Who Started This Medication Strategy Anyhow? Part II (in a series)

g. kirklandholmesStarred Page By g. kirklandholmes, 23rd May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
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How did we get to the stage in our educational system in the United States that we are leaning so heavily on medication as a key form of discipline? How is it that we have decided that such a high percentage of students need medications to help them learn?
How is it that we have made such major decisions in regards to to medicating children in educational settings? What roles do parents play in behavioral changes that are needed of students in classrooms all across the United States

Who Told You That Medication Is The Answer?

One would have to take a retrospective view of how did we get to where we are today with medicating our children in the United States as a source of discipline. While there are many discrepancies between discipline strategies and behavioral-change strategies that require the child take medications. Some say "I don't believe in "time-outs", while others say taking away a privilege, yet others say a spanking is not the answer for behavioral changes. So while there are many who criticize some of these strategies, more people are beginning to ask questions about different approaches. Parents are wondering why school districts are allowing so many children to have to begin taking medications in order for them to start to perform appropriately or to succeed in school. I have met more and more parents who told me that their child is not allowed to come to school unless they have taken their medication. So what does that imply- it is a mandate in order for that particular child to attend school. Is it really that serious? Maybe it is for those who really believe that medication is the answer to the problems, concerns and behaviors of particular children. In this Part II in a series, we wanted to take a closer look at the issue of medications and the real impact it is on the student?

What Evidence Do We Have That Behaviors Change As A Result of Medications?

For some reason, this is not always the question that is asked. The focus is usually on what the child is doing that is not appropriate. Are there any things that can be done at home to decrease the behaviors? Or why is the child doing this? Very seldom does the question come to the forefront about who has evidence, if there is any about the behavioral-change effects of the medications? Teachers sometimes give glowing reports about how the medication, especially ritalin may have caused a child's behavior to change for the better. What exactly does that mean is a very important question. Some speak of how lethargic a child may act. Others speak of a very verbal and active child sitting and acting withdrawn, not speaking, day dreaming and unresponsive.

Who Can Make Recommendations for Medications?

Well one would have to study each state's laws to become aware of the procedures in various state-wide as well as educational institutions and recommendations for medications. Some states have changed their procedures and policies about recommendations for medications. 1)Some felt that it was inappropriate for teachers to be granted such major powers over who in his/her classroom should be placed on medication. 2)Some districts felt like teachers were not the best judges for making decisions about medications. 3) Some felt that teachers are not pediatricians, medical doctors nor pharmacists and do not have the training, education nor skills to make a medical/health recommendation such as make recommendations about medications.
4) Some feel that some teachers may be biased in their attitudes toward certain children and may not be fair in their decisions about who should be recommended for medications. Therefore these states may receive a recommendation from the school, with detailed information, that is forwarded to a medical doctor. Then the child must be seen by a doctor for examination and assessment prior to prescribed medications.
However, the saddest part is that in most states this procedure is not the one used. In some states those familiar with the child can make a recommendation for medication, the parent is notified of the findings and then informed that they need to take the child to the physician for the prescribing of the medication. Not always knowing their rights, most parents comply, sign appropriate forms and then hope that whatever recommendation or decision will be made, their child will do better in the long run.

What About Those Children Who Do Not Take Medications?

Well, there are many children who do not take medications for various reasons. Not all children are considered to be at-risk of needing medications. While some people feel that there are some patterns to certain behaviors that places a child on the "at-risk" list for needing medications. Sometimes I wonder is it really the child or is it the teacher who needs to be screened closer for understanding the needs of the students. Research shows that boys are placed in special education classes 4-5x more then girls. Why?
Research shows that minorities, especially African Americans are 4x more likely to be placed in a special education class than non-minority students. Research further shows that African American boys are 8x more likely to be placed in behavioral disorder classrooms than any other students. Thus, this is the group that is most
vulnerable for being placed on some type of medication.

What About Those Teachers Who Use Different Strategies-Not Medications?

There are a few teachers like myself who never recommended any children for medication. First of all, no one ever gave me medication when I was growing up, although I considered myself to have been a compliant, cooperative student. So it really would have been out-of-the-ordinary for a teacher to have recommended to the powers to be that I needed medications to help me. To be honest, all of my school years, elementary and high school, I do not recall any of my friends or classmates ever being on any type of medication. I had never heard of our teachers saying anything about a child needing medication because a teacher couldn't handle the behaviors of the child in the classroom. I don't remember anyone that I knew ever going to the doctor because the school recommended that the child be placed on medication. But as an early childhood teacher, I knew that there were some individual strategies that would be effective with different children in my classroom. So I am very proud to say that I found alternative strategies that I will share with you in Part V of this series.

And What If I Say No- My Child Will Not Be Taking Medications

Parents have all rights and privileges whether we want to give them credit or not. Many times they may not know all of their rights because of trust or distrust in those who are trained and hired to teach and educate children. Some parents feel that teachers/educators know what is best for their children. Thus, the trust their decisions, recommendations and stated plans for their children. While many are disappointed in some of the recommendations when it comes to behavior-altering medications for their children, they may easily become confused. The confusion is enhanced because of the fact that they are not sure or even aware of how their child may be responding in the classroom environments. They have no real ways of knowing of the actual behaviors or behavioral concerns of their children. So when notified or informed of what may be termed inappropriate behaviors, mot parents trust what they are told about their child's behaviors in educational settings. What else can they do? Some parents don't want to disturb the child more by asking them questions relative to what the teachers say. Some struggle with not trying to destroy the partially positive relationship the child may have with the teacher by informing them of what the teacher said. Other than their own personal observations (parents) or a second opinion by a neutral person, parents are often left in a helpless-mode for making such an important decision.

What Are Some Other Professionals Saying About Medicating Children?- Part III

Don't miss Part III. There are many in the fields of education that may be pro-medication as key factors in behavioral changes of students. However, there are some professionals and experts in other fields who disagree with medicating children as a form of discipline. There are those who feel that we are legally and morally responsible for finding alternative strategies and approaches to helping students with appropriate behaviors. Make sure you join us for Part III- What Do Children Have To Say About Taking Medications For...?"


Behavior Help, Behavior Modification, Behavior Of Children, Behavioral Changes, Behaviors, Behaviour Pattern, Behaviour Problems, Education System, Educational Tips, Learning, Medications, Strategies

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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author avatar Delicia Powers
23rd May 2013 (#)

I am so glad to hear your elegant voice speaking out on this matter that has so long troubled me....thank you g....

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author avatar g. kirklandholmes
24th May 2013 (#)

Thank you for being aware that this is at a crisis level for so many children. Lack of knowledge, awareness and not knowing legal and individual rights are causing parents to make quick decisions. Sometimes these decisions are regretful! Thanks for your comments!

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