I loved the doctor my son with ADHD was seeing in high school. She was a pediatrician, though, which meant at some point he was going to outgrow her practice. I just kept hoping it would happen after college. I felt we needed her help to navigate this next stage of my son’s life.
One day, when I was on a well visit with my son, I finally asked the question I had been wondering about.
“I know that as a pediatrician, you don’t see your patients forever, but when do they become too ‘old’ to see you?”
She answered, “We give them their last checkup before they go to college, and then we send them on their way.”
We had known our doctor for over a decade. She had seen us through a lot, including my son’s ADHD diagnosis and prescription changes. And with college looming, I wanted our doctor’s guidance more than ever.
Then I realized I wasn’t the one who needed guiding—my son needed it, too. While he liked our pediatrician, the relationship was primarily mother-to-doctor. He needed to forge his own doctor-patient relationship.
Unfortunately, it took longer than I anticipated. My son was leaving for college at the end of August, and when he started looking for a doctor, it was late spring. The doctors our pediatrician had recommended were booked months in advance.
He spent some time online reading bios of doctors who worked at the practices that accepted our medical insurance. He liked the looks of one primary care physician who mentioned he was a college football fan. My son thought they might have something in common.
He went to the appointment on his own and returned later, deflated and angry. It turned out that the new doctor didn’t treat patients with ADHD.
It had never occurred to me that any primary care doctor wouldn’t treat ADHD. In fact, my son couldn’t seem to find a doctor who would. The consensus from people we spoke to was that he would have to have his ADHD treated separately by a psychiatrist. We were getting worried, because the start of college was quickly approaching, and it seemed we were running out of options.
Finally, my son remembered that the dad of one of his friends from Boy Scouts was a primary care physician. He called him, and the friend’s dad not only treated ADHD, he agreed to see my son later that week.
It could not have worked out better. My son tells me his doctor doesn’t judge him, but gives him adult advice about adult situations. For instance, his new doctor gave him straightforward advice about the potential side effects of mixing ADHD meds with alcohol—a big concern in college. It’s the kind of advice that was met by sighs when I gave it to him.
The day our family pediatrician gently graduated my son from her practice left me nervous and anxious. But I think it’s simply another part of letting go when your child has ADHD.
See a list of different professionals who help kids with ADHD. Learn more about how ADHD is treated. And get tips for how to talk to older kids about ADHD medication.
Read another personal story. Hear from a mom who was scared to drop off her son with ADHD at college.
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About the author
Maureen Paschal is a freelance writer, teacher, librarian, and mom to four kids, one with ADHD. She blogs at Raising The Capable Student.