The pressure schools place on parents to medicate

My oldest child (now 17) was diagnosed ADD, she is inattentive only. We tried behavior therapy for a while, to see if it would help her in school. We reached the point when she came home and told me she was crying at her desk because she had NO IDEA what they were talking about in math class. She was in fourth grade at that time. I very reluctantly started the medication process. She had an immediate positive reaction and came home in awe that she could actually complete an entire worksheet without distraction. She does not need it when she is not in school. Now that she is 17 it is her decision when to take the meds, or not at all. She still tells me she can tell when she forgets.

My son (now 9 years old). Is a VERY high energy smart guy. He has a difficult time sitting still and loves to talk. He will complete his work and become a distraction. When we study for tests at home he needs to walk while I ask him questions (that he responds to correctly) Yesterday he was asked to leave his gym class because he ‘would not listen’. She was trying to instruct the class and typical to him, he was moving around while she was talking and she was sick of it.. He is never hurtful to anyone in a physical or emotional way. The school has been saying he’s ADHD since first grade. ALthough he does not have any academic problems, I’m being pressured to put him through the diagnosis process. I know it’s all so he can be medicated. I would like to see you speak to the pressures schools place on parents to medicate their children, you seem to have the opposite feeling. I was highly pressured with my daughter as well. It makes their lives much easier to have students who sit at their desks all day long and listen attentively.

I believe my son is not ADHD, but is a kinesthetic learner. THe school does not recognize this. I know from experience with my daughter even when they do have an IEP or 504 plan in place they are rarely used in the classroom. I believe they use them to help the student during state-standardized testing, mandatory in my state.

Saying an ADHD diagnoses due to bad parenting is extremely insulting. We rarely watch TV and have limited “screen time”. Both children listed above have a huge love of reading, we cannot supply enough books. We are also healthy eaters. They simply don’t fit into the small ‘mold’ that is public school. I do not think its fair to blame me for that.

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23 Responses to The pressure schools place on parents to medicate

  1. sguffanti says:

    This is a beautiful illustration of the typical problems with public schools and hands-on-learners (AKA kinesthetic learners). Let me outline the problems I will address over the next few days.
    1. Why public schools push drugs
    2. Why it is common for girls to be “diagnosed” later than boys and for inattentive type rather than hyperactive type
    3. The danger of public schools for the very bright
    4. ADHD diagnosis is not due to bad parenting it is due to a learning style mismatch.

    Public schools are paid extra money for an ADHD diagnosis. 20 years ago in California it was $1000 extra per child. I assume it has gone up by now. So pressure, euphemistically called increased awareness, is placed on teachers to drug their students. The IEP or 504 plan must be in place to meet legal requirements so the district gets paid and you have decreased chance of a successful suit. Following it is up to the teacher who has tenure. If she feels like it she will, but in reality with tenure she doesn’t have to. So if the IEP or 504 plan is to hard to remember or implement it will be ignored.

    Teachers are the top referrer of ADHD children. As 70% of ADHD children are misdiagnosed many doctors are falling into line with federal pressure. Most important of which are the psychiatrists who establish the criteria for who has ADHD and who doesn’t. (Take the ADHD test – tab above – and see how many school related questions there are.)

    Bottom line: The teachers are experiencing pressure from above and annoyance with the moving child. About two-thirds of the teachers are visual learners so our movement distracts them and the other visual learners in the classroom. An occasional public school and many Montessori schools tolerate this movement. But most visual learners don’t tolerate movement because they interpret it as a sign your child is ignoring them. (If you would like to know your learning style preference go to and take the learning styles test.)

    Unlike Wendy, the teachers don’t think to ask what did I just say? A simple question that will tell them immediately whether they are being heard. In fact most teachers don’t understand the expectations learning styles place on them. Teachers like everyone else assume that every person learns like them. The assumption is wrong and for the ADHD has devastating consequences.

    Fortunately for Wendy and her daughter most of those consequences apply to the boys taking the drugs. But that is a comment for tomorrow’s blog.

  2. Megan says:

    It’s now May 2012 and I wish there was more follow up on this… I’m one of the many being pressured into diagnosis and psychological evaluation and medication of course… To make a tired teacher’s day easier, in essence. Too bad you have to be rich to pay for private or Montessori in order to avoid the incredible stress and devastating affects that NOT conforming to the school can bring upon both child and parent. Sad sad sad — look at what we’ve become. Especially America. Let’s all just mask over the symptoms with drugs regardless of permanently altering a child’s brain, & never mind those real and varying root causes of ADHD symptoms that could be addressed so many other ways… Oh, but that might take too much effort. And by the way, if learning is not fun, it goes against the nature of every child ever born.

    • Tatiana says:

      I have 9 years old son. He was diagnosed with ADHD by the school in order to implement IEP program. I agree with your comments. I also want to say that dealing with schools if you have child like that also affect our lifes, parents. Since this nightmare with school began 3 years ago, I feel continuous stress and health failure and even cant get along with my husband to often and its is because pressure from school and fear in what society hold us. If your child will fail in school then he cant go college , if will not finish college he will not get good paid job and so on, bla bla bla..The bottom line the school systems have to change. Why not look at the Waldrof school approach? They have been very successful with ADHD children over the years! I just don’t understand why they pushing so much academics on little kids. They introduce them 6s grade material in 4s grade! We need to talk about this more and more, I think. I really hope that in near future there will be much better environment for children with different learning abilities, so we can avoid medicate them in early ages in order for the school job will be easier.

  3. sguffanti says:

    Thank you for your comment. The situation is even worse than you state. These drugged children are the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. We need them undrugged and learning their way. I guess when the government runs schools they don’t want problem solvers only problems they can ask more money for.

    By the way, you don’t need to be rich; you just need a school voucher in your state. Even if you get half of what the state spends on your child you can find a school that is better suited to his needs.

  4. sguffanti says:

    Megan and Wendy,
    Males are hormonally motivated and the most common hormone is adrenalin. Adrenalin is the hormone coursing through your veins when you are having fun! As Megan points out “if learning is not fun, it goes against the nature of every child ever born.” Females have 2 motivation centers: a hormonal center and a relationship center.

    Many ADHD medications use adrenalin mimickers at levels thousands of times higher than naturally occur. After a few years of this the male motivation becomes less and less sensitive to the low levels of naturally occurring adrenalin. In simple language, your son loses his motivation. Leaving you with a young man who would rather live at home unmarried than strike out on his own. If the prospect of having your son live with you for the rest of your life then find another way to handle his symptoms other than drugs.

  5. Jenny says:

    Megan, I am SO GLAD to see your post! I have been beating myself up over this exact situation! I feel the same way as you! I have been paying THOUSANDS of dollars for testing with a psycologist, allergies, etc only to learn that my inattentive type “adhd” child (which i stumbled upon surfing) is a kinestetic learner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of course the doctor, psychologist, teachers and administration all believe he should be medicated for this so that he can “attend” at school but you know what! Im NOT going to do it. I REFUSE to medicate a child into conformity so that he can sit in a lecture format based society. I am homeschooling my child and there is going to be movement all over my house.

    The best educational systems in the world use lots of movement! in Finland, currently No. 1 in the world, they go out and play inn between every lesson. the school days are shorter and they don’t push for test scores and sports stats. They don’t even have testing! we are of the same mind. I hope that you have persevered!

    Im already planning a curriculum for my kid. im not going to make him suffer because the public schools cannot think outside of the box.

    • Matthew Henley says:

      The school did the same thing to us! We had another meeting because they “can’t control her”. We asked what steps they were taking & they said they remove her from class every time she’s a distraction!! They gave us a stack of mental health hospitals to seek counseling with!! We were so mad we IMMEDIATELY pulled her out & my husband is home schooling. We are hoping to get her into a private school in the fall, but if that doesn’t work out we will do homeschooling over medications & assessments. The whole process is way too much for a 5 year old. There’s nothing wrong with learning different. I’m not going to let a school bully me into labeling my child. She needs to learn & grow & drugging her isn’t the way to do that!!

      Good luck!!

      • sguffanti says:

        Amanda and Matthew,

        All 5 year-olds are hands on learners based on serial MRIs. They will develop their learning style preference over the next few years or not at all.

  6. Christine says:

    I am a little sad to see this did not go much further. It is such a relief to see other parents feel the same way that I do about this. I have an almost 6 year old daughter that had been kicked out of school on an average of once a week because her school does not know how to deal with her. I have tried her on several medications after much pressure from the school,( the other methods I have tried have not had much success) I HATE how they make my daughter act. I have taken her off of them and she has even been sent home from school because she was not on meds and they said she would not be doing anything academic and they didn’t want her there. I don’t know what to do. I will not medicate my daughter again, are all schools like this??

    • sguffanti says:

      For a hands-on learner the classroom is the worst place to learn. Sometimes a Montessorri classroom works out. Academically, the best solution is homeschooling. If you can help your child feed her passion she will learn what she needs to pursue it. Your only challenge is to teach her reading. Try Rocket Phonics if she doesn’t know how to read. It comes with a 90-day guarantee.

      If your daughter is inattentive the cure is feeding her passion. I would recommend getting the Purpose of Passion here on our website. Tell me more about her ADHD and I can help.

  7. Pingback: ADHD Considered a Fake Disease | Nourishing Plot

  8. Wendy says:

    I figured I would update you as I am the original poster in the above thread.
    My daughter just turned 20. She had a successful experience in her (wonderful) high school and graduated with good grades. She was accepted into the college of her choice. She was overwhelmed her first year. She also is no longer taking her meds, it was her choice. She had a difficult time, so decided to change to a much smaller, local private college. She had a difficult time there as well, so has decided to take some time off of school. It’s disappointing to me as a college graduate, but I understand she is a different person and has different struggles. She has been working full time, and I am proud of the women she is today. She is finding her way and may take classes in the future.
    My son is now almost 12 years old. He still has a ton of energy. Academically he does well in school, but his movement is still an issue. He has had no formal diagnosis of ADHD, I have not pursued it. He did go through testing in school that showed he had a very high IQ and no learning disability, so has no 504 or IEP as a result. I have concerns with how he will cope in middle school (he starts next month). But where my daughter was ignored (as she is inattentive only), I know he will not be. I refuse to medicate him. I chose to try that route with my daughter as she was suffering in class due to her inability to stay focused. My son has that issue, but on a different level. He tends to irritate the other children with his movement/distracting behavior, but he can easily keep up with the classroom activities, and he always knows what is going on in the class.
    Unfortunately, homeschooling is not a viable option for many parents. If you have that financial option as a parent good for you! Many of us are not that lucky. I really really considered homeschooling my oldest. However I’m a single parent and need an income or I would not have a home to school them in.
    I’m very proud of all my children. My oldest and youngest both are amazing people. They have so many talents and abilities and so much to offer.
    I firmly believe they will find their way. The way school is set up today is unfortunate for most children. If you do not fit that small mold, you will suffer. When I was in school we had so much more recesses and time to run around. Even today I don’t think I could sit as a desk as long as we expect young children to do and focus.

  9. Heather says:

    I have 5 year old twin boys. They will be 6 in May 2014. We always knew that the boys were very active and suspected that one of them in particular had ADHD. When they started Kinder this past August 2013, the problems started. Noah could not sit still, he could not be on the carpet without touching people, there was no work, no progress, nothing. I was contacted by the school counselor who suggested we do the ADDES screener for ADHD and go from there. Well, it came back that he exhibited very severe signs of ADHD and that I should follow up with our pedi. Walked into the office, he handed me a prescription for 10mg of Focalin XR one time a day. No information, no what to expect. Nothing. I will not lie, Noah did FABULOUS after a week on Focalin. He came home READING! He is now able to do his work, he is reading on a Tier 1 and showing how bright he really is. Shortly after Noah started his medication in October 2013, Adam’s teacher said said we had to have him evaluated since they are twins and all and it was likely that Adam had it to. Well, to be honest, I don’t think he does. He is different from his brother. You can tell him to carry out a task with multiple steps and he CAN if he is willing. He does not walk into a room and forget why he is there like his brother. So I take the eval to the pedi once again. They put him on Methlpenidate? Oh my goodness….that was not my Adam. He cried from the time he woke up int he morning until the time he went to bed. So instead of the daily complaints about his behavior, we now had to add to the fact that he was crying and moody all of the time. I took him back and the pedi put him on Vivanse 20 mg. That was a nightmare for us. He became violent. We have never had any issues with him being aggressive, EVER. He started throwing things at us, having daily temper tantrums. One at school lasted an hour!!! Pedi said take him to a psychiatrist. I looked everywhere locally for a psych that would see him at 5 years old and that would take our insurance. Pedi didnt help. Didnt give a referral and stopped helping us all together. I switched doctors because I was unhappy with the treatment we were receiving. The new doctor is fabulous. But here is the thing. The school is pressuring me to put Adam on medication and she is refusing. For good reason. She said that she does not rely on school evaluations to determine if the child has ADHD or not. She sent us for proper evaluation but there is nothing until April! She did refil Noah’s medication because he had been doing so well and notes from the other clinic helped with that but she is still having them BOTH evaluated professionally. Now the school wants Noah to be increased on meds because ” he still has problems focusing”. She said she wont even think about it until 3rd grade. He is already on 10 mg of Focalin and she feels that they should have started him off on 5mg anyways. But everyday….it is something. Noah did this, Adam did that. Even though they know what is going on, it’s like they expect me to be able to do something else. I am always available to go up to the school if needed…but no, they never ask. They would just rather tell me every day that they are bad but when they ahve a good day, it’s nothing.

    • sguffanti says:

      Heather, both AD and Noah have a problem – the classroom. By their age the learn through movement which means let them move and they will focus better and listen better. Real Montessori schools will let them move. If you can find one in your area try it.

      Next if you read Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax he points out that these drugs you are using tend to burn out their motivation centers. An unmotivated boy will live at home the rest of your life. It is a shame to waste such a brilliant mind that way. Sax points out that they can stay on the drug for 3 years so Noah has 3 years, but Adam who is experiencing horrific side effects does not.

      I hope this helps. Please listen to my podcasts to get a better understanding.

  10. Margo Wortman says:

    I have started this struggle with my older child. She is smart, but often times is very easily distracted. We originally had her in our home district and while there she struggled to meet academic standards. We attributed some of her struggles to the life change of having a new baby brother.In first grade we actually considered holding her back, but she started to show progress toward the end of the school year, thankfully because of all of our blood sweat and tears. In second grade she was having the same issues, struggling and falling behind. I decided to meet with her teacher, me not the teacher who knew how far behind she was falling. I met with the school social worker and asked if we could have her tested. Her response to me was, “The school just doesn’t test because the parent wants them to.” I was livid, to say the least. The school social worker said she would talk to the school psychologist and ask him if he would observe and consider testing her, but only if we had her tested for ADHD…. So, here my husband and I are backed into a corner to test our daughter. And we did, because that was the only way to try to move the process along. My daughter’s pediatrician diagnosed her as ADHD and automatically went to medication. Mind you, my daughter was only 7 at this time. I do not feel that medication is the answer for all children and I certainly felt that we as a team should at least TRY to find alternatives to medicating a 7 year old. But no, as the pediatrician stated, ” I know medicine. I know what drugs to prescribe.” My heat sank. Here we were pressured to medicate our 7 year old! We medicated her for the rest of the school year which was only a month or two, and decided to try to transfer her to our neighbor school district.

    She was accepted into the new school system and I had spoken with the principal regarding her struggles. Three weeks into the school year he called and asked if we would agree to have her tested. I was thrilled! I thought this is the beginning. She will finally excel. And then she was tested and her ADHD was brought up. Again. Her teacher was 8 months pregnant and acted as though she was one that did not do well with children who needed extra attention. My daughter was made to look like a horrible child because she had ADHD and was not medicated. Then the struggle began all over again. She qualified for the Individualized Educational Program, IEP, but I was told that in order for her to qualify she would need to be medicated… Again, another person trying to control whether or not I put a substance into my child that might not be necessary.

    As this process moves forward, I am learning more and more of the rights I as a parent and my daughter actually have. And as I move through school (I am working toward a bachelors in social work) I learn just how much they have manipulated me and my family up until now. So, this year there will be a fight. A fight to ensure my daughter’s rights are being met.

  11. Jessica says:

    I am and have been pressured by the christian private school my son attends to medicate him. He is by far the smartest kid in his class but all that matters is that he does not conform and behave obediently as the other children. I have had a revelation from God today that just because the school is based in Truth does not mean I have to do what they want. Starting today, I will never again be my sons enemy, punishing him because he does not conform. I am for him and no matter what it takes will from this day forward stand up for what is right for my son.

  12. MS says:

    My son hit Kindergarten and was immediately put on a medication at 5 years old. Before he was put on we met the doctor and she said it sounds like he has a small normal heart murmur that he should grow out of. So when I’d go to pick up his prescription, they started treating me like I was a drug addict. I’d pick it up once a month only, never tried to pick it up more than that. Every month they’d say he needed another appointment with the doctor in order for him to get it again. So I said, “He basically needs 17 appointments a year then?” That’s about 5 appointments he’d normally have in a year plus one for every month he was being seen. It seemed to me like a money making scheme.
    So then she allowed to do one appointment every three months which jacked the total up to about 9 appointments a year. So basically my son would be in these appointments once a month for the better part of a year so they could make sure I wasn’t abusing his meds (I wasn’t.) If that weren’t ridiculous enough, we went to an appointment this last time for him. The doctor listened to his heart for a very long time with weird facial expressions like something wasn’t right. Then she turned to me and said “Oh, everything’s great.” She was just going to leave it at that!
    So I said “Does he still have a murmur?” (You know, the one he should have grown out of?) “Oh, yeah he does but I still advise you to keep him on the medication.” So I had to go home and look this up on the computer, be the doctor again as usual to realize that the better part of this year she has been content to know he could fall over dead at any point suddenly and didn’t feel it necessary to test and make sure that he had an ECG. So now I am looking for a new doctor.
    I took him off the medication right away. I should have looked all of this up earlier but was stupid enough to trust in the process to some extent. He hasn’t been back on it. Of course I told his school he’s off of it because he has a heart murmur and he hasn’t had this testing.
    The school has used all of the typical pressures. Actually they’ve had a harder time because my son is extremely smart. They were pushing an IEP while he was waiting to be tested for ELP. Every day I’ve picked him up his teacher has completely bad mouthed him for the entire day pretty much every day. She has maybe given a good report one or two times only even though he’s been on the highest indication color of good behavior about a third of the time. They tried to make it seem like he had problems socializing in class (like he was autistic) when he’s a social butterfly. Every day bringing home things that his classmates let him borrow and not bringing home things that he let them borrow. Another aspect to this was that they wanted his behavior to look worse than it was in order to get a behavioral specialist in there. I refused to do that. He is hyperactive. He’s very wild and energetic. That is the majority of his issue. He also is sometimes resistant to do things if someone doesn’t “put that foot in his butt” and discipline him. They don’t smack kids at school anymore so now they want to medicate them. I was fortunate to have teachers when I was young that were able to discipline without being abusive. I was also fortunate to have parents that disciplined me, told me no, set boundaries, made sure I do what they say. The only option I see for him is to homeschool him. I am not worried about him falling behind his peers, getting into college or passing their standardized testing. I hate poisoning his body every day and I have a very firm belief in raising up a child oneself. His brain is wired the way God wanted it to be and he is simply, a boy. Maybe this system would do much better to start having more male teachers in the classrooms. Just an idea (yes I am a female).

  13. MS says:

    Once I told the school he’s off the medicine the teacher had the school nurse send me an email pressuring me to allow them to talk to his doctor so they can basically legally go behind my back and have some kind of grounds to do what? Try to make some sort of medical neglect case against me? Try to force me into medicating him as though his teacher is his parent, not me. Because of course in their minds the ethical thing to do is risk sudden death without an ECG because “the benefits outweigh the risks.” I’m telling you it’s good to know other parents are resisting or we’re going to wake up in 1984. The school will be doling out the meds themselves and trying to arrest us for homeschooling.

  14. MS says:

    Oh yeah, then the ELP teacher emailed and said, basically he’s bright enough and they would like to put him in their program but they want to know if he’s going to be taking meds or not. Apparently part of their decision about whether he will be able to use these talents depends on whether I will turn him into their prescription whore/zombie. The answer no, and also “I don’t care if he gets into your GT program. I know he is.”

  15. Stephanie H says:

    I am so glad that I’ve found this resource today. My son began preschool at our local public school, in the early childhood ed program for children with learning disabilities – at the time he entered, we were accepted into the program due to his speech delay. His speech skills have since blossomed, but he is an active little guy and we have been under a lot of pressure this year from the school staff to have him diagnosed. Though they don’t utter the words “ADHD”, it is exceedingly clear that this is the road they are trying to lead us down. I just couldn’t understand why all of this pressure from the school about getting him tested, and after reading all of this, I do now.

    Thankfully, our family doctor is a brilliant, common-sense-first practitioner and he has read the IEP, stating that all of my son’s behaviors sound like that of a typical four year old boy. He also rarely tests for ADD or ADHD until children are six or seven.

    I have a case conference approaching next month. Thank you for arming me with new information, so that we can successfully push back against this pressure.

  16. Tricia E says:

    My son is in 5th grade and I have been pressured by his school to put him on medication when he started 3rd grade. He has been singled out and picked on by teachers because I won’t. He is smart (A’s & B’s) and is well liked among his peers, but gets bored easily. His teacher tells me that by not giving him medicine, I am holding him back from learning. Pretty much making me feel like the worse parent, and I almost gave in. Recently, his teacher implied he could be the next school shooter but followed that statement with “he is such a sweet boy”. I really feel as though this is a battle between the teacher and myself, but my child is being used. If I do what they want, he will stop being picked on. Now, he dislikes school and feels as if no matter how he acts, he will get in trouble. He’s “in trouble” as soon as he walks in the door. Any advice on what to do?

  17. Mike says:

    One of the biggest risks in sending your children to public school and preschool is that thersonnel of theses schools – teachers (especially), principles, school nurses, school psychiatrists/councilors, etc. – may decide that your child has a “mental disorder” (ADD, ADHD, depression, etc.). Their natural conclusion is likely to be that he/she needs to be drugged. There are many who are not above demanding that you comply with this, resorting to threats and even to removing the child from the home when “necessary”. We live in a time when more children are drugged than ever before. The pharmaceutical companies like nothing better than to sell more pills and to invent new “illnesses”. They are happy if they can convince you (through schools or doctors) to drug your child because they gain a lifelong “customer”. You are risking your child’s future in many ways by allowing this to happen.

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