I wrote a six-page letter to Nicholas’ pediatrician describing all of his problems at home and at school as well as his family medical history. The pediatrician agreed that Nicholas’ symptoms matched those of ADHD, commended me for addressing the problem at such an early age, and wrote a prescription for Ritalin.
When Nicholas’ teachers first suggested he had ADHD, I began reading as much as I could about the disorder. I read one heartrending book about a mother’s experiences with her son who had ADHD, but even as I sympathized with the family, I thought to myself, “That’s not Nicholas.”
I also read about Ritalin. In 1988, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported “a consistent doubling of the rate of medication treatment for hyperactive students every four to seven years” in Baltimore County, Maryland between 1971 and 1987. On April 11, 1995, The Washington Post ran a story about the increased use of Ritalin in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In Arlington County, where we lived at the time, health officials reported a 60 percent increase in the number of students taking Ritalin or other drugs for hyperactivity between 1993 and 1995.
I read about the cyclical effect of Ritalin and observed its roller coaster effect on Nicholas as he took his trial of the drug. I read that as children age, they need ever greater amounts of the drug. I didn’t want Nicholas dependent on a drug at age four and didn’t like the idea that he would need a drug to control his behavior for the rest of his life.
At Nicholas’ preschool, a mother stopped me in the parking lot. She told me that Nicholas’ symptoms matched those that her son had experienced the year before. She recommended a book about allergies by Dr. Doris Rapp, Is This Your Child?