Too Many Children Are Medicated

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder is not a pigeonhole; it's a sea. And too often every child who doesn't behave in what some consider an appropriate manner is put into this sea.

Gary was diagnosed with ADHD and medicated. When the medication didn't work, the second step was to double the dosage. Getting Gary "under control" meant putting him half asleep.

The problem is, Gary isn't hyperactive; he's just active. Gary isn't afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder, either. He is super-attentive in classes, gets the lessons the first time around, processes it and then says to himself, "Not today, folks."

Gary's problem isn't attention; it's discipline. Once off the medication, Gary feels better. And he has become much more eager to cooperate since he found out that there are things he wants that he doesn't get when his behavior says, "Not today, folks."

Abigail was medicated, too, after described as hyperactive. Again, the medication didn't work so it was doubled and then doubled again. Trouble is, Abigail isn't hyperactive; Abigail is delayed. Why she's delayed isn't known, but it's obvious to someone who understands the normal range of children's behavior that watching a 4-year-old act like a 2-year-old makes the 4-year-old seem hyperactive.

There are, of course, truly hyperactive children who, after serious testing, may need medication. But too many adults have forgotten that childhood is constant motion. Moving, running, doing, climbing and sprinting across open fields- getting the energy used up with exhilarating experiences- is what being a child is all about. Watching is for adults in suits; it's passive sideline stuff- not stuff kids are made of.

We ask why this generation has more "hyperactive" kids per classroom than ever before. That is not necessarily an established fact. Too often there are simply adults who aren't suited to care for children at the normal activity level of normal children.

"Go out and play" has become something that's just not said often enough. It's dangerous, we say. Or it's too cold or it's too hot and then there's the neighbor's dog or that stray cat, or the dust and mold spores or the bugs.

Our expectation for our children is that they sit quietly at the breakfast table, sit quietly on the school bus, sit quietly at the desk at school, sit quietly on the school bus once again and the return home to sit quietly at the dinner table, sit quietly and do their homework, sit quietly in the bath tub and then sit quietly in front of TV.

High-energy kids, kids with promise, just don't sit well. So we increasingly turn to ways to mold them into our preconceptions. Many of these diagnoses begin with frustrated day care providers who can't tolerate the active children, don't know what to do with the smart ones and definitely are lost on those with delays.

Look at your daycare room: It's obvious that kids just don't want to be confined to a 20- by 20-foot crowded room hour after hour. To them it's mental and physical starvation.

The most active mind-time in a child's life is during the preschool years, and the body usually follows along for fun. A lay diagnosis should be viewed with skepticism and a medical diagnosis only after serious discussion with the medical caregiver.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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