A Christmas Meltdown Turns Into Christmas Miracle

Christmas came and went.  It was a little overwhelming for my ADHD/ASD child.  He is 3 1/2, and it took him a while to understand that gifts were for opening.  He’d open one and just want to play with it.  Then once he understood the concept, it was as if he had to open every gift in overdrive.  It was chaotic at times.  He is used to not having access to many toys as we keep them in bins in a closet.  We attempt the one bin in, one bin out rule.  So having toys everywhere for a few days did dysregulate him.  However, had a little dysregulation been our only holiday challenge, we could have easily managed that.  What happened to my son over the holiday was nothing short of a complete meltdown.  Thank goodness, we figured out why.

The day after Christmas, December 26th is special in our family.  My husband is Canadian, and in Canada, December 26th is a holiday called Boxing Day.  My husband’s father is from Denmark, and the family tradition has always been a Danish Luncheon on Boxing Day.  So after the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, our family geared up for day 3 of holiday festivities.

The morning of the 26th started off very different for my son.  He was unusually frustrated.  My daughter and her husband were here, and, as a result, I felt a little more urgency to keep him compliant and happy.  It wasn’t working.  If he was playing with his train and a piece fell apart, he’d destroy the entire track.  If he was attempting to line up his crayons and one rolled, he’d lie on the floor and slam his head into the ground.  For 5 hours, he was screaming and crying and unable to be consoled.  He refused to eat or drink.  He was so hyper-focused on everything he was trying to do that if something didn’t turn out exactly the way he expected it he melted down.   I had never seen him like this.  Sure, he’d had meltdowns, but those only lasted a few minutes, not hours.  Sure, he’d get frustrated with toys, but not to the point of severe self-injury.  I was so overwhelmed, embarrassed, and had no idea what to do.  Eventually, I was about to have a meltdown myself, so I told my husband I needed to go take a bath.

By the time I was finished, my son was asleep.  He had literally worn himself out and passed out on the couch.  He was now sleeping soundly in his crib.  I was nervous about continuing the Danish Luncheon, but we had food, and guests were coming.  What if he woke up the same way?  What was going on?  He is usually a happy kid.  I was wracking my brain for what could have happened, and then it hit me.  His medication. He recently was switched to Adzenys, which is an amphetamine, to help control the symptoms of his ADHD.  In other words, it was supposed to help him be able to focus.  Over the last week, we had been slowly increasing the dosage to see what the sweet spot would be, and apparently, we way overshot the mark.

He slept for 3 hours, and when he woke up, he was the smiling and happy child I was used to.  The effects of the medication had worn off.  I called the pediatrician early the next morning and asked if he could quit the medication cold turkey, and she said no problem.  We’d resume with a much lower dosage after the holiday break when he returned to ABA therapy.

Something miraculous simultaneously happened during this time.  Recently, my son had the Genesight Genetic Test done.  It showed he had a mutation of what is called the MTHFR gene (Check out my blog Genetic Test using Genesight by clicking here for more information.)  The mutation means his body can’t process folic acid to a usable form.  Folic acid plays a crucial role in the regulation of Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine.  These are neurotransmitters in the brain that help regulate mood, sensations of pain and pleasure, appetite, and more.  His doctor prescribed an activated folic acid supplement, but we hadn’t been able to administer it to him.  I called the pharmaceutical company and asked for their input on how to get this pill my child won’t swallow into him.  It was a gel cap, so I couldn’t crush it and mix it into juice like I did the Adzenys.  They told me to soften it with warm water, puncture with a pin, and squeeze the contents into a spoonful of yogurt.  It worked!

Over the last few days, I genuinely believe we have seen a miracle.  My son has been happy, compliant, verbal, intelligible, answering questions, eating, feeding himself, sleeping, engaging in fantasy play, tolerating sitting on the toilet, and more; I just couldn’t be more pleased.  I believe the regulation of folic acid has been the missing ingredient in our ADHD/ASD recipe for him.  He attends a full-time Applied Behavior Analysis program. I’m excited for him to return after the break because I honestly expect therapy to be even more successful now that he takes the folic acid supplement.

I encourage you if your child has ADHD, ASD, or other developmental delays, to request a Genesight Genetic test. This will help you know if your child is on the medication that best fits them, and if they have the MTHFR gene mutation.  The results we have seen in just a few short days have been truly my favorite gift this holiday season!

Where there is great love, there are always miracles. – Willa Cather

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Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.