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Do ADD/ADHD meds "dumb kids down"?


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#1 AimeeM

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 08:55 PM

Am I crazy for noticing this? (and yes, there is a reason why I need to know if I'm crazy)

For the first half of the year, we largely operated on a "pajama school schedule" due to new babe's sleeping habits. This meant that generally dd11's ADD meds had worn off (or were wearing off).
She couldn't focus long enough to APPLY newly acquired concepts, but the concepts she did learn, she learned with more ease, more enjoyment and enthusiasm, and seem to understand/master more quickly. Sure, a worksheet may take 2-3 days to complete, but the concept was mastered, lol. Sure, she couldn't do two problems without interjecting her latest Harry Potter revelation, what she had seen on the news, or what she hoped to do with her best friend later, but... for some reason school was a bit easier, just because she seemed (here's the part that causes people to shake their heads at me) smarter somehow... like her "real intellect" was shining through. I'm using the wrong words, I'm sure; stay with me for a minute :)
Another con of "off meds" is that she speaks first, thinks second, with little regard (or ability to first give regard) to the feelings of others or the repercussions of what she has said; she always cringes and realizes it shortly after she's said it, but you can't erase what's been done/said.

Okay, on the meds. She focuses easier, works more diligently, completes work with more ease and in a timely manner; she thinks before she speaks and is much more patient. Looking through her work though, it's fairly obvious that she shined conceptually during pajama school (off meds), regardless of the interruptions and inability to focus. What's more, she has a general great dislike of school work now that we do it during "on med" time. She doesn't seem as... quick witted on meds. Sure, she slows down and takes her time... but she seems "slower" (bad wording but it's late and I can't think of a suitable "other") in general too... and not in a good way.

I do have a reason for venting/asking. DD is shadowing at a school for dyslexics and the headmaster mentioned to me today that he doesn't care one way or the other if she's medicated - he will help implement strategies to help her if we want to take her off meds. <---- that got me thinking

#2 Alte Veste Academy

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:00 PM

I'm sure this won't be a popular opinion, but I share your view for lots of kids diagnosed with ADD. I wouldn't call it dumbed down though. I would say that these kids are hard-wired for rapid fire. The ADD their strength. Yes, it is a strength with a downside (an intolerable downside sometimes, when a child is so impulsive that he is a danger to himself or others), but it is still a strength.

That said, there is no one universal ADD case. Each child is different. Negatives and positives can be plotted on a continuum. Some kids will benefit and some kids are hindered with meds.

Given a choice, I would work with the ADD, channeling the positve, and not medicate.

#3 jewellsmommy

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:18 PM

If that is true for your dd then that's great. It is definitely not for our ds. Unmedicated, he will 'lose' the first part of his sentence by the time he gets to the last part. It is sad to watch. He will get so confused and ask "what was I saying?" He loses control of his handwriting too. Worst of all he gets soo frustrated soo quick that he can't get through the simplest of computations. Not to mention the complete lack of impulse control which led to violent outbursts. We have tried off-med with 'natural' support, and it is a definite no go here.

It is always worth a try though. I am glad we can say that we gave it our best shot.

#4 Mandylubug

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:18 PM

I've seen my ADHD child do some weird "flukey" stuff off of meds but the meds help him tremendously. Especially with math. He hands down does better on meds. So perhaps the dosing for your child is too much? Or perhaps it is wearing off too soon and dosage isn't correct either way.

The only "flukey" things I noticed he could do was once in a blue moon when he was younger and asked to recite the alphabet, he started with z and finished with a, flawlessly with no practice and no errors, in oh about 30 seconds flat. He also read a sentence entirely backwards phonetically once.... I was baffled at first and then figured out what happened and pointed him the other direction... Also, he can get really confused when doing math, I'll ask him how he got his answer and he will have substituted an entirely different number or scenario instead....so his answer was correct the way he did it mentally... it just wasn't correct for what we were trying to accomplish if that makes sense.

#5 AngieW in Texas

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 10:50 PM

My 20yo is on ADD meds. They definitely help with her focus. Without the meds, she has absolutely no idea what happened in class by the time the class is over. With the meds, she can actually take notes (on the computer - specified as an accommodation for her) and can remember what has been said instead of drifting off into lala land.

She really doesn't like driving without her ADD meds. She doesn't feel like she can stay focused well enough to drive safely without them.

She takes the timed-released type.

#6 OhElizabeth

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 08:14 AM

It would be interesting for you to research what options you have (alternatives) on the impulse control, since that seems to be the most frustrating part for you. With the actual attention part, you can do neurofeedback and work on getting that more active. Working memory of course is easy to work on. For impulsivity (or the flip side, what they call "inhibition") I'm not sure what all options there are therapeutically. I know the C8Kids thing I've got dd doing is working on it (inhibition) through their activities. What I don't know is whether the way they work on it there GENERALIZES over to the rest of life or whether it becomes a splinter skill, something they're able to apply in that computerized situation and no where else. Don't know.

I definitely know we've had threads with moms saying the med-control of impulsivity and attention didn't necessarily teach them the skills they needed for SELF-control of the impulsivity and attention later. If you're wanting alternatives, that's a way to look. And yes, you're seeing things correctly about some kids on meds. Whether the problem is the type of med or the dose or what, I don't know.

#7 MeghanL

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 08:42 AM

If off-meds seems to be better for your child, certainly explore that option!

#8 melmichigan

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 09:09 AM

My oldest was on stimulants for ADD, along with my oldest twin. With oldest twin we were able to make adjustments at home that allow her to learn, without being on meds. For oldest DD we tried without meds when it became obvious that stimulants really impacted the quirkiness that makes her who she is. A few years later her impulse control became the symptom that needed the most attention. She now takes a different immediate acting med and we continue to work on her behaviors. It helps her impulse control, giving her that few second lead time to think, and has some minimal impact on her ADD, but allows her to be herself. Be sure to explore options that work best for your child, we all react differently to different meds.

A really good pediatric psychiatrist/neuropsychologist team to identify and address the problem are my best recommendation.

#9 LizzyBee

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 10:40 AM

They probably affect different kids differently, and you should trust your gut regarding what's best for your dd.

We had the opposite experience with my dd. On meds, her abilities were evident for the first time because she finally could focus enough to follow through with an assignment or idea. Concerta worked like a dream for her. But after awhile, she refused to take it because it upset her tummy. She is so thin that we couldn't risk her losing weight, so we let her go off meds, but there seemed to be lingering effects. It was as though the meds helped her realize what she was capable of, so she didn't completely regress when she went off of them.

#10 dmmm

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:54 AM

All I can say is don't generalize. People are different, even with the same label. There is a reason why there are multiple types of ADD drugs that target different things. Some kids are just a ball of energy and want to work quick. Others have brains that work to quick for them. Some people aren't working quietly enough, quickly enough, or quality enough for their teacher/parents.

I am glad that you are figuring out your dd and seeing her special spark.

#11 RootAnn

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 02:41 PM

Perhaps, like others have commented, you might want to start working with her doctor on the dosage or trying a different med. Your dd is at an age where girls grow & change rapidly. (We've seen this with my dd#1's eyes!) I have friends who have tried two or three different products before finding the right 'fit' where the negatives of their condition are toned down while allowing their focus & skill to become apparent. They still have to watch dosage & adjust sometimes. Parental input makes a big difference!

#12 8FillTheHeart

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 03:02 PM

I would recommend asking your dd what she thinks. When my ds was on various meds, we kept a journal of how different meds made him feel......his observations about himself and mine about what I perceived. My ds hated being on meds (I can't blame him....he has some scary side effects to a couple we tried.) But the general comment was that he said they made him feel "dull." He couldn't articulate it completely, but essentially that they numbed him.

#13 PinkyandtheBrains.

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 03:22 PM

What kind of evaluation process did your dd go through when she was diagnoses with ADD?

#14 AimeeM

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 03:33 PM

Perhaps, like others have commented, you might want to start working with her doctor on the dosage or trying a different med. Your dd is at an age where girls grow & change rapidly. (We've seen this with my dd#1's eyes!) I have friends who have tried two or three different products before finding the right 'fit' where the negatives of their condition are toned down while allowing their focus & skill to become apparent. They still have to watch dosage & adjust sometimes. Parental input makes a big difference!

Perhaps I should have worded the post as "does it dumb MY daughter down", lol - I hope nobody thinks I am implying that the meds dumb *all* children down :)
On that note, we have tried many meds. We only reached this med and dosage about a year ago. It works very well for her, in general, so far as controlling the ADD symptoms.

#15 AimeeM

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 03:35 PM

What kind of evaluation process did your dd go through when she was diagnoses with ADD?

Her pediatrician sent home an eval form for us to fill out; he also sent one to the school (she was at brick and mortar at the time) to be filled out.

#16 OhElizabeth

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 04:39 PM

What kind of evaluation process did your dd go through when she was diagnoses with ADD?


Although a ped will diagnose ADHD off those questionnaires, it's highly advisable to request a referral to a psych/neuropsych/ed psych. Without a full eval you could have an INCORRECT diagnosis and do not get the EXTRA information the psych eval would give you beyond the label. It is surprisingly common for CAPD or other issues to get diagnosed ADHD by a ped, so you *don't* want to go merely on that if at all possible. The full psych eval, for us, gave us a much better picture of her strengths, weaknesses, explained a lot of things I was dealing with that I couldn't understand (hello, processing speed), and radically changed how I teach her and my CONFIDENCE in making the changes.

So that's not to disparage what the op did, but get the full psych eval.

#17 Calming Tea

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:43 AM

I was on adder all myself. I certainly felt different, but dumber wouldn't be my choice of words. It was pretty awesome actually.

I get what you are trying to say. When I was on adderall, I was so clear and so focused. That was helpful for staying organized and even much more patient and calm.

But it's the impulsiveness that sometimes drives excitement and creativity, maybe that's what you are missing. That impulsiveness doesn't just happen In activity but in thoughts and so if the impulsiveness is gone so is some of the thought processes.

Just pondering with you. I personally had to stop the meds because my period stopped, even though I was on an extremely low dose. I had used my time on the meds to learn to be more organized and less impulsive and it was a very good thing that I don't regret. But I'm glad I'm off of them because I never saw it as forever solution...

You can wean her off slowly and see how things go at the new school. OTOH it might be nice for her to have the meds as a crutch just a little while longer while she adjusts to a new situation.



#18 Farrar

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 10:39 AM

When I was teaching, I feel like I saw it both ways. So I agree with the sentiment that each kid is different. I think in general that we err too often on the side of medication when we should be more reluctant though. Some kids genuinely need meds, but not as many as get them.

#19 3Blessings

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 10:48 AM

They probably affect different kids differently, and you should trust your gut regarding what's best for your dd.

We had the opposite experience with my dd. On meds, her abilities were evident for the first time because she finally could focus enough to follow through with an assignment or idea. Concerta worked like a dream for her. But after awhile, she refused to take it because it upset her tummy. She is so thin that we couldn't risk her losing weight, so we let her go off meds, but there seemed to be lingering effects. It was as though the meds helped her realize what she was capable of, so she didn't completely regress when she went off of them.


Agree with the bolded. For ds, we see what we thought he was capable of all along. I always remember the times I have seen him playing piano with meds and without meds ... wow, what a difference. It isn't that he is a virtuoso with meds, but it comes so much easier to him.

If off meds is acceptable for your family- do it! We often consider the possibility of taking ds off the meds. We may decide to do it. I am constantly aware of the trajectory for unmedicated kiddos, however, and it seems to help ds so much. For now, we will stick with it.

#20 Hunter

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 12:37 PM

I have worked with children that I preferred to work with unmedicated. I told the moms to do what was best for the child, but to PLEASE not medicate them for MY sake.

I have adult students that I cannot work with unless they are medicated. But as of yet, I have not personally worked with a child that overall learned better on the meds that I saw them try. Yes, they were less "trouble" but I wasn't looking for them to be less trouble. I always liked taking the Sunday School classes that no one else would take. 2E and atypical kids and me make a great team; I like them and they like me. I don't think my experiences are typical, :lol: so I'm not sure how relevant they are.


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