how is this BETTER?

Back in early February, I shared the story of a friend in a post entitled “A.D.D. this“. The entry chronicles the experiences of one person’s A.D.D. diagnosis, her subsequent encounters with medication after medication, and her eventual decision to remove herself from the pool of over-medicated Americans. As absurd as her story seems, the unfortunate reality is, cases like hers are more common than we may think.  According to a study published by Northwestern University in 2010, some 10.4 million children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.  You can read more on the study here.

My latest thoughts on the topic were brought on yesterday during a morning VT session. Normally a spry and energetic 7 year old boy, my patient was lethargic and disengaged, and asked several times during our 50 minute session if he could sit on the floor. Concerned for his health, I asked if he was feeling well. He said that he felt fine, but is taking new medication, and it makes him sleepy. Not wanting to waste any of his session (we were already moving at a snail’s pace), I thanked him for his answer and finished the day’s activities.  Before he left, I inquired with his mother about his mood and malaise.  She said that he was on his third attempt with a different medication – Vyvanse this time around – and she noticed it has made him very sleepy.  His last attempt – Adderall – was causing him to be short of breath, so his doctor decided to try something different.  She went on to explain that his teachers are having trouble managing him in class and felt medication was the way to go.

I have mentioned in previous posts of an affliction I have called not knowing when to keep my mouth shut.  Well, you’ll be pleased to know, it did not surface during this conversation 🙂

While researching the number of kids in America currently taking medication for ADD/ADHD, I came across this interesting New York Times article.  It is written by a psychologist, Dr. L. Alan Sroufe, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development.  Dr. Sroufe goes into detail about the ineffectiveness of these medications and the active suppression by those involved of the possible side effects.  His perspective is widely important, although narrowly considered.

So in the end I ask, who is the medication really for?  The teachers?  Are teachers now so under skilled or under motivated that they are incapable of managing a room of seven year olds?  Does the medication create a classroom full of zombies thereby calling for less effort from the teacher? Is the medication for a parent’s benefit?  Is parenting now a matter of teaching our kids about popping pills in first grade to help us feel better? Have we reduced parenting to medicating our kids so they won’t act like kids?

Kids will be kids.  They need to run, jump, throw things, act out and be silly. It’s not abnormal for them to do so.  It’s the only time of their life that they will truly enjoy the innocence and purity that life has to offer.  Why anyone would encourage them to perform under the haze of psychotropic drugs is beyond me.

I don’t get it.  How is this better?  And who is it really better for?



Posted on March 28, 2013, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Very well stated Robert! The answer to your questions in order: Who is the medication for? The teachers? YES
    Although it’s challenging to manage a classroom with a few disruptive kids, they should be able to manage@
    Is it easier to manage Zombies? YES
    have parents be seduced and threatened by educators and medicine into druging their childred? YES
    Is it better to have spaced out quiet children who are not interactive? NO
    It may be easier for teachers and parents but it CERTAINLY IS NOT BETTER for the children!!!

    Thanks for bring this to light and asking these pertinent questions!!!


    • Robert Nurisio COVT

      Thank you, Diana. Indeed, it seems the wrong people are benefiting from the medication. Teaching seems to be, to some extent, managing an environment. Thank you for reading!


  2. Robert:

    Whooo boy. This is a deep and full subject (think: bottomless pit). Coming from the educational world back before we had CSAPS, TCAPS, etc etc., the kids used to have Physical Education if not every day, then at least every other day. Their recesses and lunch breaks were longer. Most of them went home to ride bikes, play in tree houses, etc. There were no Ipads, Iphones, or even computer screens to worry about. In short, there was a LOT more activity built into their lives. Most of them weren’t in cars driving a long way to school either. Now, with all the emphasis on “achievement” (and I’m not against achievement in any way), we have put small children in small chairs pursuing a small agenda (LEARN TO READ>>>>NOW!!!) with shorter or no recesses, long commutes, the rest of the day either on some type of screen or in some organized activity or program. Very little room for imaginative play, physical (unscripted) activity, or just “being”. We have become a nation of human “doings” and it’s showing. I guess I could say that we vision folks are “lucky” for we will have an endless supply of patients. I’m sure you have also had the small boy patients who are having trouble getting their work done. And what is their “punishment”? Too often, it’s to stay in for recess and finish the work.

    I think that this may be behind the medication trend, as much as teachers trying to “control” a classroom. Unfortunately, more and more states are mandating that teachers will be paid or retained based on “results”. And if they weren’t actually dealing with humans, that might be fine. Also, visit a few classrooms and just notice how much visual, auditory, etc. distraction there is.

    All this being noted, I have a family member who did use some medication as a late high school/college student. No hyperactivity was involved, so it took years to discover that this person had (very quietly) missed out of a whole lot of important learning. She felt that the medication was very useful along with some instruction in strategies to help her learn to organize/attend. As an art student, however, she opted to not take the medication at “art project” times because she felt she was more creative without the medication.

    I’m not sure there is one “right” answer. And I, too, agree that we shouldn’t be medicating people to control them. Seems to me that some environmental modification and thought about types of learning/depth of learning might be in order. I know many teachers who are truly gifted at helping their students with these things, and who refer (often to us) for students that they are not successful in helping.

    Yep, you’ve guessed it….I also possess the “foot in mouth” disease thing. I also have been known to counsel parents who simply must bring “Johnny” AFTER school that they are asking too much of a child late in the day following an entire day of attending. Sometimes I am more blunt and just say “you are paying a lot of money, and you won’t get your money’s worth if the child is too tired to do the work”. Whatever it takes to get the point across. Some listen. Some don’t. And then I become the teacher who has to find a way to help the patient attend and produce results despite an environment that someone else created for him/her.

    Thanks for letting me rant. Happy Easter and thanks for writing these great moments in our lives.


    • Robert Nurisio COVT

      Thank you, Jenni. I am always eager to read your responses, especially with emotionally charged posts like this. To be clear, I am not taking a shot at teachers themselves. Teachers believe what they are doing is in the best interests of the children – which I cannot fault them for. Rather, I am questioning the system that has led to teachers to believe these sort of recommendations are acceptable. Happy Easter to you as well 🙂


  3. Hi Robert,
    I had posted (without comment) Dr. Sroufe’s Op-Ed piece to the Therapist Google Group more than 1 year ago when it first came out, and I got a lot of s*#t – mostly off-line – for submitting it. Thank you for asking us to re-visit this very important and many-faceted issue. There are no easy answers. You might be interested to know that there is a major hospital in Barcelona that receives major funding from the lab that makes Concerta and that has put out a lot of negative publicity against any type of non-drug help (including VT) for children diagnosed with ADHD.

    warm regards from sunny California,


    • Robert Nurisio COVT

      Thanks, Linda. As I said in my follow up comments to Jenni, my beef is with the system, not the teachers themselves. Although Dr. Sroufe’s article may not have been popular, it certainly is food for thought. Big Hugs 🙂


  4. A former vision therapy patient, age 24, told me he had absolutely no doubts in his mind that the Ritalin he was put on for ADD/HD as a third grader led to his later use of street drugs. He said he started the prescribed medication as a third grader who just couldn’t sit still in the classroom and his behaviors were causing him to fall behind in classroom learning. He said when his parents took him off his meds as a sixth grader, he started looking for other ways to get “the same high” he felt on Ritalin. He dropped out of school and lived on the street, jobless and homeless but somehow managed to continue using marijuana and alcohol. He eventually sought help and found his way to us. After VT he started his journey to get his GED. He said VT was the best thing that ever happened to him. He has not been without struggles, but his personal testimony to the link between his early use of Ritalin and later drug abuse has stayed with me. Thanks for the post, Robert!


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