Flipping a Switch

Friday ended Jillian’s first full week on 10mg of Focalin. I checked in with her teachers to see what they thought about it, and they were both very pleased with her improvement. She’s closer to the “normal” range of third-grader-ness, in that she gets most of her work done with minimal (that word!) intervention, and the attention paid to her is commensurate with the attention paid to the rest of the class. It’s a nice change from having her in a bright spotlight.

Obviously, we want her to have the full effects of her medication while she’s at school. That’s how this is supposed to work. The downside is that her behavior at home isn’t all that different. The extended-release version of Focalin (which is what Jillian takes) is meant to last about 10-12 hours. So I give it to her at breakfast (7:30AM) and by dinnertime, the effects are starting to wear off and it is noticeable.

It’s like flipping a switch. You can see it in her face, a bit like in Harry Potter when Harry and Ron take Polyjuice Potion and their faces contort and writhe around while they’re in the process of changing to someone else. It’s almost exactly like that – you can see her face change, and then the noises start up again, the inability to sit on a chair correctly comes back, and the talking starts.


Since that’s our “normal,” it’s not so bad. We’ve had quite a few years of dealing with it, after all. But it’s never not exhausting, both for us and for her. As with anything, we adapt. As long as she can get through her days, we can deal with the rest.

Overall, I’m pleased with how things are going. I wish we would have started this process earlier, but we kept bumping up against that stigma of “oh, people just throw pills at problems instead of looking for other solutions.” I can’t say I feel guilty about doing this, because I don’t really believe in parenting guilt and also because I know we did so much to try to avoid medication. We tried environmental changes, diet changes, behavioral interventions, the whole thing. But this? THIS WORKS.

Now we’re learning about balance. Today being a Sunday, we don’t have anything planned that we’d need Jillian to behave/focus for. So I chose not to give her the pill today. We’ll have to deal with a chatty, emotional, hurricane of a child, but that’s fine. It’s the weekend.

We’re going to continue with this for the summer because I have zero doubt that it will improve her camp experience, and then when school starts again in September, we’ll cross our fingers and hope these improvements her teachers have seen will continue.

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