Now... lets just lay out some facts before I continue this post:
1. I am a firm believer that there are true ADHD sufferers out there who absolutely need the medication.
2. I was diagnosed with ADHD in high school and took Ritalin for 2 years.
3. There is no doubt in my mind that the Ritalin helped me - I went from being an average student to an A student in a matter of months.
4. Should Caleb truly need Ritalin there is no way that Adam and I would deny him any kind of treatment that can help him.
However, having said all that, here is my rant....
Caleb is 5 years old. He is a very active little boy - he loves nothing more than running around our garden, helping me in the garden, climbing trees, climbing the walls (literally) and riding his bike like a crazy freak up and down our driveway. Caleb is very seldom still and taking him to shopping malls or such related places like restaurants, is often hair-raising for any brave adult in our family.
Adam and I are both aware that Caleb is hyperactive - his teachers are aware of - it is very difficult to miss! Adam and I are also both aware that some form of help may be needed for him in the future, which is why we have had him at Play-Therapy for the past few months. He has now concluded this therapy and we are going in to see the therapist on Thursday afternoon to wrap up his treatment and learn the way forward.
My problem is this...Since 1991 there has been a 500% increase in ADHD diagnosis and treatment with Ritalin. There has been a 2000% increase in the prescription of Adderall and Dexedrine - two similar drugs to Ritalin that are used to treat ADHD. Preschoolers medication (2 to 5-year-olds) has tripled since 1995.
There have been no definitive studies on the long term effects of such Psychotropic medication in preschoolers - Say What???
As I mentioned earlier, I completely understand that there are definite cases of ADHD, and that these children need any help we can provide to over-come these often debilitating symptoms. Surely though we do not need to be giving our preschoolers such strong and stimulant based medication? They are still babies for goodness sake, and if we start drugging them this early, what will the long term effects be on how their brains function in later life. A child's synapses only stop learning how to function at approximately age 3.. So giving these types of Psychotropic medication to a 2-year-old could significantly alter the way the brain works.
Yes my son is hyperactive.. yes he has trouble sitting still and colouring in for hours on end, but since when is this a negative thing in a young child? My son is very intelligent (all his tests have proven this), he is very inquisitive and extremely enquiring. He would rather be running in the garden than watching TV - why is this considered a "bad" trait? I was under the impression we should be encouraging young children to run around the garden rather than sitting in front of "The Box"?
Caleb may not be the best puzzle maker, or the best at colouring in, but put him in a sport environment and he thrives! Only last week his coach at school called me aside to inform me that a couple of the children are being advanced in February to a higher group due to the fact that they are far too advanced physically for their age group and would benefit from being in a sporting group with the next age group. Caleb is WICKED with any game that involves hand-eye co-ordination. Tennis, cricket, soccer and skipping are among his favourite things - last week I was watching him in his Action Ball class, and he was the only child who could do more than one rotation with the skipping rope. Why are these things less important than being able to sit still for long periods of time?
Yes I know that he will need to learn to concentrate for longer periods as he gets older and his scholastic requirements increase, but I am extremely concerned that at 5-years-old this is being seen as a problem already. I started school at 5 years old, and I could certainly not yet colour within the lines, write my own name or count to 70. But children these days are being pushed faster and harder from a much younger age.
Our society seems determined to live in a "fast food" environment and we are dragging our children along with us. We want quick fixes for everything! Fast food, fast delivery, instant gratification... and I for one think we are doing a terrible disservice to our little ones.
My son is 5-years-old.. he doesn't get homework yet or even write tests.. so there is no way I am going to let some stuffy old paediatrician tell me that at this tender age I should be drugging him to make him sit still for longer.
Caleb my boy, you play to your hearts content... run, skip and jump! Pretend to be a cowboy, pretend to be a pirate.. run with the dinosaurs... fly with the birds... paint your face.. scratch your knees.. destroy your shoes braking on your bike with your feet instead of your brakes... Mommy and Daddy will be there every step of the way letting you be a child for as long as possible - safe in the knowledge that should the need arise at a much later date for you to have a little extra help with the crippling concentration needed to complete your education in this "fast food" world, Daddy and I will provide whatever it is you need to get the most from your scholastic career!
We love you dearly little free spirit!