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Making the Decision to Medicate is Never Easy

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

Our daughter Lilly was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half.

She has always had anxiety and behavioral issues but medicating her never really crossed our minds until about two years ago, just before her tenth birthday.

Her meltdowns were becoming more frequent and more intense, and at almost ten years old she was becoming harder and harder to manage.

The smallest things would set her off.

She started exhibiting dangerous and self-destructive behaviors as well; scratching, biting, head banging, and attempting to pound her fists against the glass windows in our house.

If she had a meltdown in public, she would bolt without regard to where she was.

I’ve had to chase her across school grounds on more than one occasion so she wouldn’t run into the busy parking lot, and she is FAST.

She also has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, which often go hand in hand with autism, and hers are related to her anxiety.

The summer before she turned ten, our house was filled with stacks, lines, and precise arrangements of her things to the degree that I had never seen before.

She was having two or more severe meltdowns a day that lasted anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour.

We had tried several different calming methods; breathing techniques, essential oils, weighted blankets, and a host of other things that would work for a bit or not help at all.

We were exhausted, emotionally drained, and afraid to take her anywhere, so I made her an appointment with her pediatrician to rule out any medical reasons for this sudden, drastic shift.

When she suggested medication, my first reaction was to refuse.

I had heard horror stories about kids being overmedicated to the point where they could hardly stay awake.

I was fearful that any side effects she might have would outweigh the benefits.

Then I imagined what our next few years might look like as Lilly grew bigger and stronger.

At the rate she was going now, she would be missing out on a great deal of life, as she would always be a risk to herself and others.

I spent hours on the internet researching the most common psychiatric medicines for children, had many discussions with my husband, and we both decided that we owed it to Lilly to at least try it.

We were given a referral for a psychiatrist, who prescribed her a small dose of Prozac and told us that we should begin to see results within six weeks as the medicine would need time to build up certain levels in her body.

Within a week we noticed a small difference.

She seemed more mellow; less quick to fly into a rage.

As the weeks wore on, we began to see the tantrums decrease little by little. She would still have at least one per day, but that was still progress.

She also started Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA) around this time, and two years later her behaviors have decreased significantly.

She still has her good days and bad days, but now the good ones far outnumber the bad.

For us, starting Lilly on medication was absolutely the best decision we could have made.

We never saw it as a “cure” or “quick fix” for her autism, but rather to help get a handle of some of the anxiety that was the cause of a lot of her outbursts.

We were lucky; she adapted well to the prescription with no side effects aside from drowsiness, which was resolved by giving her medication at bedtime. But, I know the process is not that simple for everyone.

There is a lot of controversies when it comes to medicating children; some see it as a convenience rather than a necessity, and I am sure there are many cases like this.

There are a lot of pros and cons, and it is not a decision that any parent should take lightly.

My recommendation to anyone would be to do as much research as you can, talk to people who have walked the same path, and advocate for what you think is best for your child, as you are the one that knows them best.

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