Georgia is not naughty or disobedient, though she often makes me want to hit my head against a brick wall – repeatedly – because she does not “listen” to me.

She just functions in her own little world.

She cannot be “punished” in the established manner.  If you gave her a hiding, she would be traumatized, but would be doing the thing you just told her not to do in three minutes time with no clue as to why you appear somewhat exasperated!

You can give her time out, but she will make up a little game in her head, and you will come back in the room, she may still be on the chair, but she is far away as the lead character in her little fairy story she has made up.

Georgia is not really aware of what you are doing, as it has very little to do with what is going on in her world.  The result is that you being happy/sad/annoyed, has little or no effect on her.  Whether I speak to her nicely or I scream the instruction, it has absolutely no effect on whether she is going to follow the instruction and the speed at which she reacts, or does not.

You can take tv/dessert/nintendo or what ever away from her – she really does not mind.

At the moment she has three big loves in her life.

1.  Her doll named Chocolate.  Who is not a doll, but her daughter.  I need to be on the look out for a plastic dark chocolate coloured boy who may be the father,

2.  Her Smurfs.  She is obsessed with her smurfs and plays hugely involved games with the figurines for hours.

3  Her bedroom door has to be closed – she cannot function if her door is not closed, whether she is in the room or not, if her door is opened and she is in the kitchen and hears her door opening, she goes totally “ape sh@t” – to put not too blunt a term on it.

This year I have her in a government/main stream school.  I wanted to see “how it goes” as I was not convinced it was actually a feasible option for her.

So far she appears to be doing well, and really enjoying her class.

I got a call earlier today from her teacher to say that Georgia is doing really well, adjusted and paying attention in class ..  this was of course after I had a nervous breakdown when my caller ID’d the number …. teachers and schools should legally be compelled to start all conversations with parents as: “Your child is fine, no one is bleeding, no one is dead … your child is fine …. can I carry on or do you need to take a few deep breaths into a brown paper bag?”

I am really thrilled she is doing well – I will confess that I anticipated the worst.  She loves her teacher.  Loves her class. Loves her aftercare.   Really LOVES her day at school.

I can’t tell you the weight that lifted from me when I did some maths in the car with Georgia and she could do the maths (6 + 2 stuff, not how many oranges does the bus driver need if he drives from Transkei to Cape Town on 26 December?).

I know my child is a bit different, and at the same time I am glad I did not need to implement “extreme” measures and she seems to be adapting well (for now)

Maybe when her teacher asks all the children to make clay snakes, and Georgia decides that she does not want to make a clay snake, and will instead make a clay butterfly – and point back refuses to make a clay snake, then maybe we can have another discussion.

I do think though that the majority of people my age come from a school system where we all “made the clay snake when instructed” and did not question the motives of the teacher or the system.

We did we were instructed en-masse and then just hoped we would pass and not get detention.

I do feel teachers and doctors are quick to suggest Ritalin as a way to “control individuals or have them conform.”

I am not really for or against Ritalin (actually I am more against….)  I have not read enough on the subject to have an informed opinion.  My opinion is shaped by the “hysterical” media reports I have read, so that is hardly a balanced opinion – but medicating a child to make it easier for the teacher to control the group does have some inherent problems.

I am not sure of how the future will be for Georgia.  I am not sure if it will include clay snakes, butterflies and smurfs, but I do want her to stay as “wacky and bizarre” as she is … I would also like her to listen to me, but I am sensing there may be easier things to wish for.

If it means finding a school or a school system that caters for her “specialness” at a later stage, well then I will cross that bridge when I get there.

I would like my daughter to get the best out of her schooling, but I do not want her schooling to break her to mould and shape her.  I’d like my daughter to be left in tact to dream about fairies and smurfs, and magic… sans-medication!