Please, Please, Please, Help Me Learn, Not Give Me Medication!

g. kirklandholmesStarred Page By g. kirklandholmes, 26th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Education

This is the fifth in a series of five on the national dilemma of medicating children. The focus in this series has been on educational settings. But there are children located in other environments such as juvenile detention centers, treatment programs (day and residential), mental health institutions, etc. This article will focus on alternatives to medicating our children.

A Teacher Who Stands Up For The Children...

As I write this last in a series of five articles, this will include real-life opportunities and teaching experiences that made a difference over many years as a pre-school- kindergarten teacher. While completing my teaching degrees, can't really recall our instructors teaching us about medications as one of the forms of discipline that may become a part of our teaching career. Being in early childhood education, I was more than certain that it was not going to be one of the priority issues that I would be dealing with. Deep down in my heart I believed that they were too young and too innocent for anyone to think that we early childhood teachers could not find approaches and strategies that worked. I couldn't imagine that the positive approaches that I would be using would not help these young children to want to do well and and behave appropriately at school. So I set out teaching these beautiful children whose parents had entrusted them to me as a part of my classroom, and I wanted to be a good teacher. I wanted every child in my class to succeed. For if the children succeed, then I would feel like my teaching and providing positive learning experiences for them really worked! Without anyone ever telling me that one day, you may find yourself as a teacher of young children, standing up against all odds, even if it is by yourself! I am going to stand for these voiceless children!

A Teacher Who Stood Up When A Parent Demanded Medication For The Child

As the years went by, I found myself never recommending a child for medication. As a matter of fact, it did not cross my mind. Surely there were some children who were so much more active than others. But there were some who were more talkative than others. There were some who appeared to be rather quiet. While there were some who were just eager to learn! So, knowing that every child in my class was special, unique and individually different, helped me to be prepared to meet their needs that same way.
I remember 4 year-old (names will be changed to not identify the real child)Jamika was doing an art activity with scissors. He stood up while using the scissors and moved from one end of the table to the other. As I had observed him working, he was concentrating and working so hard to use those scissors. Then the words of his mother during pre-conference time came to my mind, "He never sits down. He is very active and moves around a lot." When she told me this, she seemed a little nervous as if to ask, "You understand don't you?" Her expressions had become pretty common to me now as I met more and more parents of young children. There was always a sense of caution. There was always a questioning eye of, "please be nice to my child, he/she is only three, four, five, six or seven years old." I could read "between the lines" and would say to the parent as they are thinking, "we'll take good care of your child."
Now there was one mom, (Michael's) who came to parent conference and was a well established teacher in one of the agencies that specialize in working with children with special needs. She certainly knew all about medications and how the system works. To my amazement at the end of the very positive conference, she shockingly asked me, "Don't you think he needs medication?" I asked her why did she think so? She said that she notices at home he can not sit at the dinner table. This was all she had to tell me. After she described his behaviors at the dinner table, she repeated the same question. My answer both times was "No." Then she finally left me alone, after she asked me the third time, saying "Don't you think he could benefit from medication." I was now becoming annoyed as I said, "No" for the final time. She then exited as I had another parent waiting.

A Teacher Who Counseled A Mother Worried About Her Child- Who Later Committed Suicide

Now this was an expected situation for me, as I met the new parent, young, dressed very neatly with an adorable little boy- that was beyond cute. Curly brown hair with matching eyes, very verbal, very inquisitive and constantly asking his mom if this was going to be his new school? She would respond, "I don't know yet." She acted as if she was irritated by his constant, non-stop questions. I began to talk with him and ask him questions. Four year-old Steven was very bright, one would say gifted in the column of verbal expressions. Somehow, even if irritated, someone had been speaking to him in order for him to be so verbal. She annoyingly told me how he really is a "hand-full." "I just can't handle him at home, he doesn't like to listen." This is what lead her to begin sharing with me about her personal life and how she had moved to this area from another state to get away from Steven's father who had been abusive to her. The child's father was of a different ethnicity and I wondered what role did this play in part of their challenges. So she left and he supposedly did not know where she was. I immediately began to have sympathy for her and the child. She proceeded to tell me about his over-activeness. I began to ask questions like how was he as an infant. To my amazement, she said he was a very difficult baby because he was so active and never stopped or sat down. So the doctor in that particular state began this young innocent child at age 18 months on behavioral-changing medications in hopes of getting him to settle down. To my amazement I was shocked, but then I quickly became unshocked when I notice mom was having a difficult time sitting still also. She was hyped in her talking, gestures and inability to sit as she met with me. I did ask her about the doctor who prescribed this for this baby at such a young age. Then she admitted that the meds would be running out and she didn't think she could deal with this child without the meds at home. She acted like she was afraid of harming him or herself. The doctors in this state felt that the particular medication, which was not ritalin was too harmful and none in this state would even consider writing a prescription for it. She kept calling back and forth and the doctor from the state where she moved from realize the inter-state drug rules and knew that he could no longer be the prescriber with her having moved. So not only was she worried that this man would find her, but what was she going to do about the meds. So after about a week, she was able to get a local doctor to prescribe a different medication, but not the one he was on prior to moving. So she seemed a bit settled after about a week and having the meds and all. But the story is a little longer than I have space for here in this particular article. But I was surprised to learn a year after the child had left my class, mom committed suicide!

A Teacher Who Believed In Her Heart That There Are Alternatives

As I began each day in my classroom, I always had an activity with each child's name in it. "Pretty Mary, will you stand up, will you stand up, Pretty Mary, will you stand up today?" "Handsome John will you clap your hands, clap your hands, clap your hands, Handsome John will you clap your hands today?"
"You Are So Beautiful, you are so beautiful, yes you are, yes you are." Sarah, you are so sensational, yes you are, yes you are." The bigger the words with the same beginning sound as their names really call for big laughs from the children! Self-esteem building activities are key to helping the children start off on a positive note during the school day. When children feel good about themselves and about being in the environment, they have an internal desire to want to do well. So I knew that these activities were key. Secondly, I knew that is just inappropriate to think that young children can sit for long periods of time, not be allowed to get up and move around, and still remain motivated to listen and learn. So as I helped future teachers be better prepared to meet the needs of their individual students, I shared with them how it is just a good practice to get the students up at least every fifteen minutes. During this time, engage them in some physical movement activity. This is currently being promoted all over the United States with first lady, Michelle Obama's "Students on the Move" Program. Obesity and other childhood disorders are being uncovered by us not incorporating enough physical activities throughout the day. Children are involved in too many sit down or passive activities. I knew it was critical to have the children participate in aerobics (did 15 minutes am and pm), rolling, tumbling, childhood circle games, marching, stomping, jogging and running throughout the day. It was always good to have a physical activity right before a sit down activity like reading a book, doing a language experience chart or a sit-down table activity. The children just naturally concentrated better and were tired enough to want a sit down activity. There were many activities, especially transition activities that engaged the children in rhythm, music, movement, fingerplays, rhymes, listening, observing that definitely enhanced concentration, hard work, following directions, compliance and all of those observable characteristics that have educators stating as reasons for putting children on medication. Sorry, but there are too many alternatives- I know from experience and deep down in my heart as a teacher know that they really work!

A Teacher Who Stood Up To The System on Behalf of Children

I must say that it is not always easy being a teacher who did not advocate for medications nor one who outright stood up to all of the powers-to-be, asking why is it that a particular child is being recommended for medication. So as I stood up in so many cases, I would beg those who were in charge of making the decisions about medication or not, I would merely say, give me a few weeks to work with the child to see if we can gain some positive outcomes without medication. Sometimes they would look at me with an annoying look, and other times as if to say, "yeah I want to see this." But still I would take on the challenge of helping another child to grow, develop, learn, progress and show what their real capabilities are without being labeled. I am very proud to say, that the approaches worked and those students moved on through grade school as success stories. So, I just kept doing it- like or not!

A Teacher Who Became Recognized As Anti-Medication for Behavioral Changes

When it was time for me to go to so many of those dreadful meetings either about children currently in my class, potential ones who might get to come to my class or otherwise, when the issue of medication would come up as a part of the plan or discussion-they knew my answer. My answer was "No," let's see what else we can do to help this child move forward. Even if they didn't agree with me, I had proven enough times that they knew I would have a 10-10 chance of having success with the child. At times, some smartie would want to test my capabilities. I remember one summer, out of 15 students, they sent me six behavior-disorder diagnosed boys, all four years-old. Well when you stop and think about it- way too many in one class! But to be honest, they did not have anywhere else other than a segregated behavior disorder classroom. But the psychologist realized two things- 1) Give this teacher a chance to work with them 2) Give these children a chance to have a good teacher who can make a difference in their educational lives. I studied each one of those boys the first day I met them and saw right away why they may have had some behavioral challenges- hunger was the first thing that I noticed. One little boy decided to use profanity in a bully-form to get the children's snack- after I caught him under the table trying to see if anyone had dropped any food. Once I offered him a little extra snack, his behavior changed immediately- I nipped his problem in the bud-before the bud got out of hand! I did the same with each one-finding out what their real needs were. So when the psychologist came to visit in a couple of weeks- he was shocked at their behaviors- so good- but then he thanked me for my dedication and commitment to helping these children! So the word spread, send them to this teacher to give the child a fair chance!

A Teacher Who Still Stands Today- On Behalf of Alternatives to Medication

Now, while those years were precious in striving to make a difference in the lives of all children, it is not a topic of some-time. For me either there were strong beliefs for or against medication. Now while I realize some people declare that they have real stories of how these medications made a drastic change/difference in the lives of some children. I do not argue about individual cases as you may see them. But I do stand up and argue about cases that I see and have studied. Even before or if I have an opportunity to study on behalf of a child, I say give the child a chance without medication. But if one strives to be a teacher who never heard of or who never knew of medication as one of the options in a child's education. So if indeed one knew nothing about medication, what methodologies, strategies, approaches would you use? Too many educators have become accustomed to just thinking, believing and recommending medication because it just seems like the best and only approach for certain children. I beg teachers in the United States to operate your classroom for one week as if you had never heard of medications for students, and what would you do about the same students that are medication-bound. I stood up then, I stand up now and will continue to stand up on behalf of alternatives to medication.

A Community Enabler Who Helped With The Struggle Against Medicating Children

There was a man from the State of Mississippi that I met many years ago when I began my teaching career. Although I was in my early twenties, he took me under his wings as a father would do. We had many conversations on the topics of education and especially what needs to happen with African American children. This great man was called a "Community Enabler." To be honest, I had never heard of such a title before. But the longer I was around this man, I found out why he was given this title that no one else has ever had since his death. People were calling him with help for everything. Some needed one thing and another something different. Then I noticed he started getting calls from so many concerned parents. They were worried that the "school (how they described it) wants to put my child on medicine." While this Community Enabler was much older than I knew the answer to their concerns. He would say, do not let them force you to put your child on medication. He would tell them do not sign any papers. Then he offered to go with them to these planning meetings if they needed someone to go with them. So the Community Enabler and I were on the same page with our belief on this topic. Partly because none of us had ever heard of giving children medication as we grew up in the deep south, he Mississippi and my home state of South Carolina. So he was the founder of the public radio station. He and I started doing hour-long radio shows encouraging the parents not to sign to place their children on medication, and to ask for second opinions if needed. If they did not understand the forms, ask them to allow them to bring them out of the meeting to have someone else review them. So because of my professional background, I was qualified to do second opinions, attend the meetings and visit the child's classroom for an independent, non-partisan observation- usually these were children I did not know. So the Community Enabler and my presence at any of the meetings made a big difference, and often viewpoints were changed without us having to speak on behalf of the parent, child or our professional opinion.

Where Do You Stand? Do You Have Enough Information To Help Children

As I close out this fifth article, the last in this series, it has been a delight sharing with you some information that is critical. We are at the crossroads in this life. We are at the crossroads of making a difference in the lives of children and families. We are at the crossroads in life as we strive to decide whether we want to make a difference or allow business to go on as usual. We are at a crossroads in life where we need to take some valuable time to study some of the discipline strategies and approaches used in other countries as well as in different areas of the United States. Medication is not one of the options as the expectations are universal with success as the key goal. Where do we need to move to as we start deciphering some of our current trends and practices? Where do we need to move as we have allowed the issue of medication to stand at an all-time high? Where do we need to move as we study and review some of the short and long term effects on children who have been on medication? Where are the records that are supposed to be indicators of success where we can show where these children have succeeded and fared well despite being on medication. Where does this all lead to? Where do you as a citizen, parent, teacher, educator, administrator, community member, or those who are in other professions in life stand? Or are you one who says that it is each parent's own individual right as to what they decide about their child? Where do you stand? Do you have access to sufficient information to help you make the best stand on behalf of children? Best to all!

Tags

Behavior, Behavior Modification Techniques, Behavior Of Children, Behaviour Pattern, Child, Child Development, Childhood, Children, Childrens Health, Learning, Learning Capacity, Learning Games For Kids, Learning Process, Learning Reform

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 expertscolumn.com
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Comments

author avatar Delicia Powers
26th May 2013 (#)

A child that has you for a teacher is blessed....thank you g.

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

Thank you so very much!

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
26th May 2013 (#)

I agree with Delicia...you are a blessing....thank you

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

Thank you also for your comments also. Appreciate your thoughts.

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