Monday, September 19, 2011

If School Was Causing Your Child’s ADD / ADHD Would You Remove Him?

During a recent conversation with friends and family, the topic of ADHD / ADD came up and I shared my belief that this is not a disease that should result in people being drugged, but instead a personality type (like mine!) that should be honored.  My friends and family looked at me stunned.  They wondered how an educator like me didn’t know better as this new epidemic was clearly documented as a disease.  I then found out that a few of those among us had been drugged or had been responsible for drugging their children.  They were offended by my words! Fortunately, I'm used to this.  

Like most who are victims of the immoral pharma marketing campaigns, the school and doctor-approved drugs were the treatment of choice.  Of course, since my partner is a pharma rep, I know the “doctor-approved” scam.  These docs get paid a bundle by the pharma companies to promote their drugs to schools.  I also know the the school view.  When kids are drugged, the school’s job is easier.  Of course they want that.  I asked if they had tried any of the 20 things I shared in my Fix the Schools, Not the Child guide before resorting to drugs. Nope!  Why bother? Drugging the kid was working.  

When I dug a little deeper into my own family member's story I learned some interesting things.  For instance, he didn’t like how the drugs made him feel at all.  He admitted that if he hadn’t been forced to sit and listen all day he likely wouldn’t have needed drugs. This was evidenced by that fact that once he graduated, miraculously, he no longer needed the drugs. Once he was able to have ownership of his days, time, thinking, creating, he never felt a need for the drugs. He explained their importance in the unnatural world of school where there are worksheets, and reading boring things for hours to take tests for schools falsely purporting to prepare him for a world that ironically never actually required you to sit and cram to take tests.    

I asked my family, what if you knew that removing yourself/your child from the traditional school setting would eliminate their need to be on drugs?  Would you consider that?  I’m kind of the black sheep in my family, and they shook their heads looking at me as though I had lost my mind and was proposing something ridiculous.  I shared that I had actually written a guide for teens to opt out of school and find success, and that this could have been a better alternative for my drugged family members. This just didn’t seem to be something they could get their heads around or take seriously, so I let the conversation drop and their opinions of me as the black sheep who always promoted alternative life options remained.  I do think some agreed with me and wanted to know more, but didn't have my thick skin necessary to endure the attacks that resulted from my ideas.

If you are like those members of my family and can’t (or are afraid to) consider alternatives to school over drugging your ADHD-diagnosed child, then the rest of this article is not for you.  If you are interested, however, in learning what parents found when they sought out alternatives to school and drugs for their children, you’ll appreciate the rest of this post.

Dr. Peter Gray explains that what I witnessed with my family was to be expected.  He shares that as a culture we are so used to thinking of school as the normative environment for children that we rarely even think about the possibility of children learning and developing well outside of that environment. Because the thought is foreign to many, it is not surprising that Dr. Peter Gray did the first known study concerning ADHD-diagnosed children's abilities to learn, and to cope without drugs, outside of the conventional school environment.  

His findings should be shared with any parent who is considering the option of drugging their child.  

Conclusion 1: Most children who had been medicated for ADHD while in conventional schooling were taken off of the drugs when removed from conventional schooling, and those who were never in conventional schooling were never medicated.

Conclusion 2: The children's behavior, moods, and learning generally improved when they stopped conventional schooling, not because their ADHD characteristics vanished but because they were now in a situation where they could learn to deal with those characteristics.

Conclusion 3: Many of these children seem to have a very high need for self-direction in education, and many "hyper focus" on tasks that interest them.

If parents and educators knew that a change in environment could greatly reduce a child’s need to be medicated, would they choose this option despite the fact that it was less convenient?  I’ve written and talked about this issue extensively, and have found that in most cases drugs are choice #1 and rather than discuss a change in environment adults choose to defend their choice to drug their children. They insist that I should understand that they are right because what they are doing works. They have doctors and teachers telling them they are doing what is right and so they have found their excuse to do what is most convenient.  But what are they really doing?  They are drugging their child so they can endure a difficult environment that does not honor who they are to make things easier for everyone rather than adapting to the child's needs and at the same time stunting his potential.  That said, there are some who have let down their defenses and listened to and considered alternative options.  I applaud these parents who at least try and consider alternatives.  

I have heard few adults today speak out against the drugs they were forced to take.  They were embarrassed and they don’t want to put down parents who were trying to do their best.  However, parents, if you don’t consider options, you might have your child grow up with thoughts like the ones below. I am sharing and paraphrasing sentiments from a member of my PLN who I think many parents can learn from. I wish MY parents had been wise about dangers of ADHD meds.  Maybe if they had, I wouldn't have had all the problems that followed from the meds! :(

Maybe if I had been lucky enough to be cared for by someone who understood me for who I was, I would not have been put on Ritalin (and eventually the dozen other drugs) and gone through all the problems including NUMEROUS suicide attempts & self-mutilation (cutting) episodes and losing most of high school as a result, and my life today might have been RADICALLY DIFFERENT, and better!

If alternatives had been considered for me, maybe I wouldn't have/have had so many problems, and become an adult living on disability income.................. :(
Parents and teachers, please think twice about taking the easy way out and drugging children. If you consider the alternatives, you may be the one that saves the children of our future from a life’s worth of pain and suffering mentioned in the tiny print that those pharma companies don’t spend much time telling you about. 


  1. Great article, Lisa! This is a topic that makes me really sad when I hear about, since I have a little one who cannot sit still for five minutes, and I'm sure that if I sent him to school he would be tagged as a ADHD child. I'm very happy to have the opportunity to observe his own abilities and be near him to provide all the resources so he develops fully.

  2. I am recently diagnosed, at a very ripe old age. I think I have managed well, and made the best of things when jobs didn't work out or ADHD caused problems. The crisis that led me to this point required quick and effective action, in this case medication. I still have to put in all the work, unfortunately the pills will not sort the paperwork and pay the bills.

    I think the work that your doing is important, and now that I am"out" as ADHD I get a lot of comments and stories. Couple of points that might be worth nothing:
    1) When people are insensitive about ADHD being real, kids being spoiled etc, that is unfair. Maybe you could be a little kinder to parents who made the choices they did. Maybe it is worth shocking them or making them rethink things.
    2) It is difficult to imagine something other than our educational system for most people. If kids on meds are learning things, then they are really learning it. Another thing I hear is of kids basically being sedated with psychotropic drugs, and I am sure that is not best for anyone. If your kid is miserable on meds, they are not the right meds for sure.

  3. It's a great article. My daughter has just recently been undergoing homeschool and she is doing great. She has a flexible time so there is no pressure for her. And I can keep an eye out for her and focus on areas that she is not good at. All in all, she has learned more now than when she was in a conventional school. :)

  4. This is a timely read for me - I am pulling my son from school this week. He is a wonderfully brilliant, energetic, quick, hyper preteen and his learning experiences this year have actually been detrimental to his natural love of learning and never-ending curiosity.

    It was a difficult decision because I am a teacher in the school and we live in a small town which means there will be talk and questions. But, at the same time, it was an easy decision because it was the only one that I knew was right for my son. It's in his best interests.

    He agreed to try medication awhile back and had a horrible experience. I support his decision not to take the meds, but it still sits as an option in both our minds. I've heard of many success stories, and if he decides he wants to try again, I'll support that too. In the meantime, we have a challenging six months ahead to turn things around and regain his self-confidence and self-worth as a learner.

    Glad I found this. I'll continue to pay attention to your tweets, too.

  5. Thanks for shedding light on this. Our kids asked to be homeschooled back in 1995, when their public school basically said "Ritalin or nothing". With homeschooling, I was able to see what was causing their inattention or hyperactivity (mostly boredom!).
    Once they were able to learn in ways that worked best for them and spend as much time as they wanted on their creative pursuits, their ADD/ADHD symptoms vanished. I also needed to change our son's diet and became aware of his food sensitivities (esp. red food dye). Many kids, like our 2, are just bright and extremely creative kids who can't learn in conventional ways or need more of a challenge.

  6. Hello everyone! Just wanted to share my story out here :)
    When I was a kid, I was drugged with ritalin. I never knew why, I didn't talk much at school because my classmates would bully me, so I had no friends. I paid attention to what interested me in class, what I didn't understand I didn't ask bc I was ashamed,I did lots of sports, played piano, have lovely parents. The shrink even told my mom at some point that I should be left at juvenile home because what I needed was a "beating" so I could be more obedient and agreeable. I've always been more of an introvert, never disrespected anyone in my life, but idk, god knows what that shrink was getting paid for. Anyway, when I first began taking ritalin I became "anorexic" not bc I was concerned about weight but because I lost my appetite. I barely ate, then I began having headaches which turned into migraines, and of course it all end up as being constantly irritable. I started to slam the doors at home, became very aggressive, didn't talk to anyone, everything and everyone annoyed me. That's not normal for an 8 yr old. A year later of havoc, I stopped the meds, I told my mom no more shrinks, no more psychologists, no more nothing. She agreed. After quitting the meds I was back to my usual self, gained my weight back and left that particular school where most of my classmates were drugged as well.

    Then I began Uni (psychology); by the time I got to senior yr I had a GPA of 4.3 out of 5, without any ritalin or adderal or any sort of stimulants. However, the last semester I had a 40 hr a week internship contract, plus my thesis work, and classes. I thought "well I might just take some ritalin, see what happens". I reckon it was great, I had SO much energy, what it would normally take me 8 hrs to do, it now took me half that time. I'd crash at the end of the day, literally could feel my brain burnt out, but I had to stay awake around 20hrs a day and sleep for 4 in order to do all the things I had to do. About 2 months later, one pill didn't do enough anymore. I had to take 2, and I didn't last sane for the rest of the 3rd month.

    At around 3am I was working on my thesis, and began having this awful HORRIBLE paranoid hallucinogenic episode. I suddenly began feeling so scared, kept seeing black things through the side of my eye, and then it all began to take shape. I started seeing cockroaches everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Now, I've had a therapist since my first semester at Uni...I thought of calling him because I've never in my life experienced panic attacks nor hallucinations. Didn't call him in the end, crawled to bed, closed my eyes,and began breathing slowly and deeply in order to control my panic attack. The whole thing lasted about 2hrs (which to me seemed an eternity) and never again took those ritalins. Ever. Worst idea to have done that, but thankfully It's all over now.

    To the parents and teachers out there, really... it's better to take the time and effort of seeking other alternatives, than to fry some child's brain because it seems easier or more comfortable to have them sedated and not bothering you.