The news last week that nearly two thirds of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are on some sort of medication may or may not be surprising, depending on your own personal experiences. Our friends at Disability Scoop published a quick & easy write-up about it, too).
The headline can certainly provoke some strong feelings from us parents. Regardless of what kind of approach you take to helping your child achieve his or her potential, one thing is unanimous: the decision to put your child on a medication is rarely an easy one to come to.
The fact is, we all want our children to thrive. We all want them to be comfortable in their own skin. We all want the absolute very best for them. And sometimes a medication is the only way to help them, be it for focus, anxiety, or sleep.
But how do we know if the medication the doctor prescribed is really helping our kids?
Sure, we can keep our eyes on Jimmy a bit more closely during those first few weeks of the new med. But often, as we all know from watching our kids grow, changes happen over time, both positive and negative. Sometimes we’re aware, but a great deal of the time, we simply aren’t. It takes a friend, or a family member who comes into town, to tell us what kind of progress they’ve seen since the last time. This is a big part of the reason we built Birdhouse– to fill in those gaps.
The importance of behavioral tracking and keeping ongoing health records is paramount to starting any new medication.
How else will we know if something is working or not? As social ecologist Peter Drucker used to say, “what gets measured gets managed.” The Mayo Clinic recommends tracking. The CDC recommends tracking, too. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a pain in the neck!
Start simply, by focusing on 2 items.
We’ll call them “the med and the mood”. In the days (or weeks, in a best case scenario) leading up to beginning the new medication, keep a record of your child’s mood. Is he anxious? Hyper? Calm? Obsessive? Spacey? Get in the habit of recording mood three times daily: morning, afternoon, and evening. This will help create what’s called your “baseline”. Your context. This is what you’ll be looking back at once you start the new med.
When you start the new med, record every instance your child is given his or her medication. Remember to note the date, time, and dosage. Birdhouse makes this incredibly easy by storing all of this info for you and allowing you to give the medication a recurring schedule, so all you have to do each day is click “Complete”, (or swipe Complete on iPhone) to indicate it was given. You can even add notes about any side effects that you might see.
It’s as simple as that. It takes no more than 3 minutes a day, but when the doctor asks you at the next appointment, “So, how have things been going?”, you’ll have a confident answer!