Should Medication be the First Option for Children, or is there an Alternative?

Posted By

Poor Johnny
Johnny sat, arms folded with his head on the desk. The tears fell unnoticed. The room was silent except for the steady thud that resounded from the repetitive kicking of Johnny’s shoe against the leg of the desk. A small middle-aged woman sat at the front of the room reading a book in silence. She no longer looked up to see what caused the noise. This was a nothing out of the ordinary for Johnny.

Johnny was seven years old and in second grade. He rarely made it past ten in the morning without getting into trouble for something and landing in the detention room. He just could not control himself. Everyone made him so angry. He wanted to be good. He wanted to make his mom and dad happy, but most days he came home with another note from the teacher explaining what he did to get into trouble.

Looking for Help
Johnny’s mom finally took him to Dr. Thomas. He was a nice man, and he asked a lot of questions. Unfortunately, Johnny couldn’t say why he felt the way he did or why he caused so much trouble. The doctor spoke with Johnny’s mom for a while, and then he said that Johnny had something called “ADHD” (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). Johnny was going to have to start taking medicine every day to help him behave. He felt sad that he had something that sounded so terrible. What was wrong with him?

Numbers are on the Rise

Numbers are on the rise for children diagnosed with ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Each day more and more children begin their day with Ritalin to help them function better in school, within their homes, and in society.

I am a firm believer in the benefits of both Western and alternative medicine. My concern is that not all avenues have been tried before parents, doctors and teachers decide that a child needs to be medicated. In this microwave society, we want quick fixes for everything. It is vital to evaluate all details surrounding a child’s life before resolving that medication is the only option. It is crucial to understand the learning style of each child before deeming them out of control.

My Experience
I have spent many years working with children in and out of the school system. I’ve worked with children from preschool through high school, special education students, and gifted children. I have a broad base of knowledge and would like to inspire parents, teachers, and doctors to spend more time evaluating and testing alternatives to medication for children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD. Maybe there is another way!

Has everything been considered before medicating? Here are a few fundamental questions to ask. The answers may lead to solutions that could drastically change behaviors.

What should we ask?

First, let’s examine the child’s everyday lifestyl

  • What do they eat?
  • Are they consuming processed foods, dyes, and sugar or a more healthy diet of proteins, fresh fruits, and vegetables?
  • When are they eating?
  • Are they eating on a regular schedule throughout the day, or binging and skipping meals?
  • Is there structure to their lives that they can count on, or do they just run amuck?
  • Do they exercise regularly or spend all day in front of a computer, TV, or game box?
  • Do they play outdoors, or are they always cooped up inside?
  • Are they getting adequate sleep every night?

Second, let’s determine the child’s learning style. There are three main learning styles.

  • Auditory learners process information aloud. Verbal conversation is the main way these children process things in their minds.
  • Visual learners process through written text and pictures. Through diagrams, color, pictures, and written words, these children learn and decipher information.
  • Kinesthetic learners process and learn with and through movement. These children learn best while moving, acting out concepts, or repeating a physical act like bouncing a ball while studying.

Having worked with many special education students and students diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, I have found great success by helping introduce and add structure to their lives. It is also imperative to determine a child’s learning style and use that style when teaching them.
I am not proposing the elimination of medication to help children with ADD and ADHD, but I am advocating that parents, teachers, and doctors proactively evaluate the diet, lifestyle, and learning needs of a child prior to medicating them. Drugs, which may ultimately be necessary, should be a last resort for children.

No Microwave Decisions

Johnny needs understanding and a healthy lifestyle before he is subjected to medication for the rest of his life. As the decision makers, let’s not promote microwave decisions when it comes to children’s health and well-being. Take some time, do a little extra research, and let’s help kids function better in the healthiest way possible.