Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chinese Proverb: It is easy to get a thousand prescriptions but hard to get one single remedy.

Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use?  It's nice to be number one, but we can fix that.  All we need to do is start the war on education.  If it's anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we'll all be hooked on phonics.  ~Leighann Lord

I have mixed feelings about drugs. No, not pot, or cocaine, or anything illegal. I'm talking about the medication that are prescribed to kids with ADHD and other related mental issues. It seems like there are a lot of kids on meds at my school for various reasons. And while I don't get a list or anything of who's on meds, teachers' comments have helped me put together which kids are dealing with what. Sometimes, teachers will make a comment that perhaps a kid should be on meds--there are a lot of kids with behavioral and focus issues at my school. (For some students though, whether or not their parents would be on board with meds, but because of insurance-or lack thereof-or money issues, the students won't always be able to get the help they need.)

The meds do help--sometimes a student will forget, or run out or really any number of reasons and they are noticeably more out of control than usual. So in this case the meds are beneficial; these are smart kids, and when they're more focused they can learn more. And they will not only learn more, but so will their classmates because they won't be as distracting or take up more of the teachers' energy that should be used towards teaching not discipline.

Then again, not only are you starting a habit, however beneficial, that these kids will be dependent on the rest of their lives. And this is where I admit my lack of expertise. I don't know what research is out about ADHD, or any other issue. But I do wonder if meds will mess with the natural development of a child. Whether, in helping them in the present, it will really benefit them in the long run. Not only that, but in some senses you're teaching a kid how to not take personal responsibility. "Oh, it's not my fault, it's because I didn't take my meds today." This cuts both ways--you may not be doing well in class not because you're not smart, but because there's a physical barrier keeping you from reaching that potential. Still, I had a kid justify his behavior because he ran out of meds, and at that point his mom didn't have enough money to get more right then. Well, sure, that's part of it. But it's not helpful to simply justify your behavior--just because you have a condition doesn't exempt you from taking responsibility for your actions.

I wonder too, how much of these students' behaviors are just because they're growing children. Most children, ADHD or not, don't fancy sitting in a desk and doing math for an extended period of time. They get antsy. So are we jumping the gun, prescribing all these meds? Are they a quick fix for an issue that needs to be approached with a larger picture perspective? Is it that because we know more we are able to accurately diagnose more children, or are we over-diagnosing because we have more ways to control behaviors chemically? Or is there something going on in society where more kids are affected by these conditions than in the past?

I was talking with a friend about this issue, and he brought up an interesting point: It almost seems as if children aren't allowed not to be smart. If your kid isn't doing well in school, well, it's not their fault. It's something chemical. But maybe they just learn at a different pace than other kids. Maybe they're just being kids.

Ultimately, I don't know. Which is why I'm excited to go back to school after another year, and see what the research says, and what people whose jobs it is to figure this stuff out think--because this post brings up more questions than answers--but that's the nature of this blog.


  1. Have you heard of the book NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman? They write a column in Newsweek. I think you would really like it. here is their blog,

  2. I've never heard of that--I'll have to look it up. Thanks Laura!

  3. And right away, looking at the blog I found:

    Then it's finding the line between normal childhood misbehavior and something more destructive. There's one kindergardener who gets in trouble a lot--but I think it's because he's fidgety, but ultimately a good kid. There's other kids who take misbehaving to a new level and it really is truly disruptive for the rest of the kids. I'll have to do a post about discipline soon--something I think about on a daily basis.