Motherhood School moms

Why we are saying NO to Ritalin

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!





Anthea O'Neill is a wife and proud mom of three. She is front-end web developer, blogger and a self-proclaimed glitter & yarn addict. Anthea's Project Life is a blog for the modern mom.

You may also like...


  1. Anthea, we have been through this mill. We have one of a pair of twins that very clearly needed help – he has complex issues. In his case, Concerta has been a life saver. But not after one 30 minute assessment! His first one with our Psychiatrist took 2 hours! And she very thoroughly explained the diagnosis to us. So IF you are worried – get a second opinion – preferably with a childhood psychiatrist or Neurologist that specializes in ADHD. Ours just 2 weeks ago assessed one of L’s friends and simply told the parents that he was a busy 8 year old that needs a bit more exercise than the usual and that he does not have attention issues,

    We are supplementing the Concerta with two other natural products that are both really worth the try – high content Omega 3 (do not give him 6 or 9) – mail me if you want that long explanation, and a product called Mentat – available at health shops and made by Himalaya Herbals. I can really vouch for both – all 3 my kids are on daily Omega 3 and I give the other two the Mentat before exams and tests

    1. Thanks for all the info, Cat!

  2. Our daughter was advised to take Ritalin for her ADHD, according to the wisdom of the schooldistrict. We got her assessed by Texas Children and it turned out she was majorly Dyslectic. Marathon meetings with the school about IEP’s followed and she got some support but eventually we took her out of the system to a private school. Fast forward and she graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a bachelors of Arts and will graduate with a masters of science this summer.
    Make your own decisions, if possible find a private school, if not stay close to your child and support them but don’t go for the easy drug options.

  3. pamela says:

    I must admit that the school gets a bad name because of a few teachers. My son has had some amazing teachers and then there were those teachers who lost the plot big time.

  4. As a society we have become too dependent of medication to try and solve all of our problems. As you say, these drugs can be very helpful to those that need them. The problem is that not as many people need them as the pharmaceutical companies want us to think

    1. Agreed. And also the fact that there are other non-medication options to explore.

      1. pamela says:

        I believe in the great outdoors, it heals almost everything. Sport is a great healer

  5. This is something i shared after hearing the tragic news of the 14yr old girl in jhb that committed suicide and again a 12yr old boy the other day. I questioned whether i should be so opinionated and “dramatic” but i speak from personal experience and feel i have to share.
    Listen to your kids, watch their behaviour and monitor their stress levels. Kids in school that are forced to conform to conventional school laws are under sooooo much stress and pressure to pass and not be labelled adhd.

    If your child is being labelled adhd TAKE THEM OUT OF SCHOOL.
    If your child is stressed, depressed or withdrawn, TAKE THEM OUT OF SCHOOL.

    My daughter was 14 in 2014 and her whole school life was labelled a failure. We had tried the ritalin and medicated route along with different school options etc…
    At the end of 2014 she was so broken, so depressed and so stressed she had completely given up on life and just wanted to die.

    SHE GAVE UP ON HERSELF and had no reason to want to live.

    Ask yourself this; what teenager should be stressed, depressed and not want to live?
    NO TEENAGER should hate life so much that they dont want to be in it. Teenagers need to dream. Big and unrealistic dreams. They need to play and invent and create and discover who THEY ARE for themselves.
    Its been just over a year since jess left school and i cannot believe what a different person she is. I almost find it hard to believe she is the same person.
    I removed the stress and gave her a sense of freedom. I loved her, spent time with her, encouraged her and helped her find hobbies and passions.
    She now reads, drums, sings, laughs, photographs amazing landscapes, has earned a masters diploma in cake decorating (age 15), is enrolled in a full time diploma course in special effects make-up and prosthetics and HAS DREAMS.
    For the first time in her life SHE HAS DREAMS AND GOALS AND AMBITIONS.
    She is HAPPY and now sees the beauty in life.
    DONT BE FOOLED by what the label of adhd or failure can do to a child.
    A child is not a failure when they can be set free to do what they love. They gain experience and knowledge and passion and basically self educate themselves to a point were they become happy and confident.
    As parents, our God given gift is to love our children and help them to be who they were born to be… not watch them be moulded into what society says they must be. (Enforced curriculums, takig ritalin to co form like others).
    Please share this with friends or people you know who might have kids being labelled adhd.
    Our current school system is killing our kids. If soooo many kids are being labelled adhd the clearly there is a problem with the school system.
    School is now a dictatorship and a prison. Why are you convicting your kids when they have done nothing wrong?
    Think of it this way….
    You dont leave rat poison where your kids can find it and be harmed…. so WHY leave your kids in a school system that is poisoning them?
    Trust your heart… as a parent you know what is best for your children.

    Kids dont need medication to learn, they need a system that works for them and can teach them to be who they were meant to be.

    1. Thank you for sharing!

      1. pamela says:

        Medication is very rarely an option. My three kids are adults now, all well adjusted and successful. I didn’t even believe in pumping them with multivitamins because I firmly believed they got everything from the meals prepared.

  6. My sons teacher told us when he was twelve that she felt he had ADD. He had all the symptoms you describe above. We were terrified and got him assessed by a child psychologist. She told us he was simply bored and that things would improve in secondary school. They did. He is now 25, an industrial chemist living a happy life and well able to take of himself. He still gets bored easily and so needs his work to be challenging. he simply needs to be learning all the time and that’s fine. Now he understands himself he knows what jobs to take and the ones to avoid.

    1. pamela says:

      I was advised to put my son on Ritalin in Primary School and High School they recommended IQ. I refused on both counts and I am happy to say that looking at my 20 year old son who is now a 3rd student at CPUT with weekend/holiday jobs …….well……need I say more?

  7. Pamela Overmeyer says:

    Throughout my son’s primary school years I was advised to put him on Ritalin then at High School there was some ‘brain food’ stimulant, but I resisted through it all, rather signing him up for any sport clinic & holiday programme available at the time. He is a successful 3rd year student and an amazingly focused young adult today

    1. Thanks for this encouragement! They are way too quick to label a child with ADHD and much too quick to prescribe Ritalin.

  8. Denielle says:

    I couldn’t agree more. As a medical doctor I was shocked to hear my child’s school advocating Ritalin even though 2 child psychologist said he did not have ADD. I removed him from the school and now he is doing well in the new school. Ritalin free!!

    1. Thank goodness for that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *