A child named Alva comes to mind. Alva’s teacher taught by rote, which was too mechanical for the boy’s creative mind. His thoughts often wandered, while his body seemed in perpetual motion in his seat. The teacher found Alva, inattentive and unruly and often threatened punishment. Alva, fearful and out of place, ran away from school (Robbins 2). The preceding quote is an example of a student that lived many years ago that would most likely be diagnosed today with ADHD. There is an increasing debate on the subject of using prescription drugs to treat the condition of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
The use of methylphenidate stimulants for treatment of ADHD is a huge concern of many physicians and parents. There are several alternatives to using drug therapy when children are diagnosed with ADHD, and these are alternatives which should be exhausted before placing children on stimulant drug-therapies. For over twenty-five years, hyperactivity has been a problem with children, usually found when the children are school age. ADHD has been noted as a nuerological disorder. The areas in which the children have problems are: inattention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and boredom (Attention Deficit Disorder Information Library).
An article in American Medical News states,Increasingly, ADHD is viewed as one of the most prevalent childhood chronic health conditions… In recent years, these prevalence rates have raised concerns about possible overdiagnosis, leading some experts to worry that typical childhood behavior is being treated as an illness (Stapleton). This is probably one of the biggest problems with the ADHD prescription of drugs. Many ADHD diagnoses have been based solely on the parents and teachers in the form of standardized questions and /or checklists.
Many physicians are not performing extensive tests to rule out other reasons for a child’s behavior, and this can lead to misdiagnosis. This misdiagnosis can lead to children being medicated for no reason and therefore slowing down the learning creativity of these once very imaginative children (Stapleton). If a child has been correctly diagnosed with ADHD, there are still many problems with prescribing stimulant drugs as a cure. A report in the Insight on the News reports that, The use of Ritalin has soared 500 percent in the United States during the last five years…(Price 1).
There has been an increase only in the United States in such great numbers. Other countries deal with their children quite differently than in the United States. The Japanese do not use ADHD as a disorder, but just the way preschool aged children act normally. The culture causes a drastic change in behavior for children when they begin school at age six. This culture believes in changing the behavior instead of calling it a learning disability and using drugs to alter the mind of the children (Donovan).
The drug Ritalin is the prominent choice for physicians when treating ADHD in children; some of these children are as young as preschool age. Despite evidence that this drug [Ritalin] has harmful side effects and stifles creativity, doctors still ignore a safer, better solution, according to and article written on the ADHD problems (Robbins 1). Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance related to amphetamines…Recent FDA studies suggest it may even be carcinogenic, according to conservative activist, Phyllis Schlafly (Narrett 2).
This does not seem like something parents would want their children to have with the risks involved. The children that begin taking Ritalin seem to be more focused on their goals and do better in their studies in school. The children also start acting more compliant and fewer outbursts occur. This seems to be an easy way out for the adults that have to deal with these children. This also decreases creativity and imagination in otherwise bright children (Robbins 2). Many of the symptoms associated with ADHD seem to be solved with the use of Ritalin, but there are many side effects to take into consideration.
There are several side effects that are caused by the use of Ritalin. Many children that take the medication have a loss in appetite, which could cause improper growth because of poor nutrition. Children also experience insomnia, nausea and headaches. In the more severe cases, some children experience behaviors similar to Tourrette’s syndrome, which includes involuntary tics and sudden outbursts. Ritalin has also been known to cause elevated heart rates which leads to high blood pressure. With all of these facts presented, parents should exhaust all alternatives to treating ADHD before using Ritalin (Robbins 2).
Nutrition may play a key role in many children diagnosed with ADHD. There have been several studies done on food allergies associated with causing hyperactivity in children. The studies involved a pediatric allergist named Ben Feingold. Dr. Feingold found that, a substantial number of hyperactive children improved dramatically when they stopped eating foods that contained artificial colorings and flavors and certain artificial preservatives (Robbins 2-3). Another study was performed in 1985, where 79 percent of the hyperactive children changed their diet to specific foods and their behavior improved.
When the children were reintroduced to the foods again, their conditions were worse than before the test started (Robbins 3). One approach that has proven to work for some children is the holistic approach. This is a drug free approach that relies on a different style of teaching children with hyperactivity These children should not be seen as having a deficit, but to have a positive outlook on learning. One teacher noticed a student who had a problem with traditional style teaching, but excelled far beyond their peers when doing hands-on projects.
Another example of non-traditional style teaching that seems to work well for children with ADHD is using visualization as a teaching tool which can also be referred to as internal mental motion, instead of external learning (Armstrong 2). There is yet another alternative to using drugs to treat ADHD symptoms called EEG Biofeedback Training. This treatment involves letting the child realize what is going on inside his or her brain when presented with information. By using this method the child is helped to gain control over the reactions he or she is having and to learn to modify the behavior.
This would be a much better long-term solution instead of being dependent on stimulant drugs. One statement in the article on the EEG Training says, Once the child’s brain has learned to regulate itself better, it continues to use that skill, just as other children’s brains do naturally(Othmer). The problem with ADHD does not lie with the children who are diagnosed, but with the parents and physicians. There should be a thorough examination before determining any diagnosis that will affect the child for the rest of their life.
If there is a need for treatment, then all alternatives should be administered before treating the illness with drugs that are not needed or that result in drug-dependence. In the beginning of the essay, a student named Alva was mentioned; this is the rest of the story, It is fortunate that Alva lived some years ago, before the medicalization of childhood was under way. His full name was Thomas Alva Edison, and if he were a child today, he would most certainly be diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin. If this had happened when he was growing up, we might still be reading by kerosene lamps (Robbins 2).