Since my son started primary school it seems that many of the parents at our primary school have at some point been advised that their children are displaying markers for ADHD/ADD and were likely candidates for Ritalin. I’d never even heard of Ritalin until my child started school!

Our main concern as parents was that our child was well-adjusted (happy) at school, socializing and bringing home good grades. I remember primary school being fun with play dough and craft activities, singing and lots of story time. Primary school used to be fun. The curriculum seems to have changed a lot of that over the years.

Every single day since Grade 1 we are helping our son sit through an hour of homework everyday to cover work already done that day. In addition to this there is also helping him prepare for formal oral assessments, projects and practicing for weekly tests. As both my husband and I are both full-time working parents, this really robs us of quality time we could have spent as a family in the evenings. A retired teacher of 35+ years once said to me “it’s as if they’ve taken the fun out of learning for the children“.

With the bigger classrooms, it’s no wonder the teachers are advising parents to send their children for assessments as soon as possible and advocating Ritalin as a blanket solution for behavior moderation. Sadly, any child who does not fit a certain mold in a classroom environment eg. a daydreamer or a chatterbox will raise concerns for displaying markers of ADHD/ADD.

I’m a remedial teacher with many years experience of many learning issues including ADHD. I see MANY children branded as ADHD by mainstream teachers who are often inexperienced, overworked or incompetent. Bright children who are bored are often branded ADHD. And there are many other things that present in a similar way.
Teachers are given a questionnaire to complete about the child’s behavior and this plays a big role in the diagnosis. Problem here is that the questionnaire is highly subjective. If a teacher is having a bad day or doesn’t like the kid it will lean towards ADHD which is why I always advise parents to find a reputable specialist and to ask as many questions as possible about why the child might be ADHD and if so, what other options there are instead of medication.
It scares me how many of our children are drugged up.”

Kath Kenyon Wimbush is a remedial teacher with over fifteen years experience both here and the UK. She has worked with children from six to seventeen with all sorts of issues which include dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, ADHD / ADD, Aspergers Syndrome, Autism, conduct disorders, a range of emotional behavioural difficulties, cerebral palsy, visual impairments, brittle bone, dwarfism and more.

Ritalin can help if correctly diagnosed

Kath is very clear that she is not anti-Ritalin as she has seen it work. But she does feel that it is often given to children for the wrong reasons.

I’ve also seen cases where Ritalin has helped children with ADHD when it was diagnosed correctly. Joshua has a friend who was diagnosed with ADHD last year and I’ve seen firsthand the positive effect that the Ritalin has had on him. On the days where he does not take the pill his handwriting is completely illegible. Since he started taking Ritalin he has flourished academically and socially at school so I can’t deny that the medication does work in cases where it has been correctly diagnosed.

Sadly, there are too many cases where these conditions are misdiagnosed without a proper assessment done prior to prescribing medication. It seems as though the main stream schools are advocating Ritalin in order to create a more docile child resulting in a more controlled class environment for the teacher.

Yet another prescription for Ritalin

Our son was assessed this week at the continued recommendations of his teachers and was conducted by a child psychologist at the school and disappointingly, as expected we were advised that our child is a definite case for Relatin. This diagnoses was given after a brief 30 minute observation and was based on the following criteria:

  • Joshua is able to multitask (he answered multiple questions while drawing). She said that Ritalin will correct this by forcing him to focus on one task at a time.
  • She implied that it was relevant to the assessment that I had given birth to him via a Cesarean section.
  • At the age of 8, Joshua’s drawing indicates that he has an addictive personality and starting him on Ritalin now will prevent worse self-medication in the future (her words).
  • In his drawing of his family he painted himself first, thus indicating that he thinks of himself as the most important person in his world.
  • His teachers assessments and notations that even while producing good results and not being disruptive, he is a daydreamer and is easily distracted. He also displays a very broad general knowledge, that of which is expected from a child much older than his age and should be more focused only on his current curricular.

Given what Joshua’s diagnoses was based on, it’s understandable that we are saying no to Ritalin. We are not qualified as doctors but in our opinion using his imagination and independent learning should be nurtured and not stunted. Our son is easily distracted and yes, he is prone to daydreaming, he is also forgetful at times but he is a highly functioning child, very sociable at school and very self-confident. Does his bad habits really make him a strong case for Ritalin?

Having said that, we are looking into other alternative of helping with his concentration. We have had some very good alternative suggestions from friends like making him Chamomile tea for it’s soothing properties and also excluding sugar and carbohydrates from his diet which can only be beneficial.

At the end of the day our son gets very good grades and is diligent with his schoolwork every single day so we really don’t feel that in his case there is any cause for putting him on Ritalin. I’m very sure that we are not the only parents with a highly functioning child who have been advised to put them on Ritalin.

According to the statistics, 1 in 10 children are diagnosed with ADHD. It’s not to say these children all have ADHD but they do present with the markers for ADHD.

Some signs that a child might have ADHD include: squirming or fidgeting, difficulty getting along with others, talking too much, daydreaming a lot, often forgetting or losing things, taking unnecessary risks, making careless mistakes, and having a hard time resisting temptation.

As this behavior patterns represent at least 90% of the children I know, I have to wonder, is the education system failing us? Perhaps our main stream schools should move away from a rigid “one-size-fits-all”  approach to teaching and instead create a learning environment where all children can thrive even if they are not docile and introverted.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this whether you agree or disagree. Leave a comment and let me know your views!