McDonald, who received a standing ovation during her acceptance speech, thanked her mother and late father "for disobeying the doctor's orders and not medicating their hyper-active girl and finding out what she was into instead, and pushing her into the theatre."
Time editor-at-large Belinda Luscombe posted an open letter to McDonald in the days following the Tony Awards, expressing her personal feelings about the difficult choices parents face when considering whether to medicate children diagnosed with ADHD.
Luscombe congratulated McDonald on her success, but pointed out that regardless of her own family's attempt to find passions and interests for one of her children, "one of my kids doesn't learn very well without the meds. We've tried the theater, sports, music, wearing him out, getting him more sleep, meditation, diet, being super-disciplinarian, being not too disciplinarian, art, bribery and shouting." She continued, "But if you don't have a child whose talents are as prodigious and obvious as yours, it can be tough to figure out what's best for them. So you're left with trying to avoid what's worst; and clearly not being able to learn is pretty high on that list." Read her open letter here.
The writer also noted, "I'm sure that you were not personally judging me and other concerned parents when you thanked your parents for not putting you on Ritalin. I'm sure you weren't trying to prescribe from the podium. And obviously, you have thrived, against some serious odds."
Luscombe wrote that McDonald's words didn't make it easier for her and her family to live with the choices they faced when it came to medicating their own child, stating, "There’s anxiety and then there’s Audra-induced anxiety, which is more dramatic and accomplished than the regular sort." In closing, Luscombe wondered why McDonald couldn't have simply thanked her parents for driving her to rehearsals, running lines and calming her stage fright, rather than addressing their choice not to put her on medication – adding that for her family, medicating her child with ADHD would help him get through school, and that was okay – even if he might never be "Audra-level awesome"
McDonald replied in her own June 10 open letter, which she said she wrote under her mother's encouragement. McDonald clarified that her words were in no way meant to denounce the use of ADHD medications for parents who feel their children will benefit from it, revealing, "I myself have benefited from psychotropic drugs to help combat depression in my youth."
McDonald pointed out that when her parents were coping with their own hyper-active eight-year-old daughter the term ADHD was still unfamiliar. She took on a humorous tone, adding that "Audra-induced anxiety" had a very different meaning in her household.
Conversations with teachers and psychologists followed, but McDonald noteed that it wasn't until her parents attended a musical performance by a group of young children in her hometown of Fresno, CA, that they had the idea to encourage her to pursue music and performance. "If that moment had not happened — if they had decided to try another tactic (medication or anything else), and I had stayed on what had been my path up until that point — I have no doubt that while my life might have been a fantastic one, it would not have been one in the theatre," McDonald wrote. Read her full response here.
McDonald also addressed the words she chose in her Tony speech, commenting that thanking her mother and late father publicly was something she felt was overdue. Adding that it was a deliberate choice to address the specific and personal choice her parents made. "Not for driving me to rehearsals, helping me with my lines or keeping me calm, as you suggest I should have said to her, but for the actual decision she made," she wrote. "That is exactly what I wanted to thank her for, and I did. It was a decision that was very personal, and it ended up being the right one for me. It was a moment for and about my parents and their love for me: nothing else and no one else."
She closed stating that the decision on how best to serve a child struggling with ADHD is a personal one for each family, and that the common factor that connect parents struggling with any difficult choice such as this was "the indescribable amount of love they have for their child."