• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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ASD/Adderall Observation

Long before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I carried an ADD diagnosis. Adderall was prescribed for me in 2007 and I have been taking it fairly regularly ever since. Of course, I cannot take Adderall while pregnant so there have been some breaks.

I have missed my Adderall during this past pregnancy. My brain works so much faster, and sharper when I take my medication. I know that it is not for everyone and definitely is not always a good choice for ASD children. That said, Aspie Teen and I benefit from it—but there are a few things I’ve noticed worth mentioning.

Overall Increased Sensitivity

I have long wondered if I was more sensitive and irritable when on Adderall because I seem more agitated during interrupts to my work. I began to monitor this in myself last year before I became pregnant. I couldn’t decide if my crankiness was coming from the meds or from the fact that I tend to forget to eat more often when taking them. I get very cranky when I do not eat.

This past weekend was particularly challenging—Tantrum is getting out of control, which is a story for another post. I did realized, however, that all my sensitivities felt heightened—more so than is normal for me. Normal for me is extremely sensitive to begin with so I realized immediately that my auditory processing in particular was on overdrive, and I was rapidly approaching overload.

I was more sensitive to the lighting in the house, and the sunlight when I walked outside. I noticed the increase almost immediately since I had only been back on my medication for two days. The Tot’s increased screaming and meltdowns this weekend did increase the stress in the house, which always wreaks havoc on my senses.

Concentration and Interruptions

My concentration and focus is definitely enhanced, and the medication does help my executive functioning in this way. However, the flip side of that is that I am hyper-focusing and interruptions (always unwelcome and bring immediate feelings of anger) are getting me crazy. I am still unable to filter out the background noises, and it seems that smaller things “interrupt” my thoughts and distract me. So on one hand, I am more focused, and on the other more sensitive and susceptible to distractions—frustrating.

An Unexpected Result

Although I definitely feel I am more irritable and less tolerating of interruptions—especially when the medication is wearing off at the end of the day. I feel better overall taking the meds than not. I think that my increased energy and brain power makes me feel less depressed. I tend to feel immediate despair when do not accomplish as much I think I should. Granted, I always think I should or can accomplish way more than I actually can—but again a discussion for another time.

My Conclusion

For now, I am going to stick with meds, continue to write (hopefully a million miles a minute as my brain thinks stuff up), and will try to isolate myself in the quiet when I am doing so to avoid the inevitable, irritating, anger inducing INTERUPTIONS! I am going to skip the doses on the weekends when all the kids are home and the house is full of madness so as to not heighten my already over-sensitive senses. I just need to ensure that I get all my work done during the weekdays and learn to relax on the weekends (doubt that will ever happen, but I can dream).

The Teen-A quick note on Aspie Teen’s Adderall experience

Aspie Teen, as I have mentioned, also takes Adderall, which was prescribed for ADD prior to his ASD diagnosis. The medication, for him, has a calming effect. He is much more focused, can concentrate on school work, and does not drive me crazy all day long obsessing over every video game on the planet that he wants to buy! This does wear off, and his video game purchasing obsessions start right back up again in the afternoons but at least I get a small reprieve in the morning (usually, because as I am typing this he is yapping behind me about the new PS4 coming out on the 15th—argh!).

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.