Tag Archives: ritalin

French kids don’t have ADHD? Well, mine does.

22 Jun

An article from Psychology Today was published last year. It was called “Why French kids don’t have ADHD” and it resurfaced a couple of weeks ago on Facebook.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

Now you might not know me at all or maybe just a little but you should at least know these 2 things about me:

1. I’m french.

2. I have a kid with ADHD.

Obviously, it appears to be a shaky start for the writer of this article because I am the living proof that French kids can have ADHD. Maybe it is because we live in a plagued-by-ADD South Africa, or maybe because we are the exception to the rule – since French love exceptions. 

A few of my friends shared that article with me and wanted to know whether it’s true (Don’t they know the first 2 things about me??) My first two reactions were:

1. Mwahahahahahahahahaha! (after reading the title)

2. Roll of the eyes (after reading the article)

But being french with an ADHD kid, I felt compelled to look deeper into the article.

Marylin Wedge, the writer of the article, starts by comparing how ADHD is labeled differently in the US and in France. On one hand, the US  call it a biological disorder, treated with medication like Ritalin, while in France, it is considered a  psychological disorder, treated with counselling. The difference is ‘treating the symptoms’ vs ‘treating the cause/ root of the problem’, the difference between ‘chemical’and ‘psychological’.

I don’t really want to dissect the article (you’re disappointed, I know!) because the topic of ADHD is so vast and so controversial that even after reading up so much on it, even after living with an ADHD boy for 8 years, I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge to do it justice. However, reading the writer’s observations about the french way of raising children (2nd-hand observations, taken from a french book), it made me think about what I observed; first, as a French person raised the ‘French way’ and second, as a mother of an ADHD precious boy.

The part of her article that makes me uncomfortable is when she states that French kids are better behaved than American ones.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

French kids are awesome. I wish I had one.

I would argue that it is debatable. The French society is without a doubt much less permissive than the American one. When I go back to France for holidays, I am always reminded (‘shocked’ is a more accurate word) of all the rules – said or assumed – that my children are expected to follow. Starting with wearing shoes (winter or summer), not walking more than 3 feet away from me, not climbing, jumping, leaning over or reaching for anything higher that their knee-level, sitting quietly at a restaurant, not speaking too loud or making sudden moves… I find that often kids have to live through the old adage of ‘being seen, not heard’. In my observations, the discipline that the writer mentions is not a thought-through decision taken for the sake of the child but rather a discipline enforced when the child’s behaviour becomes inconvenient for the parents.

Every child is off to school from 3 years old until 18, 8.30am to 4.30pm, 4 and a half day a week. If they are not ‘Sage comme une image’ ( literally ‘as well-behaved as a picture’), they’ll quickly learn. The way kids were brought up 50 years ago is the way that they are raised today because, after all, why change something that worked so well at the beginning of last century?

It might seem strange that I would take a stab at the french way of raising children. Being French myself, I’m sure that I have – consciously or not – adopted some of the French behaviour, even when it comes to raising kids. A friend of mine has been incredibly helpful when my kids were younger, reminding me that it should be an age-appropriate discipline. In other words, expect a 2 year old to behave like a 2 year old!

The writer seems to imply that this strict discipline is what saved France from the ADHD that afflicted other countries.

For me personally, I rewind a couple of years: the year my son turned 5, the year we took the decision to try out Ritalin for our ADHD son. A decision not taken lightly, a decision that came after taking him out of his preschool because the teacher asked us to, a decision that came after having him assessed by a paediatric neurologist, a decision taken after realising the impact that his behaviour had on the rest of our family, a decision taken not just for my sake, but also for his.

When parents – and I include myself – find that no strategic parenting style seems to work the way it should, when your child is unable to sit still long enough to learn, when his relationships with friends, siblings and parents suffer because of his lack of impulse control… when these parents turn to the help of Ritalin for the sake of not only the ADHD child but also everyone else in the family, I cannot but roll my eyes at this kind of article.

I do not know whether the french society has less ADHD kids or whether they suppress their symptoms and spirits through rules and punishment. What I know for certain is that there is a place for Ritalin for those overwhelmed children who suffer academically, socially and emotionally. I know for certain that Ritalin brought balance into my son’s life and into our home and I know for certain that he is grateful that there is a medication out there to help him control his emotions.

I know what I aimed to achieve when I put my son on Ritalin. I am confused as to what the writer aimed to achieve with her article.

Advertisements

The story of the Tetanus, the Whooping Cough and the Ritalin

25 Oct

No, this is not a medical journal – at least not one that will be worth referring to – this is the story of our last 2 days. Yes,in our modern days, we had to brave 2 almost-believed-to-be extinct diseases, mixed with the very much alive sickness-of-the-day (yes, ADHD is real and no, it’s not just a tale-tell made up by the teachers).

One of my friends’ son has been battling with a horrible cough for the past few weeks and upon her visit to the doctor, he was diagnosed with whooping cough. Naively I thought I would check with my friend Wiki what “whooping cough” is in French. It’s whaaat? La coqueluche??? Isn’t it something that my grandmother told me about, a weird disease that killed hundreds in those times??

Given that our kids are all friends, they happily and unselfishly shared the bacteria (maybe all these parenting speeches on ‘sharing is caring’ finally paid off) and on Monday evening, Matty started to cough. My panic button was immediately pressed and, with a faster reaction time than ADT (No record breaking here, though), I made an appointment to my faithful doctor for the next day. I have a 100% trust in my doctor and even though I read up on whooping cough, I knew he would be of much help on how to deal with it.

Next day, prepped up to face the world, one deadly disease at a time (or so I thought), we rocked up at the Medicross. I’m taking all the kids with me, I thought. Killian has a thorn in his foot. My dear doctor will surely help me to remove it as it looked slightly deeper than a Hollywood celebrity’s personality.

Matty was quickly taken care of. Whooping cough is highly contagious and the cough can last for months, unless it is detected at the beginning and treated with antibiotics, in which case the contagion is limited to only a few days. Good news for us, only a few days of quarantine. Tap, tap on my shoulder: Killian reminded me of the thorn in his foot. Ah yes, a simple formality. We need to go to the procedure room. Ah. He needs an injection to numb the area. Mmh. And he needs a booster for his tetanus vaccine. Oh boy. That’s way more that I bargained for.

I braced myself for what was to come. I lost some of my hearing on that injection. Some of my heart too. I truly wished I could switch places with him. It was painful. The doctor worked hard and long at removing the thorn that was 1 full centimetre deep. And every minute, Killian kept asking with tremor in his voice “Is he doing another injection?” No. “And now?” No. “And now?” No my love. Léa, crying next to me, sure did not wish to switch places with him but felt awfully sorry for her brother. Matty, on the other hand, said that he looked at everything the doctor did – unphased.

The tetanus shot was nothing compared to the first injection. By then, Killian was so hysterical that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway what kind of procedure they were doing on his arm, but I was amused by 2 reactions: the first was the nurse’s face when the doctor told him that the one brother had whooping cough and that the other one was at risk of getting tetanus with the infection in his foot and that he needed his booster shot. She might have thought we were some kind of amish or something…The second was Killian’s neurotic behaviour stopping in a split second when he realised that his second injection was already finished and exclaimed **bravely**, “Oh! That wasn’t even sore!”

Back home, things went back to normal. Until the next day. Wednesday. Killian had been on his absolute worst behaviour throughout the day. Starting from not wanting to sit for his reading, to lashing out at his brother, defiantly disobeying me, going from zero to 100 in a few minutes, speaking to me in a way that not even Jack Bauer would to his tortured enemies, ending up in clinging and begging me to forgive him.

I tried to understand what was the matter. Was it payback for allowing him to be hurt the day before? Had I not given him the right amount of Ritalin? (and believe me, I make sure of that!) I even considered an adverse reaction to his previous day vaccine – I could already see the headlines “Mother kills child after vaccine’s unfortunate side effects”. At 4 o’clock, I had the choice between death (I wasn’t sure whose yet) and a top-up of his medication to help the poor sod out of his misery (and mine). At the first signs of him becoming sane again, we talked. Somehow, in the morning, when given his pill, he hid it under his tongue and did not swallow it. Relief was my first reaction. Utter frustration was next. Frustration at Killian obviously. Mostly frustration at people thinking that Ritalin is unnecessary, that parents and teachers just need to try harder.

A few minutes into Ritalin, roller-costered-out and calmed down, looking at me with his big hazelnut eyes, he says “I feel better now”.

And here ends the story of the whooping cough, the tetanus and the ritalin. They had many children and lived happily ever after.

%d bloggers like this: