Oh what a difference a month makes!
When I posted on our foray into natural health and wellness alternatives for our teenage son – an ADHD/Asperger’s young man affectionately dubbed Clark Kent since his early childhood, — we had a lot of information and not much action. In fact, after only two weeks of “trying,” and not trying very hard at that, CK left for a two week backpacking camp and returned with a momentous announcement: he had taken a treatment vacation during his trip, and, while he was unmedicated, he had decided that he was done with medication. Why? Because he didn’t want anyone controlling him.
Not only that, he was “done” with treatment of all kind. He declared his treatment independence and crossed his arms across his chest.
Now, if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about when I refer to our natural health and wellness alternative approach, let me refresh you (skip this if you remember the deets from last month, except for the update notations):
1. Eliminate gluten, dairy, and soy from his diet. UPDATE: Minimize, not eliminate.
2. Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store, and strive to keep him away from processed foods.
3. Add coffee or an energy drink to his morning routine.
4. Add supplements in the following amounts (keep in mind, my “baby” is 6’2? tall and 180 pounds at 16 years of age, so if your kids are much younger, obviously the dosages would look quite different):
a. Fish oil – 3 teaspoon once a day (actually, we are using a Pro-Omega oil that tastes a little less fishy): helps with memory, concentration, focus, mood, attention, and overall neural health. UPDATE: he’s now taking 1000 mg of Krill Oil daily, in softgel form.
b. Magnesium – CK is doing a powder called Natural Calm. It helps with metabolic reactions. Here’s the link: http://www.vitacost.com/natural-vitality-natural-calm-plus-calcium-organic-raspberry-lemon. He takes 3 teaspoons 1-2 times a day, in liquid. UPDATE: he’s now taking the tablet form, 200 mg.
c. Gingko Biloba – He’s taking 60 mg twice a day. It works as a vasodilator or artery opener to help get nutrients and oxygen to the active cells in the brain
d. Acetyl Carnitine – He takes 500 mg per day. It is for the brain as an nootropic substance or brain nutrient to help with neurotransmitter production specifically acetylcholine which leads to better memory, focus, concentration, and creativity in our thought processes
e. B complex — He takes one of these per day: http://www.physicianspreference.com/B-Complex-100-capsules_p_476.html. It’s for the heart and brain and provides them with energy.
f. Thyroid — CK takes thyroid support: http://www.physicianspreference.com/Dr-Hotzes-Thyroid-Support_p_457.html.
g. Multivitamin “Power Pack” — CK takes one of these per day: http://www.physicianspreference.com/Dr-Hotzes-PowerPak-tm-60-Packets-_p_498.html.
If you’re keeping score, this amounts to 15 pills a day versus the one Concerta he had been taking. Well, plus the Melatonin he had to take to go to sleep at night when he was on the Concerta, so make that two pills.
Only now he didn’t want to do any of it, which is not an entirely unprecedented declaration from a 16-year old boy. They’ve been rebelling against parental authority since time immemorial, with or without a cause.
Consider though that while CK was backpacking for two weeks, he was eating healthy, hiking, not gaming, and sleeping well. Thus, he remained fairly asymptomatic. When he is off his meds, he always wants to stay off of them. But after he’d been home and back to his normal lifestyle for a week, he started becoming highly disorganized, had trouble waking up, couldn’t follow instructions, and became verbally combative and repetitive. He never wants to restart meds when he is unmedicated. He said they make him feel constrained, less himself, less creative.
We wanted him off the meds, too, for different reasons, but not without “something else” in their place, like…natural health and wellness alternatives, if they even worked. And if they didn’t, well, we’d be back to square one.
So, this left us at a life stages crossroads. Clark needed to learn to manage himself, so that he could escape our management, but, in our opinion, part of growing up is learning that you can’t just choose no self-management at all. If something in your life cries out for self-management, then you have to do it. Maybe it’s diabetes. Maybe it’s a mental health issue. Or, in our case, maybe it is ADHD and Asperger’s.
Time for a sitdown, or three. We had a series of difficult conversations about the difference between doing nothing versus taking responsibility for one’s own health AND one’s impact on others. We pointed out that it was a great trial run for post-high-school graduation, when we wouldn’t be around to manage him anyway. CK didn’t like it, but ultimately he agreed that he could only continue his job as a lifeguard and continue driving his car if he managed himself. Doing nothing wouldn’t work for us.
Only, we had a big problem: how could a kid whose very issue was self-management manage the 15 pills and lifestyle changes required of him? As it was, I hadn’t been able to rouse him from bed without ten minutes of repeat visits to yell and shake him awake. We decided on a phased approach. I would help him get started in the morning, and after the first hour, everything had to be done with only one reminder. We also modified the lifestyle changes somewhat, such that a 50% compliance rate on diet changes would suffice, at least for the present. Together, we also discussed the need to keep a prescription of Concerta “in the toolkit” for times of peak need for organization, no matter what. Final exams week, for instance, might merit prescription help.
And so we dug in. The first three days were predictably difficult. I grew hoarse from repeating myself. But CK didn’t argue with me after the first day, and he increasingly showed that he was trying to comply. By day four, something unprecedented and miraculous happened. He was scheduled for a 9 am lifeguarding shift, meaning he had to leave our house by 8:15, and thus needed to be out of bed no later than 7:45. I headed upstairs to start the wake-up process at 7:30, only to find him in the shower. He had woken up on his own. HE NEVER WAKES UP ON HIS OWN. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.
He came downstairs. I had coffee and his supplements out. He took them all without comment, then left for work. He came home that evening and said, “I’m going to play basketball.” And then he did. He went to bed at 11:00 after he got home. Who was this young man, and could I keep him? The next day was more of the same.
One week later, he packed his supplement organizer case himself.
Two weeks later, he was taking his supplements without a reminder.
HOLY FRICKIN’ COW, PEOPLE! He wasn’t wandering in circles. He was helpful. He was doing what he was asked to, without multiple reminders. His behaviors were under control.
I asked him how he felt about it. He said that he didn’t like swallowing 15 pills a day (neither do I), but other than that, he felt no side effects and that he was sleeping great. His driving has been very good. His boss reports that he has been an exemplary employee. I am dancing on a cloud of happiness.
Don’t get me wrong: he’s still less organized, less of a self-starter, and more aggressive than any of the rest of our seven-person family. If I’d never parented a neuro-atypical child before, I’d find his behaviors and traits frustrating to say the least. I’m experienced, though, so I can roll with it. He is within the range of acceptable and functional without prescription meds for the first time I can remember.
I know that each child is different, and that children change as they mature. Maybe these changes wouldn’t have helped CK ten years ago. Maybe they won’t help anyone else in the world. But they helped him. This routine is equally as effective as the Concerta. No, it is more effective. I still can’t believe it.
We’re off the Concerta at our house. School starts in two weeks. What’s working well enough in the summer may be insufficient for a school-year routine. We shall see. Fingers and toes are crossed.
That’s how the natural approach is going for us. Care to share what has and hasn’t worked for you?