Three reasons why I don’t medicate my child

This is an edited version of a post originally published on Respectfully Connected.

I’m a bit hesitant to write this post, because I know that there are strong opinions on medicating children. I hold strong opinions about it, and I know that other people may have opposing views.

Before I go into my reasons why I don’t medicate my son, I must say that there are times when medication may be suitable. There are times where medication are helpful. That said, it’s important that medication is not seen as the complete solution. Rather, medication is one tool that can be used to support a person while they being supported in other ways as well.

There was a time when I was pressured by my son’s school to try medication. I carefully weighed up the risks and benefits and agreed to a trial. The trial lasted for three months and it became clear that the side effects outweighed the benefits. This is important because without the trial, we would have never known that.  So, I’m not suggesting that everyone should never consider giving their children medication. I’m only explaining why I currently choose not to.

With that disclaimer, here are my three reasons for not medicating my child:

1. My son is Autistic

On the surface, that reason might not appear to mean much with regards to why I don’t medicate him. He is multiply neurodivergent and some of his neurodivergences can be supported with medication. But, whenever people question why he doesn’t take medication, their reasons have to do with him being autistic. The reasons given don’t relate to his other neurodivergences. I love my son and accept him for who he is wholeheartedly. I see no reason to try and reduce his autistic way of being. He deserves the ability to express himself and simply be himself.

2. My son’s brain is still developing

We don’t really know that much about how autistic brains develop. Researchers spend a lot of time comparing Autistic children to their neurotypical peers. They haven’t spent as much time mapping out autistic development in its own right. We definitely know that autistic people’s brains develop differently, but we don’t really have a good understanding of exactly how that happens. If I medicate my son, will I be interfering with that process? I don’t have the answers to that question.

3. My son needs to have opportunities to develop self-help skills

If I were to medicate him, it wouldn’t give him the opportunity to learn self-help skills because the medication would reduce the effects that situational demands or environmental stimuli have on him. While he is young, I have the ability to reduce those demands so that we can figure out strategies for him to be able to cope with the overwhelm he regularly experiences. I am able to offer gentle exposure to challenging situations, and this helps him develop self-help skills. He will need those self-help skills when he’s older so I feel that it’s necessary for him to be able to gradually develop them rather than being reliant on medication.

There have been times when maybe things could be easier for me if my son took medication. But, I know that my son is doing his best. I know that, as the adult, I am responsible for supporting him through the times when he struggles. I know that I am capable of making adjustments to our lifestyle and home environment in order to meet his needs.

My son is still learning about his world, he’s still developing self-help strategies. My son will always be Autistic, and I hope that by giving him the opportunity to learn about his world in a non-threatening way, he will develop into his best Autistic self.