Sunday, 13 December 2009

Ritalin for two year olds...?

I am not the first mother to have had her pre-school child fast-tracked to a shaky diagnosis [of Ritalin].

Two mothers told me of similar experiences. Six years ago, Clare, a mother of three, was told by a nursery school teacher that her three-year-old son had suspected Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, because he was so difficult to control. "They pushed for him to be referred," she says, "and I was made to feel terrible for not noticing. They were wrong. Eventually I went to a psychologist, who gave me fantastic help. She said that some children need more 'parenting' than others. She advised a fixed routine, to set rigid boundaries and to allocate a period of time every day to spend alone with him - even if it was only fifteen minutes. It transformed his behaviour."

Margaret, who is a doctor, was told by her son's teachers that he had 'real problems' when he was only four. "He's a bright spark but he was the youngest child in his class, born at the end of August," she says. "The teachers complained that he was no good with the other children, but the gap of understanding was huge." Margaret says that her son's behaviour levelled out as he matured, but only after a two year battle to prevent him being given a 'special needs' label. "I've since discovered anecdotally that this is a common problem with boys."

Children as young as two have been prescribed Ritalin, sleeping pills and anti-psychotics.

Helen Samuels, The Times, Saturday 21 November 2009

This was a truly alarming article, where doctors can prescribe such drugs to the youngest members of our society purely because they display behaviour that COULD be diagnosed as ADHD.

The problem today is that so few people parent properly. They are too busy/too lazy/too soft/too weak to set proper boundaries for their children and then enforce those limits.

Continual over-indulgence in an environment where their every whim is satisfied immediately and there are no repercussions for bad behaviour. Where proper bedtimes are not adhered to and where there is no quality time for anyone, parents or children.

The psychologist had it right.

She said that some children need more 'parenting' than others. She advised a fixed routine, to set rigid boundaries and to allocate a period of time every day to spend alone with him - even if it was only fifteen minutes.

With so many distractions and demands upon our time, kids today need to know that they have the full focus of their parent at least once in a day or they start using attention-seeking techniques... even if it only gets them bad attention. They need some form of fixed time with us when we interact properly as parent and child in order to feel loved and cared for, just as much as we need quality time without their interruptions in order to preserve our own marital relationships.

And don't get me started on the effects of all the chemicals in our foods. Surely it doesn't take an Einstein to link some of these attention deficit disorders with the horrendous diets of the sufferer. Of course no child will eat vegetables if they are able to fill up on sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks to their heart's content before a meal or in lieu of it if they veto the content. No parent wants their child to go hungry!!!??? Can you remember your parents giving you pudding if you didn't eat your main course? So why are we doing that for our own offspring?

Something has gone horribly wrong when our toddlers and pre-schoolers are being drugged rather than shown how to behave properly.


Shelagh said...

Ritalin can only be prescribed by a consultant. My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 2003 and from referral by school the diagnosis took almost a year - it was a very lengthy and involved process. My daughter was on the Special Needs register at primary school (although she hadn't been statemented) but there doesn't seem to be the same sort of thing at at secondary school. There is extra support but not to the same degree and she has had real problems at secondary school. Finally, now that GCSEs are looming, they are getting their act together - the cynic in me suspects that it is more to do with the affect pupils like her have on their performance results.

That article makes it sound like having special needs is some kind of stigma and that GPs are handing out Ritalin like Smarties. My perspective, from the other side of the process, is very different indeed!

Shelagh said...

I should have added that in the UK Ritalin and its equivalents have to be prescribed by a consultant, I don't know what the protocols are in other countries :)

TROLL Y2K said...

Disturbing and depressing. In the USA, it's estimated that Ritalin alone is mis-prescribed about 75% of the time.

Methinks there's a link between Generation Yo's lack of accomplishment and belief that Hip Hop is "music" and the over-prescribing of inappropriate meds.

Joanna Cake said...

Hey Shelagh, Thank you for putting this into perspective and providing the other side of the coin. It would be interesting to know whether the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD is postcode related as with so many illnesses in the UK.

I know that there are some youngsters who genuinely have ADHD and, for them, special needs should mean access to more focussed and one-to-one help, not being labelled 'different'. So many of these children go on to show talents in areas that are not academic.

However, I do worry about the prevalence of the diagnosis these days and I still think that poor diet plays an important part in their behaviour for many of these children, which some GPs and consultants are either unwilling to address or are deliberately fobbed off by parents who want a quick fix rather than actually having to deal with an irritable child that cant get its own way.

Troll - I think the availability of drugs generally to our young people is responsible for their lack of get up and go. It's also a different ethos. Whereas for us just having a job was important, nowadays the kids want a job that will make them famous or rich and fast without actually having to do too much actual work. And why should they do a more menial job for minimum wage when they can lie in bed all day and still get paid their jobseekers allowance?

Style Seduction said...

Yeah its amazing what people are willing to pass off as mental disease or problem.... terrible.

Although I am not a mother, I think there are a lot of conflicting reports on how to raise a child, and what is right and what is wrong, so sometimes when parents dont get it right, we need to give them a bit more understanding. Teachers of all people should realise that behaviourial problems most likely come from the home!

Shelagh said...

I think there's certainly a case to be made that a referral is more likely to be made to deal with anti-social behaviour. I did a lot of reading about it a few years ago and it seems that it is diagnosed more often in boys (I think the ratio is something like 3:1) no because boys are more likely to have it but that girls with ADHD present differently and those children without the hyperactivity component are likely to be missed completely. For about 18 months before Megan was referred I felt that something was wrong but I wouldn't have said ADHD because she doesn't fit the typical profile of hyperactive (as seen in boys anyway). We were told that she was "borderline" hyperactive however having got my hands on a book from the US written by a psycologist who has studied girls with the condition she presents a different set of behaviours that represent hyperactivity in girls and she ticks all those boxes.

We did try medication for a few years and at first it made a tremendous difference but the effect does tail off and after a while it wasn't worth the trade-off for the side effects (in her case slowed growth and sleep disturbances). She has been off it for over 2 years but we are thinking about restarting it, for a short time at least, to get her over the hump of her GCSEs - her distractibility and dire organisation skills are having a big impact on her work. Finally her school are getting more supportive and are doing things like putting her "on report", they have been reluctant to do this for any length of time as it is often a punitive measure but it's brilliant for her as it gives her a very rigid structure to work within and she accomplishes so much more. My hope is that if done for an extended period of time, these things will eventually become habit for her (it's only taken 4 1/2 years for me to persuade them to do it and it only now that exams are looming and she is under-achieving so badly that they have agreed to it!)

Anyay, I'll stop there before this turns into an essay! :)

amtrack2 said...

I do agree that parents need to be extra careful when teachers want topush your child into a group that sort of labels them for the entire school carreer.
My son when puberty started became totaly uncontrolable and almost got him put in jail due to the drugs side affects. After we stopped the medication he seddled down to a very normal young man. so please be very careful

Joanna Cake said...

Shelagh, It would be so much better if senior schools could work out a system that works like the 'on report' system but is actually tailored to help children who need extra help, rather than making it sound as if they are being punished for just not doing the work.

Gerald, I didnt realise that there could be side effects from Ritalin until I read Shelagh's last post and your own. I have heard that some of those side effects can manifest some years after the drug is no longer taken, which is very frightening. So many professionals focus on using drugs to provide a quick fix rather than re-educating both parent and child about diet and behaviour, which takes so much longer.

As with so many drugs, they just dont know all the side effects or the long term consequences of regular use, which is why it is so dangerous to even consider prescribing them for the youngest children.

I guess it's up to us to make noise so that those parents for whom this is a current option are aware of all the possibilities.