ADHD Medication – Safe Storage This post is sponsored by Adlon Therapeutics L.P, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
Who is ready for our students to get back to a normal academic and social life?
The pandemic has brought us closer as a family so much that I am NOT feeling a huge need to take our annual family vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with my family and making memories together. Still, after over a year of eating, breathing, and working together, we have had a lot of time to get really close and make memories! My overtired and somewhat irritable mind is fantasizing about me, alone, at a resort that serves my favorite food and drinks while cleaning up after MY messes!
As a parent of a soon-to-be college student, I struggle with the mix of my lingering unabashed mother patrol. My intentions are purely to install good work and cleanliness values, but they are often in conflict with the desire for me to “let go.”
Some of the joys of trying life out on their own have been delayed. They are over-eager to get back to what they envision life to be like for them. For my daughter, it is an independent young adult ready to take the world on and prove that my over-bearing parenting worries are all false. I am feeling the time has come to let her try it out.
I am ready for this new chapter too. I can envision myself sipping fresh fruit drinks at the pool as my young adult happily departs home to chart her own course in life. But I have that deep feeling in my gut to give just a little more parenting around how to manage life responsibly.
Some may say I am overreacting. When ADHD runs in your family the way it does in mine, this is not going overboard. You get used to a predictably unpredictable life of happenings due to a family history of impulsive decision making. This is when I think of an exit plan just in case, I have to dash back from my dreamy solo vacation to intervene. Or at least have a solid phone connection. Those without an impulsive streak in their genetics would think that my thought patterns were absurd and co-dependent but believe me….I do not seek any pleasure in this!
So, how does one help their exuberant college student who cannot wait to escape the shackles of parental oversight help them enjoy the new freedom while using good decision-making choices?
In a perfect world, I see this transition to take responsibility for their life as a right of passage with me waving good-bye with joyful tears in my eyes.
Then I get a second vision where the joyful tears turn to joy FEAR tears.
I read books about the desire for a child to exert self-management skills as early as 3 years old when they say “NO! I do it myself!” This was cute back then, and I remember chuckling and marveling at the fact that my daughter “COULD” dress, brush her own teeth and buckle herself in the car seat. The outcome was not perfect, and I often jumped in candidly to assist, hoping she didn’t notice my takeover.
Now, at 18, she is really ready to exert freedom and self-management skills as an adult. I have to face the reality of my inability to fix things. I had to let go and hope that the years of parenting had some effect on developing a capable young adult who could make good decisions.
This is a mild concern for the neuro-typical kid as I have witnessed from being around moms throughout the years. For the student with ADHD, the only way I can think to describe it is using this metaphor:
Freedom is a dog without a leash
Think of a dog who is always leashed up. The owner can quickly correct the behavior by redirecting them. They are picture-perfect while walking with their owner. People may even comment on what a well-behaved dog you have trained. You take great pride in those comments, yet secretly you know if they were off the leash, the people would be running away from you, fearing for their lives. Not that your dog is mean or vicious. It just has an exuberant amount of energy and loves to interact with people. This leads to them forgetting the social norms you taught them about not getting in peoples’ faces, where and when to do their business, what they can run after and what to leave behind.
Basically, they forget all the rules you taught them in a flash of a second.
This is how I felt the day I dropped off my daughter to the dorms of her freshman year of college.
She was like a dog off her leash for the first time – despite all the trial runs we had practiced for years in advance. I just had the feeling her impulsive behavior would take over!
The fear was deep-rooted in many stories over the years. One of my concerns was her medication and the unbridled opportunity for misuse. I was hoping she had learned a lesson about the dangers of medicines from an incident back when she was 10 years old and was exerting independence and self-management.
I had to learn the hard way about safe storage of ANY type of medication. That toddler who said, “mommy, I do it myself,” continued to develop her independence skills year after year. The problem was, she didn’t always think through the outcome of her actions or consider all the factors it takes to make decisions.
She was competent, and that was the problem.
She had so much confidence in her ability to make decisions, nothing was off-limits.
I used to say she would do EVERYTHING once.
She learned from her mistakes experientially and did not have the type of wiring to think abstractly through her actions. This kept me on my toes as a parent for the most part. I had a real awakening the day the first time I left her alone. I took a quick 15-minute trip to fetch her younger sister from a dance class while she was watching her favorite show.
What could go wrong?
Well, I found out after interrogating her for hours after the incident what went wrong. The fast-acting and impulsive mind took over. Within minutes of me being gone, she noticed that she had a headache. She went to my medicine cabinet and found my aspirin. She never read the label, but decided she needed a few since her headache was bad. She logically followed the routine I did when she was not well. The problem was that she wasn’t using children’s medicine, instead, she grabbed my adult extra strength. I had no idea exactly how many she took because she became so frightened by my actions of calling poison control. I feared she took more than “a few” because the headache wasn’t going away. After watching every breath for the next few hours, I realized that she was fine, luckily. I still get that panicky feeling today reminiscing about that incident.
Adding to what some may call loosely parent PTSD is another incident to set the stage for my fears that day.
The very day she got her driver’s license, she immediately backed into a person behind her at the gas station because they had blocked her in. Yes, she did driver’s safety, driver education, practiced, practiced and practiced. But somehow, we missed that if you get blocked in at the gas station, don’t try to get out of the lineup; even if you are going to be late. Like I said, I had come to terms that she was the one that would do everything once!
It was exhausting as a parent.
I was SOOOO looking forward to the day she was 18 and going to college and yet had that visualization of the dog at the park off-leash for the first time!
Now off to college with her prescription medication in hand. I had a whole new worry.
How would I guide her on her own to navigate these things with the same level of vigilance I gave it?
I thought I had to create a sense of value for her medication safety the way she values her money stashes and cell phone. I approached the subject with a prelude of all valuable things to her: her cell phone, debit cards, computer. Would she allow a friend to borrow any of these things? We ran down the reasons she did not want to “loan out” her items and how to keep the things safe when she couldn’t carry them with her. We had good traction and then came my interjection of how she valued her medication. Surprisingly, it went well! The timing was good and I had segued into this topic smoothly: a win.
We even laughed about her headache story and how scary it was for me and how she would not want to experience that as an adult. So, I felt the timing was right and asked if she could see her medication as valuable and sacred to keep it safe with the other things. We found humor as we talked through the seriousness of her prescription medication. We used a creative analogy of how wonderful it would be to develop a Pez candy dispenser for her medication that had a code she only knew. We came up with a more realistic plan to buy a safe to keep in her room where she could keep all her things secure.
This empowered her to start her true “adulting” behavior. What followed was a conversation that led to a review of tips for keeping her medication safe.
Here are the points we talked about to be an enlightened medical consumer and be “SPAFE” (slang for Especially safe)
Create a daily ritual build the habit –more likely to follow through
Feeling a “laze-day?” DON’T Just snap the cap and play it safe
Spin the dial Lock it up in the SPAFE place
When it goes south In the unfortunate event the SPAFE place was violated.
Know the count: If you have a plan with your daily pills, this should be easy
Brave the ask While hard to confront, ask if you suspect someone did it.
It took quite a bit of energy to create a situation for a conversation like this to happen without the typical family triggers. The effort was well worth it to help ease my fears of the dog off the leash scenario happening given her past history.
Creating a relatable situation that she could truly identify with set the groundwork for this to be successful. My tip for you beyond the ones above is this: Find that sacred thing your son or daughter values so much that they put as their highest priority in any given moment. Use it in developing a strong analogy that will truly stick with them well after you leave them on their own.
Michelle R. Raz, M.A. Ed., is a professional executive function coach and educational consultant. She specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD be the best version of themselves in their academic and career journeys.
Building Trust with Your Teen with ADHD Takes Knowledge, Patience and Structure
This post is sponsored by Adlon Therapeutics L.P., a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
Being a parent of a child with ADHD changes the lens of how you look at child-rearing and the responsibilities that go along with shaping an independent and responsible young adult.
Development of attentional functions (skills needed to process day-to-day life demands such as emotional regulation and decision-making skills) are often delayed or develop slowly in children with ADHD compared to those without ADHD. It can feel like a burdensome job for the parent with no end in sight.
I used to say that my child with ADHD would do everything once. The learning curve for her was an experience. Good and bad. She was the first to jump in and try something out. She did not have a lot of cognitive stops in place and I was often her backstop. She was and still is impulsive. This placed a lot of stress on me as a parent navigating a teenager who wanted to be independent.
I tried to stay ahead of her journey to independence. I researched the strengths and weaknesses associated with having ADHD and considered her potential outcomes.
I joined as many ADHD support groups and associations that I could find at that time. In fact, I even became a specialist through my quest for knowledge, all to be prepared for what she “might” do. On a side note, I discovered meditation during this time, which was a savior for me to sustain mental toughness during the rough times.
By the time my daughter was 16, she wanted me to hand over the keys to her car, stop volunteering at her schooling events and let her be in control of her medication. Giving up the volunteering at the school events meant I had to give up my insight window into her teenage shenanigans. You can learn a lot about your teen’s decision-making skills by attending these events. Losing the ability to monitor her periodically reckless behavior was the most challenging part of giving her the independence she craved. I increased my meditation times from 5 to 10 minutes a day to deal with my anxiety around wanting to trust her to handle the temptations and dangers she would inevitably face. One of my favorite mantras was, “This too shall pass”. I used that a lot during those teen years.
Teenagers with ADHD are 36% more likely to get into a car accident than newly licensed drivers without ADHD, and in a study of all college students (both those with and without ADHD) almost 16% admitted to misusing prescription stimulants as study drugs.,Misusing prescription drugs is when a medication is not used the way it is intended by the prescribing doctor.  This includes not just overusing but also sharing it. Read more about one student’s story here when he shared his medication with a fellow student.
If you are worried about your teen misusing their ADHD medication, here are some things to look out for:
Being more alert and hyperactive
Acting withdrawn or hostile
Being frequently tired or depressed
Trouble sleeping, agitation, anxiety and paranoia
Saying they need higher doses than prescribed & running out of pills
Excessive mood swings
Knowledge is powerful. Here are a few tips:
Ask for your doctor’s opinion. Many doctors these days have a portal where you can ask questions directly to them.
Know how the medication should be followed: read the prescription Medication Guide carefully
Knowing what to expect with medication can help you monitor the effects and better communicate with your doctor.
NEVER allow using prescription medication other than your own (even a family member)
It sets the stage that it might be OK to share it with others.
Discuss the consequences of prescription stimulant medication misuse with your teen and reiterate that the medication is prescribed for them only.
Set rules & establish contracts
Sometimes, all it takes is setting up some ground rules and consequences for breaking them so they understand the importance of using their prescription stimulant medication correctly.
Keep their prescription medications safe
Help them to get away from temptations, keep track and lock up their prescription medications in a safe place, like a locked cabinet or box. This is also to make sure that they are not selling their medications to other people.
Leaving unused and expired prescription medications should be avoided. You may consult with doctors for the proper way of disposing of unused medications.
Through my deep breathing and in-depth research, I formalized my plan to allow for my daughter’s independence.
I gave her a longer leash but stayed close so that I could help her out when she needed it. We created a contract that entailed what she wanted while sticking to my boundaries. We agreed on what consequences would be invoked if I became aware of any violations.
We signed it together and each kept a copy. I meditated more and then let go of my fears…sort of.
The outcome was good overall. We did have to enact the consequences a few times…ok…quite a few times over the next 4 years.
Notice that I said 4 years. We maintained this contract until she was 20.
Since she lagged a few years in maturity, it took that long until she was truly independent. The point here is that it worked. I survived it.
So, what can you do to navigate building trust with a young adult with ADHD? Knowledge is the key to success. With the knowledge, I was able to stay a step ahead, notice signs of trouble and intervene quickly. I found resources for attentional issues while driving and risks of prescription medication misuse.
With my newly gained knowledge, I was eager to share it with her. The next challenge was getting her to listen to me. I mean, really listen to me. I knew she needed it broken into chunks of information with minimal distractions. I chose times that were strategic, like taking her to get pedicures where she was my captive audience for a solid hour. We can now look back at those times and joke about our conversations and how she knew that this would be a dual event when I booked the appointments. She got her nails done at the expense of having to discuss topics important to me. It was a good trade in her teen mindset!
During this uninterrupted mother and daughter time, we accomplished the groundwork. We worked through my concerns of newly found statistical information around ADHD. I would ask her questions to test her knowledge and thoughts around the issues. It proved to be very helpful to bring attention to it and talk through scenarios of what-ifs.
What if she was asked to share her prescription medications?
What would she do if she was driving to volleyball practice late knowing the coach would be upset at her?
How would she handle these and other types of situations?
My goal was to get her in the mindset, so that WHEN it did happen to her, she would have a plan of action.
Was my method perfect?
Was it a good one? I would say yes. By preparing myself with information I was able to address the biggest concerns I had at the time: safe driving and not misusing her prescription medications. I had the knowledgebase to start these conversations with my daughter. My goal was to get her thinking about these situations and how she would handle them independently. It helped me let go of some of the control I felt as she gained independence.
Over time, the contracts became less of a parental threat and more of an agreement that we both could refer to when needed. It was the beginning of helping my daughter gain independence with tools to help make decisions that had some thought.
So, dig in and find out as much as you can about the risks associated with ADHD and stay a step ahead of your teen.
In this episode Academic Coach Michelle Raz shares a story of an ADHD student who came close to failing out of college, Through grit and hard work, she managed to pull it together and pass her classes. It is a true story of how one student was on the verge of shutting down, but through coaching and self-determination, she pushed through.
Dark Side of Remote Learning for Students with Disabilities
COVID 19 has caused a pandemic that brought a lot of changes to our way of living. One of the most affected areas is education, especially for students with disabilities. The pandemic has resulted in schools shut all across the world and as a result, education has changed drastically with the rise of remote learning where lectures will take place remotely on digital platforms.
While schools are having a transition from traditional face to face classes to online education, there are several issues that must be given attention to. A big portion of that is the disadvantages of remote learning to students with ADHD.
The following are the potential Dark side of remote learning. Barriers to education through remote-learning practices that students with disabilities may encounter along the process discussed in this podcast episode:
Need for one on one instructional support challenges.
Behavior Modification and intervention needs.
Mental Health issues: Depression, Anxiety, and Isolation.
Students with disabilities are at higher risk due to the needs and impacts for remote learning mentioned above. Amid the challenges and risks, the most important thing to keep in mind is the education and safety of students and teachers must be balanced. Education is important but enjoying and learning through the process is what makes it more valuable.
Can you think of other challenges that might get in the way during remote learning sessions?