Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bouncing Off the Walls

This past week, the week before the last week of school, the Team and I noticed an interesting trend.

Our kids with ADHD (and I swear, that's about half the kids that make up your classroom population these days) are off their meds.

Tiny Girl, who usually is fairly calm and focused, was all over the place last week. She couldn't stay in her seat, couldn't be quiet, couldn't stop talking, and was generally vibrating with energy. Mrs. Social Studies and I pulled her aside for a moment and asked her if she was, perhaps, not taking her medicine.

"Oh no, we ran out!" she said. "I haven't taken it since last week."

Indeed. The fact that she spent a small fortune on candy and slushies at Field Day probably didn't help either.

She's not alone. We counted at least half a dozen who we actually talked to and admitted that they hadn't taken their medicine. Then there's a handful we didn't ask, but strongly suspected. They are exhibiting more than your usual "end of school" energy levels. They're nearly manic.

We are suspecting that many of our parents will attempt to save some money this summer by not renewing their child's medications (they are, after all, fairly pricey from what I've been told). In addition, I've discovered many parents take these kids off their meds during the summer anyway as it's a good time to make adjustments, see how they react without it, and deal with some of the negative side affects. So, since we're nearing the end of the school year, why bother refilling the prescriptions once they run out?

I completely see the logic in this. However, I sincerely hope these parents have some good coping skills because a summer with some of these kids would drive me over the edge. Hopefully they'll spend a lot of time outside running around and burning off their excess energy.

As for me, at this point, I'm glad I have some relatively quiet cats to contend with. I'll need the peace and quiet this summer.


filmadus said...

Mrs. Bluebird, Ive been following your blogs since about Feb. as I discovered it during my Technology in Education course but still read your posts long after the class has ended. I will be fully certified to teach by December and I just wanted to tell you Thank You. I work in the Title I program here in my district, and sometimes I get frustrated because the children do not seem interested in learning at all and when I visit their home environments I see why. The school year is winding down so I wanted to say thank you, especially for sharing your trip to the Rich School Across Town. It reminded me of why I'm trying to become a full time teacher in the first place: because these "ragamuffins" need us!

Elaine said...

If you don't have insurance... yes, they're pretty pricey.

If you do, they're only about 10-15 dollars per month. However, at least around here, you can't get a refill. You have to get a new prescription *every* time.

This drives me absolutely batty, as I'm one of those kids who never outgrew my ADHD. (On the plus side, I think I'm a better teacher for it. I truly understand these kids, and know a ton of tricks to help 'em cope!)

Ms Characterized said...

I hear you. I hope things get a little less manic for you, even though that's unlikely with so few days left!

Several years ago, one of my seniors told me one fine day that he'd recently stopped taking his medication. I asked how he was coping, and he responded that he was doing remarkably well, and didn't think he needed it. I concurred -- I hadn't seen any drop of of work, focus, or enthusiasm.

That same day, I ended up sitting next to his mother as she went on and on to another parent about the blessing of medication for this child. I laughed a little laugh inside.

Nancy Flanagan said...

Hey, Ms. B.

I do understand, from long experience, what it's like when kids who function better on their meds are suddenly slumped over in the corner or dancing on the teacher's desk. Not easy.

But if we back the camera up a bit, and imagine that, say, a veteran teacher from the 1950s was reading this post--about kids who "needed" medication to be "normal"-- isn't there a kind of Brave New World quality to this discussion? We are increasingly managing behavior through chemistry. What has changed? Are kids wired so differently that they need meds to cope? Have schools and teachers not changed fast enough? What's the ultimate outcome here--more and more kids and teachers dependent on medication to make the world right?

Sorry. I'm really not preaching here, just noticing that we're talking about "kids who go off their meds" the way teachers used to talk about kids who had the temerity to chew gum or talk back.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Long-time readers have probably figured out that I'm not a fan of medicating kids at all - unless they really, really need it. I have a lot of kids who have parents who medicate their kids because it's easier than parenting. One poor little guy has a mother who would give him a pill for puberty if there was such a thing because she doesn't like his "attitude" and how he talks back and she has him on meds for just about everything, including impulsive behavior, stress, asthma, and ADHD. What most kids need is a better diet, sleep, and exercise.

That being said, I have kids in my room who are nearly unable to read to the end of a sentence due to attention issues. Kids who lay on the floor and giggle and laugh and scream (and we're talking 13 year olds here) and who can't come down off the "hallway high" and focus on anything, let alone learning. And my all time favorite was the one who would come in and start knocking things off tables, tearing things off walls, and so forth until his medication took affect. The change was dramatic.

Five years ago I may have 1-2 kids with ADD or ADHD in a class. This year I have at least 5 or more in each class. And those are the ones identified. What many of us in our area have noted, sadly, is that we saw a huge rise in meth manufacture and use about the same time most of these middle schoolers would have been conceived and born. A relationship? Perhaps.

Kathy F said...

What happens when these students are home with their parents for the summer? Overmedicated?

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Depends on the parent, I do believe. I've had parents who medicate their kid for every little twitch of adolescence, but I also have parents who take kids off meds during the summer to see how they do without and to make adjustments. At the middle school age, with hormones playing a huge factor, it apparently isn't unusual to see kids change from one medication to another several times in the course of their middle school experience. Then again, since many of these parents work all day (and aren't home with their kids), it's hard to say what happens.

paige said...

I am the mother of two boys ages 22 and 11 years old. We are all ADHD. When my oldest was diagnosed at age 6, OVER 50% of his GEN ED class was on RITALIN! Ritalin, like Adderall, Concerta and many others, is a Class II (or Schedule II) Controlled Substance. The street value/demand is still growing. In too many cases, it is abused by parents of ADHD children or sold. College students represent one of the largest groups abusing methylphenindates (Class II). This is why scripts must be hand carried to the pharmacist. These days you have one week to get the script filled. With my first son, I only had 48 hours to fill the script.

15 years ago I believed that Ritalin or ADHD drugs were widely over prescribed...I still do. I jokingly call it the "Parenting Pill." So many parents, caregivers and education professionals believe that the pill replaces behavior modification and good parenting. This is not true.

For the past few years I have been invited by college instructors to offer my insights as an individual/daughter/sister/parent/girlfriend/coworker/future SED ED teacher with ADHD. I have personally experienced the the PRE-IDEA/NCLB classrooms of the 60's and with my oldest during the early 90's. My youngest was POST-NCLB and the differences are both refreshing and disturbing.

If my college students take away nothing else from my presentations, I want them to understand two critical facts:

1. ADHD - TRUE ADHD is an issue in EVERY environment of an individual's world.

2. ADHD MEDS are ONLY 5% of the SOLUTION - the other 95% is BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION. Meds offer a window of opportunity to help the individual replace undesirable behaviors/coping mechanisms with desirable ones.

I love the ADHD brain! I raised my boys to perceive their ADHD brains as an asset! ADHD brains, like all brains, can be rewired to perform in amazing ways. ADHD brains multi-task like no others! ADHD brains process life in fascinating and complex ways!

Bottom line is that ADHD brains, LIKE ALL BRAINS, are different and specific to the individual. As a teacher, I refuse to label any brain as incapable of learning.
When I use the word "never," I've stopped paying attention.

ADHD brains are not defective. ADHD brains are simply waiting for the rest of the world to catch up!

paige said...

In my area, Class II drugs can range anywhere from $70 - $200+/mo (w/o ins.) I've heard rumors that Adderall XR has recently released a generic.

In some cases, individuals must take 2x the dosage. For example: 60 mgs 2 x day, as opposed to 30 mgs. 2 x a day. This can get very costly. Especially when many ADHD-ers must take additional meds. They may not be Class II drugs, but it all adds up. It's no wonder some parents cut meds from the budget during the summer months. Not at all a bad thing to do, if your doctor's ok with it.