There’s no doubt my eight year old son Bailey’s brain is unique. I love every little quirk that makes his personality so, well, Bailey. He’s extra-ordinary at Lego and anything to do with building and design. Recently he found out what an aerospace engineer was, and his face lit up. My son is bright. I have no doubt he could design a rocket that would reach Jupiter faster than the Mars Orbiter will reach Mars. But he’s so scattered and distracted that he can’t even remember his own home address. So if he did build a rocket, who knows where it would end up?
Bailey’s ADHD symptoms have been well managed for the past three years thanks to Concerta, a slow release stimulant medication that helps calm him and allow him to be in control. It works by pushing serotonin into his brain, which then produces dopamine. Dopamine is what was keeping Bailey calm. Recently his medication stopped working. Bailey became aggressive, rapidly moving from being in a numb trance, to being wild and out of control. He started hitting people out of frustration and at night when the medication wore off, he was even more out of control, bordering on psychotic.
As a mother, I was beside myself. As a family, every day was a rollercoaster of emotions. As for Bailey, his self-esteem took a massive nosedive. He didn’t like feeling out of control. As the time-outs for inappropriate behaviour became longer and longer, (imagine pretending your teacher’s head was a basketball and trying to slam dunk her), he was constantly frustrated and upset with himself for doing the wrong thing. We knew we needed to find a new way to help Bailey gain control.
Over time if you give a child too much serotonin, when they don’t really need it, it begins to stop working. When they start coming down from the effects of the medicine the drop is so steep, that it makes the ADHD symptoms significantly worse. Like falling off a self-control cliff, there’s nothing to hang on to and no way of staying calm. Welcome to my life!
Bailey’s brain is indeed unique in the fact that his ADHD is a deficit in only the parietal part of his brain, the bit that controls attention. The Doctor said that he’d only see 1 in 1000 brain scans as extreme as Bailey’s. In some parts of his brain the variation was three deviations off the norm, or it visual terms it was red, very red. My son has the AD in ADHD, and his D is about as extreme as it can be. It’s not really an Attention Deficit; it’s more like an Attention Omission. Did someone say, “Squirrel?”
So step one to help Bailey gain control was to change his ADHD medications to one that only works on the parietal area of his brain. Unlike the frontal lobe, which needs serotonin to work properly, the parietal lobe needs norepinephrine to function. Hello Strattera.
I have been aware of Strattera for some time but have been very hesitant to even consider it as an option. The suicide warnings on the packet scare me. Like Nightmare on Elm Street type fear. But as with any medications, if it’s needed, the effect is therapeutic. Not harmful. And given the brain scan I’ve seen and the extreme deficit, omission, my son has in that area of his brain, I’m feeling more confident then previously, that Straterra may be the right choice for my son. For now.
But medications are not a long-term answer. Not in my mind anyway. Especially when there are other treatments out there, like Neurotherapy. Neurotherapy works to get those areas of Bailey’s brain to function normally by forcing them to become active. It’s like gym for the brain. As medicine discovers more about neuroplasticity, they’ve found that a brain can be rewired and retrained, no matter how extreme the deficit may be.
It takes on average 20 sessions before the long-term effects are more noticeable and Dr Duff believes it will probably take around 40 sessions for Bailey to master control over his mind. In the meantime, we’re supporting him with vitamins, minerals and Omega 3 oils to make his body and mind as healthy as we can.
As I learn more about the Attention System of the brain, and the biochemistry behind ADHD and Autism, the information I’m gathering is mind blowing. I’m looking forward to sharing all I have learnt about why my boys are diagnosed with Aspergers, Autism and ADHD. Now that I have an understanding behind the why, I can start to help them, and hopefully scare the meltdowns and outbursts away.