Some local residents have taken treatment for their children's ADHD into their own hands, sometimes leaving doctors out of the process entirely.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, is a range of behaviors such as consistent inattention, hyperactivity or impulsiveness that interferes with normal life, school and social activities.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 10 percent of Tennessee's children have been diagnosed with the condition, higher than the national average of 7.8 percent, and that most of them are taking medication, such as Ritalin, to manage their symptoms. Some studies show that ADHD is neurological and may be genetic. Boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD, and white children are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with it as are Latino or black children.
These three families have tried myriad therapies for their children and have chosen holistic and herbal remedies, homeschooling and activities tailored to the child's interests and conventional medication. Each family says that the decision shouldn't be taken lightly and that every family has to try different things to find what works best for them.
THERESA & JAY LODE, FRANKLIN
When Daniel Lode was 2 years old, he removed all the electrical outlet covers in the house with a screwdriver. When he was 5, he removed a circuit board from an old TV and held onto it the way other children might carry a teddy bear or blanket. He always wore sweatpants — he called them "squishy pants" — because harder fabrics, such as denim, irritated him. His mother, Theresa, didn't think anything was unusual until she noticed that her other children, Molly and Caleb, were totally different from Daniel.
Sunday school was the first clue. Daniel wouldn't sit at his desk. Teachers called the Lodes out of church service to get him. He had the same problems during a brief stint in preschool. Crowds agitated him and loud noises stressed him. "I get ticked off by very little things," he said. When he was 4, a doctor told the Lodes he had ADHD and immediately prescribed Ritalin.
Daniel, now 12, took medication for a very short time, but Theresa Lode said it "took the life out of him." He got weepy for no reason and still couldn't sleep. "I just remember thinking, 'This isn't right,' " she said. Behavior management was their therapy of choice. They targeted specific behaviors that needed help.
Daniel is not actively treated for ADHD. They home-school their three children, organizing their schedules to minimize stress for Daniel.
Daniel is calmer and has less trouble sleeping. He focuses on things that interest him. The Lodes called Daniel's condition a gift.
Theresa Lode, a freelance writer who has written articles about ADHD, wrote a short e-book about the family's experience with different therapies. It's called A Parent to Parent Chat on ADHD, and she sells it online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEBBIE & DAVID ENGEN, NASHVILLE
Their 5-year-old son, Jared, either sat in time-out in kindergarten or was sent home for disrupting the class. He was nearly expelled for raising his fist to punch another child. He also fought often with his 2-year-old sister. "We tried to get him to calm down and be nice," said Debbie Engen.
When the Engens took Jared to the pediatrician, she immediately recommended the Regional Intervention Program (RIP), a state-sponsored program for children up to age 6 and their families. Parents learn how to identify problem behaviors and use positive discipline strategies. Debbie Engen was skeptical. "We were looking for something that would help him. We knew how to parent," she said. David Engen, who has ADHD and took Ritalin as a youngster, didn't want Jared to take drugs.
Without recommendations from the family doctor, the Engens tried herbal therapies. Debbie Engen chose products from a company called Native Remedies, in part because of the parent testimonies on the Web site. "They were exactly what I was going through," she said. "They almost made me cry."
Debbie Engen said discipline for ADHD children isn't the problem.
ANGIE & CARL JONES, THOMPSON'S STATION
The Joneses have two sons with ADHD: Benjamin, 15, and Samuel, 8. Their 6-year-old twin daughters, Faith and Sarah, do not. Samuel had been expelled from two preschools because he hit other children when frustrated, was easily agitated, rarely paid attention and frequently threw tantrums. During kindergarten, he spent much time at the principal's office. It wasn't easier at home. "He was really intensely wild," Angie Jones said. "It was a hard way to live."
Samuel had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, when he was 3. He was officially diagnosed with ADHD two years ago. The family went through six months of behavior training in the RIP program, learning to handle tantrums, teach Samuel to share and calm himself down. The Joneses thought the program was excellent, but it didn't completely help Samuel. Reluctantly, the family tried drugs.
Samuel takes Concerta, an ADHD stimulant, once a day.
He now does well in school, had not been to the principal's office and no longer hits other children. "It's like night and day," she said. "He's like a different child."
Angie Jones said medication is not about avoiding discipline.