How To: Starting and Stopping ADHD Medications

He Is The Face Of ADHD

Ethan is a tough, smart little boy!
Ethan is a tough, smart little boy! | Source

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Ethan is seven. I have worked with him since he turned five. When I first began working with him, his teacher wasn’t sure what was going on with him. He just wasn’t learning anything. He had been having difficulty trying to learn to write his name. It was the fourth month of school and he still couldn’t name the letters in his name. He also couldn’t count past five. I went in to observe him in his classroom to see if I could figure anything out.

I sat and watched him and tried to see what was going on. I was in the class for about ten minutes and quickly discovered the problem. In those ten minutes, Ethan was out of his seat seven times. He spoke out without raising his hand on twelve different occasions. He told a story that had nothing to do with the lesson. He tilted in his chair more times than he sat in it normally. On one occasion, he leaned across the table and took a paper from his classmate. He was so busy that he could not listen to the lesson.

Myths About ADHD

I spoke to his teacher, and then spoke to his parents. I asked them how he acted at home. They said it seemed as if he was always on, and could not sit still for a minute. They said it seemed as if his mind was always on the go. It seemed as if he was run by a motor that couldn’t turn off. I asked them if they had spoken to their doctor about it. They said they had, and that he had talked to them about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. They also said that they did not want to have their son medicated. They had heard too many stories about how he could be like a zombie if he took medication. The doctor had tried to tell them that with the right medication, this wouldn’t happen, but they still didn’t want to try.

I talked to them about my concerns, and about the concerns of their teacher. I told them about the observation I had done. I told them about other students that I had worked with that had ADHD and how some of them had been medicated, while others had not. I told them how hard it was for the students who were not medicated to stay on task and to learn. I told them that it was possible, and that two students in particular had done really well without medication, but that they had to work very hard at it.

Behavior Modification or Medication for ADHD

I told Ethan’s parents that I would be willing to work with them if they decided that they didn’t want him medicated. I could help with strategies and techniques that would help Ethan keep his attention on his work. I told them that they would have to work hard at home, as well. I let them know it would take a team effort, but it could be done. I also let them know that it might take a little while before all the hard work paid off.

I then told them about how many students that I had worked with that had been medicated. I told them about how much the medications helped, and how focused the students had become. I told them that it had still taken time, but the results were sometimes faster, and sometimes slower. It all depended on how quickly the right medication was found.

Medication For ADHD

After talking with the parents, I let the parents talk about it and think about what was best for their son. After a week or so, they brought me a form from their doctor. It was a form that I needed to fill out documenting the behaviors that I observed. It would determine whether or not the doctor would decide to prescribe medication.

A few weeks later Ethan began taking Focalin. It is a medication used for ADHD for children six and over. It is a good medication to start with because one dose can last twelve hours. It can be taken with or without food, so it is less likely to upset the stomach. The bad side of Focalin is the cost and the fact that some insurance companies will not pay for it.

Ethan started focusing on his assignments. He soon learned how to spell his name. Then his alphabet. Then he began counting to ten – then twenty. He started learning his sounds, then some words, and soon he was reading simple books. He was growing as a student.

This went on for almost a year. Ethan continued to grow. His progress was not always as fast as those first few months, but it was continuous. He liked coming to school. He liked learning. He wanted to be there and was afraid to miss any school.

Stopping Medication For ADHD

Then something happened. Ethan started having screaming fits when it was time to come to school. He would fight his parents, teachers and others who would try to help him come into the school. His grades started to slip. His attention started to waver. He began forgetting what he had learned. I was worried about him and called to talk to his parents.

It seems that insurance had decided to stop paying for Ethan’s medication. It was too expensive for them to pay for it out of their own pocket. They had just quit refilling Ethan’s prescription. Any medication for ADHD cannot be stopped cold turkey like that. There will be health repercussions. There will be behavior repercussions. All of these happened with Ethan. He began getting headaches and his behavior changed completely.

Your Child, Your Decision, ADHD

His parents decided that they didn’t like the change they saw in Ethan. They decided that the cost of the medication was well worth the results they were getting. They talked to their doctor and explained what they had done and why they had done it. The doctor put him back on the medication and soon Ethan was learning again. He wasn’t fighting coming to school. He wasn’t crying during the school day because his head was hurting.

Medication is one solution to the problem of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. There are behavior modification programs that work almost as well. As a parent, you have to decide what is best for your child. There is no one solution that is perfect for every child. You may decide that a combination of medication and behavior modification is best for your child. As I said, it is up to you as a parent to decide.

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Comments 9 comments

thewritingowl profile image

thewritingowl 3 years ago from Ireland

That's a very interesting article. My son is five and has a diagnosis of Autism and DD at the moment. (Although I seriously suspect FXS and ADHD also). He has many of the problems you mention. He is a really bright child in some ways but grabbing and maintaining his attention in order for him to learn is very difficult at the moment. We also have screaming fits and periods of what look like depression and anxiety to me. I am trying to get more help for him at the moment and I would definitely consider a trial period of a medication now if I thought it could help him. But trying to get anyone to listen to me when he already has a diagnosis is impossible too here in Ireland. Article voted up.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

ADD/ADHD is a frustrating situation - my seven year old son was under investigation for ADD (without the hyperactivity component), but we found an underlying disorder was causing the ADD behaviors - and once we treated the underlying problem (apnea), he has been improving dramatically. I have another friend who had a son diagnosed with ADD after the school suggested the diagnosis - at the age of 18, he was found to have always had absence seizures rather than ADD - and he was medicated for the ADD, which made the absence seizures worse. I highly recommend parents get a full medical evaluation for any child suspected of having ADD/ADHD because sometimes there is a medical problem underlying the behaviors!


thewritingowl profile image

thewritingowl 3 years ago from Ireland

Yes absolutely I agree it is very important to keep searching until you get the right diagnosis. It is next to impossible here in Ireland though because if you get a diagnosis of one condition e.g. Autism everywhere I go they will automatically just say every symptom and every problem is because of the ASD. A nightmare ongoing. Finding the right medical help seems next to impossible in this country too I don't know if it is a lack of interest or a lack of knowledge but it is very frustrating.


the1riot profile image

the1riot 3 years ago from South

I have always been against medicating children and feel as though so many parents use the medicine as their "easy fix" for their children's problems. That being said, my son was diagnosed with Autism and we tried to work through his problems with natural fixes including fish oil, pro-biotics and melatonin. He got good grades, the fish oil helped with social interactions, and the melatonin gave him a good nights sleep; however, he never paid attention in class. Ever. He seemed to always magically "get" the lessons even though he was facing the back of the room or drawing on paper. In the first grade I watched a video of him in class and all of the other students were talking into the camera, but my son was facing the corner! I asked the teacher about his behavior and she said he was fine for now, but she was worried about when school got harder & told me that he was now having to sit by himself because he was disturbing the other students & they actually needed to pay attention. I began giving him Ritalin and the results were amazing-- it really helped him concentrate and fit in with the rest of the students. I do know of children that are having health problems (mainly liver and kidney) due to their ADHD meds, and I have chosen to only give him his medicine on school days. He doesn't take it on Holidays, weekends, or over the summer and the doctor said that is fine (at least with the Ritalin), and he hasn't ever had any withdrawal or other bad symptoms from stopping it.


justateacher profile image

justateacher 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... Author

leahlefler - thanks for reading! I agree that this is frustrating. I always encourage parents to talk to their doctors - and sometimes encourage them to get second or third opinions - because I don't think every child has ADD/ADHD. Thanks for sharing your story about your son and your friend's son. All of these stories help parents make informed decisions.


justateacher profile image

justateacher 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... Author

thewritingowl - It's the same here in the states - especially with anyone in the spectrum - if a child is in the spectrum then all problems are related to that diagnosis no matter what.I hope you find the right treatment!


justateacher profile image

justateacher 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... Author

the1riot -Thank you for reading! I'm glad that you have found the right solution for your son. I am also glad that you are working with your doctor in giving him days and summers off of the medications. This article was written from the experience of one particular child on one particular medication. I know that not all children are the same and different children react differently to meds.


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 3 years ago from Western New York

It is definitely important to rule out medical causes. The literature demonstrates that 20-30% of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have obstructive sleep apnea, and that treatment of the OSA significantly improves symptoms (though may not resolve it). Even though the other 70-80% of children have true ADD/ADHD, it is worth getting it checked (the only way to check for sleep apnea is with a sleep study). In our case, it made a world of difference!


justateacher profile image

justateacher 3 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... Author

Leah - thanks again for your input. Your information can help many other parents!

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