There is an interesting article in today’s New York Times titled “Drugs to Treat A.D.H.D. Reach the Preschool Set”. Being someone who was diagnosed with A.D.D. in Elementary School, and someone who took Ritalin for seven years before deciding I didn’t want to take pills everyday anymore, I had to read this article.
The main point of the article is that the American Academy of Pediatrics has approved the use of prescription drugs to treat A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, for those who may not be familiar with these acronyms) in children under 6, which was the age limit prior to this decision.
Some may be outraged by this new decision, and see it as another example of Americans being too quick to embrace medication to solve all of our problems. Some also, legitimately, bring up the point that it is difficult at such a young age to “tell the difference between a healthy, active 4- or 5-year-old and one with A.D.H.D.”, as the article states. The article quotes Rahil Briggs, a psychologist working with the Children’s Hospital in the Bronx, “You’re trying to differentiate what may be normative, somewhat disorganized, active, distractible behavior in a 4-year-old, that to an adult may look difficult to control, from something that would qualify as a diagnosis of A.D.H.D.”
What I liked about this decision, though, is the fact that, according to the article, it does not give physicians free rein to prescribe drugs to whomever they want. The article states, “The American Academy of Pediatrics revised its A.D.H.D. treatment guidelines, giving doctors a green light to prescribe drugs even to preschoolers with A.D.H.D. if behavioral efforts fail” (Emphasis added). I like that they look first to behavioral efforts.
I will say, though, that sometimes medication is required. The article detail the account of a young boy whose parents and doctors had tried everything before they medicated him, but nothing was working. Then they started him on medication, without telling his teacher, and the teacher called asking what they had done differently, because he was so much better in class. That is exactly my experience with Ritalin, as well. My teachers could tell on which days I had forgotten to take my pills, and I could, too. I could tell that I was getting out of control, that I was talking too much, fidgeting too much, being a distraction to myself and others. But I couldn’t stop myself. That is a strange feeling, to know consciously that you do not want to do something, and then have your body do it anyway. That is what A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. is about.
I do admit that these disorders seem to be over diagnosed, it seems to be an easy out for parents or teachers who want order and nice disciplined children without putting in the effort to teach or train children properly. Just because a kid doesn’t like sitting still at his desk at school does not mean he has A.D.D., it may just be that he’s bored, uninterested in the subject matter or the teaching method, or it may be that he’d rather be outside playing ball. Perfectly normal. Just because a child is fidgeting or talking a lot does not mean there is anything wrong with him.
But at the same time, a child who is a little disruptive does not mean that parents or teachers have failed him. There very well could be a legitimate medical reason and medication could be both helpful and necessary. I will tell anyone who asks that I took Ritalin for seven years in school, and that I needed it. I could tell, and my teachers could tell, when I had not had my medication, and I noticed a significant difference in my behavior and my grades. I was a smart kid, but I found it hard concentrate and do my work.
A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. are complicated disorders that are not completely understood. The debate will continue. Should we medicate our children or should we tell parents to toughen up and learn how to control their children? Or should we find the harmonious middle ground – parents should do more to help their children, and not look for excuses to blame others, and sometimes it is necessary to use medication.
- New ADHD guidelines: Kids as young as 4 can be diagnosed (vitals.msnbc.msn.com)
- Your 4 year old needs Ritalin (thevreelandclinic.wordpress.com)
- Getting Distracted from the Real Issues of ADHD (ideas.time.com)
- A.D.D: From a Non-Medical Perspective (radicalparenting.com)
- Children Can Outgrow ADHD (time.com)