The Catch 22 of Therapy and the Decision to Stop and Start and…

toomuchtherapy

I saw this while browsing around this morning and it really hit home. I have a grown son with Autism who must attend both therapy with a counselor and see a psychiatrist. He has other conditions beside the Autism (that usually go hand in hand with it, like anxiety) that require that he take medicine. I wish very much that it weren’t the case. So, we have to schedule regular visits for him so he can receive his prescriptions and be sure he is handling life OK. I’m grateful he has the help he needs.

Then, there is my eleven year old daughter. She is also Autistic, but she is very different from her brother. She has severe ADHD and a sensory processing disorder as well as anxiety. I have been torn between therapy and medication and no therapy and no medication forever. I’m a strong proponent of therapy. It’s good for you if you need it. It can be very cathartic to sit with someone and let it all out. I myself have been seeing a therapist since my husband was killed in a car accident so I get it. However, it’s not that easy when it comes to my daughter.

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Everyone around you from time to time will ask questions like, “So is she on any medication?” or “Is she in therapy?” Depending on when you ask me, the answer changes. The first time I took her to see a psychiatrist, he prescribed medication within five minutes and sent us on our way. I found that to be incredibly disturbing that it was so “easy” for a doctor to administer a strong, amphetamine type drug to a nine year old without even blinking. Perhaps that is what has shaped my revolving door approach. I hated and despised giving her that pill. It slowed her appetite and disrupted her sleep. I didn’t keep her on it long. The accompanying therapy produced no results or change in the home or at school.

I soon drifted away and told them I wasn’t coming back. Then, I grappled with guilt. Was I doing the right thing? I found the entire experience draining, not for selfish reasons either. I had to take her out of school, where she was having horrible problems with comprehension and a hostile IEP team that wasn’t helping and allowing her to fail, so taking her out of school made things worse. They would tell me she needed help for her ADHD, then criticize me for all the time she missed. It’s like I could never win.

So, no therapy it was and things continued to spiral downward with grades and behavior. Instead of the private counseling center I’d been dissatisfied with, I went for a larger, renowned organization here in Baltimore known worldwide for their work with Autism and related disorders. It took months of being on a waiting list and we got in. Cue the revolving door.

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So, here I was again, making more appointments for therapy. Once again, we had to see both a counselor and a psychiatrist. This time, they were both in locations much farther away than the previous one and required much longer times away for each appointment. Also once again, the school started complaining about how much time she was missing. The psychiatrist prescribed strong amphetamine based medications on the first visit. The counselor devised the same behavior out, rewards and praise in strategy and I sat there and thought, “OMG, here I am again, doing all this and for what? Pills and charts that I don’t want”.

So, I walked away, AGAIN. I’m still coming to terms with it really. I feel like I’m taking a great opportunity to get her help and throwing it in the trash can. However, she’s in school every day, not missing any classes, trying her best. Isn’t that all we ask of any of our children?

She is incredibly creative and funny. She’s very smart although she has that uncertain lack of confidence that tends to show up around age 11, but she still rises above. She smiles a lot, is active and has friends. She struggles in school, but with help in place, she’s working on it. I sit here staring at the missed appointment letter and struggling once again about what is right for her. I think she should just be a kid and not be ground down with constant trips to doctors and therapists and taking pills and using tons of charts. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just want her to be able to be a kid for now.

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