Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Medication for Attention Deficit Disorder

I have been in the social services field for thirty years. During that time I have seen many new labels for disorders as well as a wide array of new medications that are available to treat various mental health disorders. It seems that different disorders become popular at different times. When a new label for a group of behaviors is discussed you will see multiple people come back from psychological testing with that diagnosis. This is especially true for children.

When I first began my career in social services, children that had attention issues in the classroom were labeled hyper kinetic. Many tests were done on these children to determine if there were genetic or environmental causes for the lack of attention span. As time went on a different psychologist created the label of attention deficit disorder. Today there are hundreds of children that are given this label each year and the pharmaceutical companies are developing different attention deficit disorder medication. I ask the families that I work with to use caution when using these drugs to treat what may be a learned behavior in their child. Children that are afflicted with disorder need to have medication to cope. They are not able to attend to their surroundings without it. However attention deficit disorder medication has many side effects and so I ask parents to get two different testing sources prior to placing their child on attention deficit disorder medication.

I feel that often times the quick fix of giving a pill teaches a child that they do not have to take the responsibility to change their behavior. As I work with more and more people as the years pass I find that troubled adults with few skills for coping with any type of life issues, have been on some type of medication for the majority of their lives. Not all of them have been on attention deficit disorder medication, but this is by far the most prevalent. They learn early on in life that they can excuse their behavior by hiding behind a label. This is a disservice to the child and adult. They need to learn different ways to help them increase their attention span. The medication should be used to help the child begin the process of being able to sit still long enough to learn new and better coping skills. Medication alone is not the answer, there needs to be a lesson plan that builds skills along with the attention deficit disorder medication.