No Body Told Me All of This--Side Effects of Behavior Changing Medications on My Child-Part IV

g. kirklandholmesStarred Page By g. kirklandholmes, 25th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Education

Parents cry out for help. Having feelings of confusion, lack of knowledge, uncertainty, wonderment, shock and belief in the current educational system have many parents whirling in circles. Being asked by professionals, educators and people who have regular contact with their children makes it a greater challenge than normal when it comes to trust or distrust. Do I believe them or not? To medicate or not? How do I get more information?

How Do We Parents Know What To Do?

This is Part IV (in as series of V) and it is time that we dig a little deeper into this issue as we are looking at who are the key players and where are we today in relationship to such a massive increase in medications for children. As we study this issue further, we continue to find that medications are not used in most other countries as a form of discipline or as a way to change behaviors. How did we get to the point of where this has become a major focus in our educational system in the United States? Can we really say children have changed so much? Are they really different from when we were in school? If so, what are some of the causes for the perceived changes. Are schools really prepared to meet the needs of our children? Are teachers prepared with four years of college courses and a student teaching/practicing experience? Are parents raising their children differently from days past and gone. Are parents less apt to discipline their children because of child abuse or child endangerment laws? Really how do parents know what to do when they are approached about a child of theirs needing to take medication?

How Do We Parents Know What To Say?

Not only are parents asking the question of what to do, they are asking what can they say? What can they say when confronted with this major issue of someone else deciding that their precious child's behaviors calls for a try on some medication to determine or see if there are any improvements?
Well after all, we parents want the best for our children, right? So how do we know how to respond to this recommendation when sometimes the only information we have is from the classroom teacher, counselor or school administrator. So they tell us how many times our children had to go to the office for misbehaviors. Or they tell us how many times our child got out of their seat and went over talking to another child. Or we are shown some incomplete work or worksheets that the child did not complete for a variety of reasons. Then more and more evidence is shown to convince us parents as to some of the reasons for the medication recommendation and the expected outcome or changes after receiving the medication. I am speechless as a parent and really can not find any words to express how I really feel deep down inside. No I don't want my child on some unknown medication- but if it is harmful to my child, I am sure that these professionals would not recommend that my child take meds. without some belief that it will be helpful?" I don't know what to say" is commonly heard among parents.

Who Has The Information That Parents Really Need?

It is amazing from a parent perspective how overwhelming it was when I received the invitation to come to a meeting called a planning one. I should have known right away that this would be different from any I had ever attended before. We parents are used to going to parent meetings, parent conferences or open houses, but this type of meeting must be quite different. Sure enough when I arrive, I knew it was different from any other that I had attended. When entering the room, my eyes roamed across the meeting area and looked around at the oblong table. Seated there were about thirteen people. Somehow years ago, I recall being told not to ever go to those types of meetings alone. We were informed that it was not wise to go to these types of meetings without some supportive person. Wow, I could have crawled under the table, cried or run right back out of the door. The truth is that I wanted to let them know that I did not have to be there alone. While my son's dad and I are not together, he would have come to this meeting with me. Or my mom she would have come with no hesitation. It's one of those times when you say, "If I could turn back the hands of time.." Well since I was already there, I had to make the best of an unwise, unthoughtful decision. They began by introducing me... the parent- then they went around the table, _______child school psychologist, ____________educational strategist from the area agency, __________physical therapist from the area agency,
_________occupational therapist from the area agency, ____________social worker from the area agency, classroom teacher, school counselor and school speech therapist,
three practicum students and one more intern. So now why did all of these people have to attend this one meeting. Later on I found out why each one needed to be present.

If This Information Is Available, Why Isn't It Shared?

So once everyone introduced themselves, then I realized why the parent did not have any information prior to coming to the meeting. That was part of the plan and so that is why it is called a "planning meeting." Each of those individual wanted to give their reports or findings on what they were observing and their recommendation for educational improvement. So as each gave their reports, they tried to include some positives, but mostly what they had to say about my son was negative. The psychologist had plotted on a chart how many times he got up out of his seat during a 30 minute observation period. The educational strategist had an observation form that she had completed showing how many times he exhibited off task behaviors and how many tasks he was not able to successfully complete during a 45 minute classroom time period. The list went on with each individual sharing their findings based on their areas of expertise. So when all of them had finished their reports, the educational strategist who was kind of the leader of the group- gave the bombshell recommendation- "So we are in agreement that medication would definitely be the answer or solution to some of the limitations that we have observed. The medication would help him concentrate, focus, stay on task and complete his work in a timely and organized manner. Again, I was stunned beyond belief!

Do I Have To Make The Decision Today?

Now with me sitting there all alone on my child's side. Or I felt like as a parent it was my duty to stand up for my child. No one else sitting around the table seem to have been for him. Or perhaps they felt that the positions/stands they were taking were helpful in the long run. I couldn't tell if I was sad, mad, angry, disappointed, shocked or just going to be uncooperative or non-compliant. My first inclination was to pull the "stub" and not say another word and they would surely know how angry I really was. Then I wondered if that was the best approach in letting them know exactly how I feel. So I thought about it and decided to stand up, be a bold parent and let them know how I really feel about what they had to say about my son. So I began by telling them that everything that each one of them said was a bit surprising to me. I also told them that I saw a completely different child at home. Then they began to explain the differences in my home and their school environments. So after all was said, I told them that I was not prepared to make the decision that day. I wanted more time to think about and digest all of what I heard and to a leo talk it over with the child's dad. They began to pressure me, I felt by telling me why it was important that I decided right then. If I had decided right then, they would be able to get him in to the doctor early the next week, and he could begin to receive additional services right away.

If I Agree, What Can I Expect To See With My Child At Home?

But after leaving that meeting, I learned another reason as to why some parents are manipulated so easily. I heard that some parents can get a check if their child is on some type of medication. So low-income or parents who find themselves appreciating a little additional financial help agreeing to this, sometimes seeing the negative effects on the child. So then many begin to ask, "what is most important to your child- a check or the well-being of your child. Many say it does take some strong parents who are willing to stand up for the rights of their children despite what might be offered or bribed to them.
So for those who agree regardless of some of the reasons, the cry or sigh of relief still does not come. Parents begin to feel sadness when they are able to outwardly observe such a drastic change in their child's behaviors. Some cry at how the child sits in the same spot, does not appear to move, never talking, quiet, withdrawn, shy and unresponsive to any family events. Is this really how we parents want to see our child who was full of energy, bubbly and funny turning into this docile-unrecognized????

Is This Going To Make My Child Act Like A Zombie?

My mom came over to see how here grandson was doing because she had heard of some children walking around or acting like "zombies" on some of this medication. So she pushed and pushed and asked had I allowed them to put my child on the medications. To be honest, I couldn't. I had been to a school a few days before because someone recommended that I visit a behavioral disorder classroom where they recommend the medication in higher doses for this severe behaviorally-disordered children. When I arrived there were eight children in the room with four adults. To my amazement all of the children were sitting down, very quietly and appearing to be completing an assignment at their desks. I had the opportunity to sit near six-year old, Thomas. My son is six also. I was able to focus on this one child and observe how he was faring in this small class. As I sat near him, sadly he was so overly-medicated, he couldn't hold his head up. He kept his head down as if it was too heavy to lift up. But what brought tears to my eyes, was when I asked him, "What is your name?" He tried to get the "T" sound out of his mouth- but his tongue appeared too heavy for him to tell me his name, "Thomas." By now I decided that was enough for me as tears rolled down my cheeks- I had to leave and leave right then. But before I left, I took one more last look at the other children, all were boys and all African American boys. Wow, I had read that these were the children who would most likely be placed on the medication as well as in behavioral-disordered segregated classrooms. No way, I could not visualize my son in such a classroom. No, my answer is "No."

Why Are They Hiding All of These Side Effects?

So, now I am even more curious about the effects of some of these medications, specifically, ritalin on children. So I hurried home so that I could find out some more information about this medication. I felt like the school and the people around the table did not make any attempt to provide me with information on this medication or any other. Anger set in my mind again as I thought, how dare they want me to sign my child's life away and not having enough information to make a decent decision. I felt even angrier because this has happened to many people across life's channels where someone withheld important and much needed information from them. So if all of this was really on the up and up, why couldn't they give me some information so that I could at least read about it, get a second opinion or ask some else about the information. Then I realized they did not want me to have any information for fear of the fact that I would not sign and agree to their little medication plan. As I began to do my research, some of the articles adamantly shared about children. It warned parents of the child's loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weight loss during prolonged therapy, insomnia, and tachycardia may occur more frequently in younger children. However, it further warned that there were other adverse reactions that may also occur such as abnormal liver function, depressed moods or over aggressive behaviors. Wow, just these few were enough for me. Thomas's face and his mannerisms still have not left my mind. So I am puzzled and disturbed that if they have this information, why are they hiding them from the parents?

abnormal liver function, depressed mood; aggressive

Why Are They Calling These Side Effects- Minor?

After doing my research and my homework, I decided to give my son's classroom teacher a visit. It bothered me so much that they thought I would just quietly sign this form without little or no thought agreeing to put my child on the medication, ritalin. So when I went in, I had made up my mind that it was time to let her know that I had researched this topic and was appalled that they did not provide any information on this at the big planning meeting. I let the teacher know how these types of actions certainly can cause parents to have mis and distrust for their child's teacher as well as the school administration. As parents we trust the people who see, teach and care for our children on a daily basis. We do not often believe that they would be the ones who would not provide us the necessary information to make wise decisions. So once I let her know about the information with the side effects of these medications, her response to me was even more alarming. She said, "Oh yeah, those side effects are minor." Minor, no they are major for me and my child." Again, another bombshell!

Is It True That There Are Some Careers That My Child Will Not Be Able to Choose?

Now, you as the reader will need to check some of this information out for your own benefit. There is a lot of information available about these medications and their uses. There are many specifics as they relate to young children. The side effects are listed everywhere- they are not hidden.

I guess in speaking with an adult young man who wanted to enlist in the armed forces in the United States, I learned of another shocker. He said when he went to enlist, they had gone all the way back to his elementary school years to look at his records. So you would think they were looking for grades or other issues, perhaps inappropriate behaviors. So boom, when they found what they were magically looking for, they informed him that because he had been on this medication as a child, he would not be able to enlist in the armed services, specifically the air force or becoming a pilot. Yes, even desiring to become an airline pilot. Again, you will have to check for yourself to find out the realities of some career choices that one WILL NOT be able to make if indeed they had been taking behavioral-altering-changing medications! Don't miss the last in a series on medicating children in the United States and how some families are being treated. Some children can not enter certain classrooms without the assurance from the teacher that the child had taken the medications prior to school entrance! (Part V in a V part series- Next)


Behavior Modification, Behavior Modification Techniques, Behavior Of Children, Behavior Pattern, Behavior Therapy, Behaviour Problems, Medical Treatment, Medications, Parent And Kids, Parenthood, Parenting Tips, Side Effects

Meet the author

author avatar g. kirklandholmes
I am an early childhood educator and taught pre-school-kindergarten multi-age grouping classes and early childhood courses at the University of Northern Iowa. I also publish with

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar C.D. Moore
25th May 2013 (#)

Excellent Article.
Schools are unnatural environments for children. Especially if they are active as they should be. Classes are to large so they drug kids to make it easier for the teacher to maintain control. Sorry you had to go through this!

Reply to this comment

author avatar g. kirklandholmes
26th May 2013 (#)

Thank you for your comments! Yes, children are active and activities should be a natural part of the curriculum. Promoting passivity and non-movement are among the disbelief!

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?