#AUTISM: To Medicate Or Not?
[DISCLAIMER: THIS ONLY CONCERNS MY CHILD WITH AUTISM. NO WAY DOES THIS APPLY TO ANY OTHER CHILD. TALK TO YOUR DOCTORS. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR CHILD. DECIDE WHICH IS THE BEST ROUTE FOR YOUR CHILD]
When EmmaBoo did the Autism evaluation back in 2012 and got her official diagnosis we were asked about medication. My husband and I were firm and very much against it. We relied on the belief that we’ll take this whole thing one day at a time. We’ll find ways, work through it, let matters flow as they come and manage each situation as well as we could. AND WE DID. From Kindergarten to beginning of 4th grade Emma was able to function and manage her days and we dealt with issues the best way we knew how. Of course there were some issues, both in school and at home. Emma got through all of them. It wasn’t until hormones started to kick in at the end of 4th grade that we started thinking about the medication route. We did our research, talked to a few people in the same situation, and talked to Emma’s Physician.
We’ve held out for as long as we could and while there were bumps along the way we were able to somehow manage it. End of 4th grade was just when a major change kicked in. She had a hard time focusing. She got more frustrated and agitated so easily. Please know that we didn’t suddenly make a decision in a snap of our fingers. It took us a while to assess the matter. Because the process of getting medication takes a little bit of time Emma didn’t officially start until March 2nd. This was the last quarter of 5th grade school so that whole school semester was a freaking nightmare. If I sort-of hated IEP meetings before, I was combative and emotional during this particular school year.
The process of getting a child medication entails check ups, drawing up some blood, filling up forms, long interviews with a Therapist and a Psychiatrist. A bit tedious but once everything started rolling you just have to trust the process. Her medication is more of a mood stabilizer. Emma started from the lowest dosage to see how she’d react to it and worked from there. We’ve adjusted twice from then because it’s basically trying to see which dosage would work better.
Is the medication helping? Yes, for the most part. When she’s in it she’s able to focus more and less argumentative. HOWEVER, the medication have side effects. Loss of appetite. Emma lost weight the first few months after she started. Also, once the medication wears out which is around 3pm for Emma, everything comes up in the surface so it’s almost like a release of emotions by the time she gets home. Not as bad but it’s there. It’s kinda hard to explain. She’s a bit anxious during bedtime so along with her medication she also takes a non-habit forming pill to help her sleep. In the beginning we would ask her if she wanted to take it and she said no in some days but we’ve noticed that she got agitated and took her a while to fall asleep so we made sure she takes her pill every night. And don’t think I didn’t ask the Psychiatrist about the long term effects of this bedtime pill because I DID! Emma is aware of everything and we’ve taught her to be responsible for knowing the time and making sure she takes them. She’s really good about the whole thing, but of course still under my watchful eyes, ALL THE TIME!
Did the medication improve anything? YES for the most part.
Did it remove all the problems? NO. I think there’s always going to be some kind of factor of, it is what it is.
Would she be better off medication? NO.
Now, bear in mind that medication is NOT a cure. This is why it has taken me this long to write about this topic because I don’t want to be misinterpreted or whatever. I’m not telling any other parents to take the medication route. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR CHILD. DECIDE WHICH IS THE BEST ROUTE FOR YOUR CHILD. We didn’t decide until the end of 4th grade and even then we were still not at all convinced but nearing the end of 5th grade we knew we had to make a decision. I need to reiterate that this is what we’ve decided and I am not sharing this to persuade or convince you to do the same. MAKE YOUR OWN DECISION!
Along with medication, Emma sees a Therapist once a month and the Psychiatrist once every 3 months. These are all part of this process. Just in case you’ve been thinking about it this is how it goes. So, prepare for appointments which means missed hours or days of school. You have to communicate this with your child’s Teachers and IEP Teachers. If you work outside the home then that’s also a factor. It could get overwhelming but once your child and the whole family gets into the routine, it all just becomes a part of your days.